10 Easy Ways to Prevent ADHD

1. Eat organic produce, especially if you are pregnant or considering having children. Organic produce complies with strict pesticide regulations and it doesn't have the synthetic compounds found in genetically modified crops.

2. Wash, wash, wash conventional produce. Though it doesn't remove all the residue, it at least will help.

3. Eat food that is in season. Food that is shipped or trucked in from far away is often treated with chemicals or preservatives.

4. Buy natural cleaning products. Petroleum is the main component in most dish-washing liquids and detergents. Some even contain suspected hormone disruptors. Use healthful cleaning products, such as Ecover, or a home-made solution of vinegar, water and lemon juice.

5. Avoid plastic. Bisphenol A (present in infant feeding bottles) and phthalates (present in children's toys) are serious hormone disrupters. They can deform sex organs among other things.

6. Avoid air fresheners. Aerosol propellants contain tiny particles which burrow in human lungs, as well as flammable and nerve-damaging ingredients. Instead of spraying Febreeze, open a window, dust or sweep.

7. Avoid Petroleum-based fragrances. Natural fragrances made with actual flower, fruit and plant-based extracts are available.

8. Clean household supplies. Use water-based varnishes and glues, paints, stain removers, sealants and adhesives. Avoid rooms that have been recently painted.

9. Avoid preservatives and food dyes. Preservatives such as BHA, BHT, TBHQ are especially detrimental. Consumption of food dyes has increased almost threefold since the 1980s, rising from 6.4 million pounds in 1985 to more than 17.9 million pounds in 2005. European Parliament passed legislation requiring labels on foods containing dyes to warn that they “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” The American Academy of Pediatrics acknowledged in its journal, AAP Grand Rounds that “a trial of preservative-free, food coloring-free diet is a reasonable intervention” for hyperactive children.

10. Get a food allergy test. A simple and cost-effect food allergy test can quickly determine which offending foods may be causing behavioral, mental and physical issues in your child.

A “Typical” Breakfast Leads to A Child's Hospitalization: What Every Parent Must Know About Children's Food Allergies

How Food Can Turn Our Children's Bodies Against Them
Though our nation may be one of the wealthiest in the world, our children are still not safe from epidemics such as Type II diabetes, obesity, and food allergies. Since 1998, there has been a 265% increase in hospitalizations related to food allergies among children under 18, according to a 2008 CDC report. With an 18% increase in food allergies between 1997 and 2007, an unbelievable 3 million children now have food allergies. Unfortunately, these trends are not merely related to a general population increase. It is the very food we feed our families that is turning their immune systems against them.
A “Typical” Breakfast Leads to A Child's Hospitalization
Robyn O'Brien, a former food industry analyst and mother of four, admits she had not given a lot of thought to what was in the food they ate. Like many busy moms, she raised her kids on a typical American breakfast of Eggo waffles, blue yogurt, and scrambled eggs. “And then one morning,” she says quietly, “over breakfast, life changed.” Her youngest child suffered an acute, allergic reaction and O'Brien rushed her to the hospital. When the doctors announced that her daughter had food allergies, O'Brien channeled her energy towards raising awareness about these health issues. She now has her own website, gives speeches, and interviews with Fox News and the New York Times. Thankfully, O'Brien's daughter has thrived, but O'Brien's confidence in America's supermarkets has not.
The First Question O'Brien Asked: “What is a food allergy?”
O'Brien invested her self-described Type-A personality into understanding how food affects human physiology. She was astonished to learn that 70% of the immune system is located in the digestive tract. This means that a lot of what determines our health depends on how our food is digested and absorbed. Food not digested or absorbed properly affects the entire body. A food allergy is triggered when the body somehow perceives a food protein as a foreign invader – the immune system then attacks. The most common allergens can be harmless substances such as peanuts, eggs, wheat or milk. But why the sudden rise in food allergies? O'Brien recalls that very few people had food allergies when she was a child. “Is there something foreign in our foods that wasn't there when we were kids?,” she asked herself.
Something Foreign in the Food?
In fact, there is. Processed foods, which account for a large portion of the standard American diet, contribute to allergies in a number of ways. Most processed foods contain food colorings, preservatives and genetically engineered proteins that were never present in Grandmother's baked lasagna. If the saying “you are what you eat” holds any weight, then it is unsurprising that these frankenfoods are waging war in our digestive tract. Processed foods can lead to obesity (they have an intentionally large caloric content) and Type II diabetes (processed foods are notoriously sopped in high fructose corn syrup, a sugar derivative), and food allergies (foreign proteins can trigger an autoimmune reaction), among other complications.
The Rise of GM Crops: Where Have all the Mom and Pop Farmers Gone?
Since the mid-1990s, new food proteins were engineered into our food supply. This was done to maximize profits for the commercial food industry. Each new protein makes more money for the labs that develop them and companies that patent and produce them. Agriculture took an even greater step in the direction of biotechnology, leaving many Mom and Pop farms scrambling to make ends meet. Farms that did not purchase the newest technologically advanced seeds, pesticides and harvesting equipment struggled to keep afloat in a market increasingly interested in profits rather than healthful food. As a market analyst, O'Brien admits the scenario made perfect sense to her. However, as a mother, she was incensed to learn that agricultural scientists, or agriscientists, did not conduct a single human trial to check for potential side effects. Agriculture is the backbone of a healthy society. While technology is certainly the wave of the future, shouldn't our citizen's health be a national priority?
Currently Commercialized GM Crops in the U.S.:
As of May 2010, the Institute for Responsible Technology reported the following percentages (in parenthesis) of these standard crops were genetically modified:
Soy (91%) Cotton (71%) Canola (88%) Corn (85%) Sugar Beets (90%) Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%) Alfalfa (at Supreme Court), Zucchini and Yellow Squash (small amount) Tobacco (Quest® brand)
Other Sources of GMO:
·      Dairy products from cows injected with the GM hormone rbGH
·      Food additives, enzymes, flavorings, and processing agents, including the sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet®) and rennet used to make hard cheeses
·      Meat, eggs, and dairy products from animals that have eaten GM feed
·      Honey and bee pollen that may have GM sources of pollen
·      Contamination or pollination caused by GM seeds or pollen
3 Case Studies: Milk, Corn and Soy
1. Milk: It Doesn't Always Do A Body Good
According to CNN and the Wall Street Journal, milk is the most common of all food allergens. This seems unsurprising when examined alongside the dairy industry's chemical make-over 15 years ago. In 1994, scientists created a new synthetic growth hormone, recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to help cows produce more milk. Unfortunately, it also made the cows sick. Besides growing at a monstrous rate and falling under the weight of their own udders, dairy cows also developed ovarian cysts, skin disorders, and udder infections. But the cows produced much more milk. So, despite the obvious pain and illness caused by these hormones, the dairy industry continued (and continues) with this practice. To get a few more years out of the chronically ill cow's life, industrial dairy farmers decided to feed the cows a steady diet of antibiotics, too.
“How many sippy cups have I filled with this milk?!”
This procedure isn't only dangerous for cows - it's also extremely detrimental for humans. According to the Cancer Prevention Coalition, rBGH milk significantly increases consumers risk of developing breast, colon and prostate cancer. Exposure to the low-grade antibiotics found in milk is also linked to the development of allergies, autoimmune disorders and super bugs (bacteria that are impervious to even the strongest of antibiotics). Despite these dangers, Monsanto Co., the manufacturer of rBGH, has strong-armed U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into permitting the sale of unlabeled rBGH milk. The corporation has also tried to bribe investigative reporters from a Fox News station in Florida who researched the issue of rBGH milk. When the reporters did not accept the money, they were fired by Fox. As Robyn O'Brien uncovered more and more stories about the toxicity of industrial milk, she decided to purge her kitchen, wondering in alarm, “how many sippy cups have I filled with this milk?!”
2. GM Corn No Longer Classified as a Vegetable, but a Pesticide
Industrial plants are now engineered to sustain increasing increments of weed killer. The weed killer is needed because of a recent rise in plant parasites. Many scientists believe the plant parasite boom relates to a monoculture style of farming, where one kind of plant crop is grown on vast plots of land, land often severely depleted of soil nutrients. As concerns rose over pesticide sprays in the 1990s, agriscientists developed genetically modified plants which imbedded pesticide-like chemicals in their very DNA. One such example is the corn product, StarLink™ .
StarLink™  is a genetically engineered variety of yellow corn which releases the protein Cry9C, a toxic substance for various insect pests. During the 1990s, its registering corporation, Aventis Agroscience, Inc., received approval by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to produce the corn as livestock feed. Presumably, this poisoned food product was supposed to calm our fears over chemical pesticides released into the air. It doesn't feel very reassuring to find out it was regulated by the EPA as a pesticide. Though Aventis Agroscience, Inc. promised to use the corn product exclusively for animal feed, traces of it were soon found in taco shells. Since it was never conclusively determined whether or not StarLink™  was harmful for humans, regulatory authorities removed it from the market.
Foreign markets refused (and continue to refuse) to accept GM corn and other food products from the U.S. Though StarLink™ got the boot by the EPA, plenty other frankenfoods feed our animals and stock our market shelves.
3. GM Soy Affects Reproduction, Growth
In a study published in July 2010, Russian biologist Alexey V. Surov investigated if Monsanto's genetically modified soy lead to problems in growth or reproduction. Backed by Surov's Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the National Association for Gene Security, the study found that three generations of hamsters fed for 2 years on a GM diet showed devastating results. By the third generation, most GM soy-fed hamsters lost the ability to reproduce. They also grew more slowly, had a high infant mortality rate, and strangely developed patches of hair inside their mouths.
The Institute of Responsible Technology reports that cooked GM soy contains as much as 7 times the amount of a known soy allergen, and that soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% in the UK, soon after GM soy was introduced.
A Concerned Mother asks, “What are the Effects?”
O'Brien was astounded by the food industry's complete and utter lack of consideration for consumers. Having already witnessed some shocking results in her own children, O'Brien asked, “what other effects are we seeing now in the American public?”
O'Brien noticed a huge increase in cancer rates in the United States. In fact, a consultation with a variety of cancer NGOs confirmed that the U.S. has some of the highest rates of cancer in the world. What has caused this cancer epidemic? Dr. Stanley Ewen, consultant histopathologist at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, says GM foods could be the culprit. He points to the fact that GM foods serve as a “growth factor” in the stomach and colon, encouraging the rapid proliferation of polyps. Apparently, the faster and bigger the polyps grow, the more likely it is they will be malignant. This risk is not limited to direct human consumption, either. Dr. Ewen's studies show that eating livestock which has eaten GM foods can also lead to increased cancer risk. Dr. Ewen urges a ban on GM crops until their safety is sufficiently tested.
Though scientists agree dairy products exacerbate asthma because they encourage the development of mucus, it is now believed that an allergic reaction to dairy itself can cause asthma. Dr. Frank Osky, the Chief of Pediatrics at the John Hopkins School of Medicine, believes that 50% of all school children may be allergic to milk, though many of them remain undiagnosed. Dairy allergies are now considered one of the leading causes of asthma in America.
Dr. Rapp, Pediatric Allergist and champion of Environmental Medicine, devotes her life to treating children with behavioral issues like ADD/ADHD. She believes that most hyperactive, aggressive or easily distracted children have some undetected food allergy affecting their biochemistry. Many of her patients see drastic results after slight diet modification.
There is a high prevalence of food allergies among autistic children. Some scientists predict that autistic children lack an enzyme which helps digest the proteins in milk (casein) or in bread-like products (gluten). It could be these very foods which prevent children from developing normally. Many parents report staggering success when removing these foods from their children's diets.
Autoimmune Disorders.
Chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis, and many more, are linked to food allergies and GM crops.
Other Developed Nations Reject GM Foods: “Unsafe for Citizens”
Canada, Japan and 23 other European countries now ban GM foods. If these technologically advanced foods were really superior to what humans have been eating for the past 200,000 years, wouldn't the whole developed world be jumping at the chance to import or produce them themselves?
Tax Payer Dollars Support GM Crops: Who Supports our Skyrocketing Health Bill?
As rates of food allergies, cancer and other chronic illnesses skyrocket, the amount of money needed to manage these diseases skyrockets, too. According to a 2009 World Health Organization (WHO) report, the U.S. spends 16% of it's Gross National Product (GNP) on healthcare costs, more than any other nation on the planet. Even countries with government-funded healthcare systems are still paying less than the United States. This doesn't only affect our pocketbooks, but our role as a player in the international marketplace.
3 Steps: Take a Stand for Your Families Health
In her closing remarks in her video conference, O'Brien conceded that though she is no foodie, addressing the industrial food system is vital for our nation's well-being, in fact “there is nothing more patriotic that we could be doing.” Here are a few small and reasonable changes that we can all make to keep our families healthy and safe:
1. Support local farmers
Small-scale and organic farmers are often targeted by the United States Farm Bill, the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the federal government. They are charged fees to prove their crops are grown without chemicals or GM seeds, more fees to label their crop a certain way, and denied subsidies - it's tough to make ends meet. By supporting local farmer's markets and purchasing with the seasons we can help build a healthier community.
2. Demand Changes from Large Corporations
Kraft, Coca Cola, and Walmart all have international branches. How have they dealt with the rejection of GM foods in their stores? By not selling them. These large corporations have listened to consumer demand and formulated their products differently to not include GM ingredients. Even Whole Foods sells products that contain GM ingredients in it's non-organic products. We must demand that large corporations protect our families and communities. Avoid purchasing items from stores or companies that don't care how their product may be effecting your family's health.
3. Learn the 15 Signs and Symptoms of Food Allergies
1. Tiredness, drowsiness, no energy.
2. Frequent headache or migraines.
3. Stomach bloating, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, flatulence.
4. GI disorders including, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis & IBS
5. Mouth Ulcers.
6. Chronic cough, bronchitis, asthma, colds and 'flu'.
7. Eczema, psoriasis, and chronic skin problems.
8. Aching joints, backache.
9. Gradual weight change.
10. Tinea or Yeast (Candida) infections.
11. Clumsiness, lack of coordination.
12. Miscarriage, infertility.
13. Hemorrhoids and Ear pain.
14. Cravings, addictions.
15. ADHD/ADD, behavioral problems
New Beginnings at Digestive Health Ann Arbor
Biologist David Schubert of the Salk Institute alerts us that “children are the most likely to be adversely affected by toxins and other dietary problems” related to GM foods. The lack of clinical human trials means our nation's children are in fact “the experimental animals.” Monitoring your child's health is imperative. Though facing a food allergy or a related condition can be daunting, we must heed the body's messages and remember that there is hope. After slight modification to our diets and lifestyles, and taking appropriate supplements as needed, our bodies can heal. If you or a loved one is experiencing the symptoms of a compromised digestive system, make an appointment with one of the experts at Digestive Health Ann Arbor.

Please call 734-222-8210 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we provide professional and compassionate care guiding people towards a comprehensive and holistic strategy of healing. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life. Please visit our website at www.digestivehealth-annarbor.com.
To read or see more about Robyn O'Brien, check out the following links:
On Fox News:
In the New York Times:
Her personal webpage, with a link to her video conference:

IBS Eradication Step #3: Find Solutions that Work for You

Discover what foods serve as our triggers.


RAST blood examinations (short for radioallergosorbent test) which tests for acute immune reactions to food, combined with an ELISA Blood Test, which examines the body's latent reaction to 96 potential food allergens, provide a comprehensive picture of IBS triggers.


Exclude the trigger food from our diet.  

Though it sounds surprisingly simple, removing trigger foods can lead to radical improvements in our well-being. Once we discover and remove the root of the cause, the symptoms will dissipate.


Nourish stressed systems with supplements and enzymes. 

There are a variety of supplements and enzymes to heal a compromised digestive tract. Speak to your health practitioner about what options are best for you.

Out of the Digestive Jungle

Dining out does not have to be a dangerous trip into unpredictable territory. When we educate ourselves about IBS and make appropriate lifestyle changes, we can regain control of our lives. True health and wellness is within your reach.

Children and Food Allergies: What Every Parent Must Know

Children and Food Allergies: What Every Parent Must Know

In a world where chicken McNuggets and smart phones often trump leafy greens and hopscotch, it can difficult to raise a healthy child. Mom’s and Dad’s today face a complex set of challenges that parents of the past never experienced. Americans are barraged by a constant stream of contradictory health advice and information. Scientists warn of an ominous rise in environmental toxins that severely affect human health. Two trillion dollars a year are spent on health care, yet our health as a nation is deteriorating. Parenting has never been an easy task, but these factors can make it feel extremely overwhelming. Fortunately, if we fully educate ourselves about health issues, there is hope for our families and ourselves.
Difficult. Manipulative. Emotionally impaired. “It's amazing my husband and I are still together,” says Laura. Laura's son, Brian, had a long history of violence at school and at home and was labeled by teachers and social workers with the above adjectives. The class bully by day, he would sob in his room at night, pleading his mother to help him. Laura knew there must be something contributing to Brian's behavior because he would say to her “I don't want to be like this.” The enormous stress of Brian's behavior spread from the classroom to their family life. A particularly violent episode forced Brian's family to move to a new city. Brian even attempted suicide. 
After exhausting all other avenues, Laura called Dr. Rapp, Pediatric Allergist and Mother of Environmental Medicine, to undergo some simple food allergy testing. Brian was diagnosed with severe and violent reactions to peanuts, ethyl alcohol, phenol, wheat, soy and milk. When the offending substances were removed from his diet, Brian’s behavior changed. He is no longer violent and is well-liked at school. His behavior is that of a normal boy.
This month’s newsletter will focus on the work of Dr. Rapp, Pediatric Allergist and the Mother of Environmental Medicine. Dr. Rapp's interview on the Phil Donahue show in 1989 catapulted food allergies and environmental toxins to the forefront of health debates in the United States. So many children are branded as lost causes.  What can we do to ensure our children do not fall through the cracks?
Step#1: Awareness

To protect our families from food allergies we have to pay close attention to these warning signs.
Symptoms of Food Allergies in Infants
1. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and/or constipation, bloody stools
2. Hives, eczema, asthma
3. Prolonged colic, crying, inability to sleep at night
4. Poor growth, failure to thrive, inability to properly absorb nutrients
5. Acid reflux
6. Congestion of nose or chest, excessive spitting
7. Head banging, crib rocking
Symptoms of Food Allergies in Children

1. Red earlobes, cheeks
2. Dark eye circles
3. Bags or wrinkles under the eyes
4. “Spaced out” look
5. Wiggly, restless legs
6. Dislike of being touched or cuddled
7. Bedwetting after the age of five
8. Asthma, hay fever
9. Diagnosed with ADHD, inability to focus
10. Headaches
11. Depression, anxiety, irritability, mood swings
12. Violent behavior, temper tantrums, aggression
13. “Allergic Salute”- particular way of wiping nose as shown at 17:15 in Phil Donahue interview from 1989: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRDpcWZUEiU.
Step#2: Understanding

Once we recognize the signs of food allergies, we must comprehend how they affect us physiologically.
What is a food allergy?

An allergy is the immune systems response to a protein usually found in a food, such as peanuts, eggs, wheat or milk that it perceives as a foreign body. Most food allergies are acquired, not inherited. Some people develop sensitivities due to repeated exposure especially in large quantities, and others react to pesticides and herbicides combining with the natural chemicals in food. Whatever the cause, the result is the same- a compromised immune system and discomfort.
IgE and Non-IgE Allergies
•Allergies are not just immediate reactions to things like peanuts and bee stings.
•There are two main food allergy distinctions- IgE, and non IgE (IgA and IgG).
•Food allergies are generally acquired due to exposure, not genetics.
The table below is extremely helpful in understanding food allergy basics: 
Allergies aren't just to peanuts and bee stings-there are many different kinds. The two main differentiations are between IgE, and non-IgE (IgA and IgG). Most people do not have IgE allergies, though the majority of doctors test only for IgE. This is why understanding symptoms and the implications of all food allergies is extremely important for your family's health.

IgE IgA and IgG (Non-IgE)
Fast response (few minutes) Slower response (2 hours-72 hours), can take years to manifest
Strong response Weaker response
Similar physiological response in most people Varied physiological response in most people
“Fixed”- do not change during our lifetime Can evolve at any age
Analogous to immune system “blow-torch”: instant, acute, powerful Analogous to immune system “sand paper”: delayed, slowly damaging
Immune system response to a protein found in digestive system that is perceived as foreign object Immune system response to a protein found in digestive system that is perceived as foreign object
Least Common Most Common
Most doctors test only for IgE allergies Most people's IgA/IgG allergies remain undiagnosed since common blood tests cannot detect them
Step #3: Take Action

Now we must take action and help our family members heal.
A Pathway to Healing

Though the detriments of undetected food allergies sound severe, there is hope.Removing trigger foods and healing with appropriate vitamins and supplements will lead to amazing results.
The Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay panel (ELISA) is a blood test that examines 96 of the most common food allergies such as dairy, meat and fowl, grains, gluten, nuts, vegetables, seafood and fruits. The ELISA test measures both IgE, IgA and IgG immune responses. This food allergy test is available at Digestive Health Ann Arbor.
RAST: Most physicians utilize an IgE blood test called RAST (short for radioallergosorbent test). Though this method accurately determines IgE allergies, it cannot detect IgG or IgA allergies at all. At Ann Arbor Holistic Health, this exam is completed in conjunction with the ELISA.
Skin Prick Tests: are a common testing method for IgE immune responses, but the exam is painful, inaccurate, and does not detect non-IgE food allergies.

It can be complicated to raise healthy children. To help them achieve true wellness it is critical that we first understand the importance of nutrition. “We are putting toxic dumpsites in our bodies and this is leading to problems in children, adults and even infants,” says Dr. Rapp, Pediatric Allergist and Mother of Environmental Medicine. Let's change the conversation when it comes to your child's well-being and remove the issue at the source. Your child can live a healthy, normal life and you can help.
Please call 734-222-8210 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation.
At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life. Please visit our website at www.digestivehealth-annarbor.com.
How can I Find Out More?
For more information, come to a workshop! Upcoming workshop dates in September:
Health Your Digestive System – Health Your Life

A healthy digestive system is essential to a health life. The saying “you are what you eat” is not true. You are what you absorb. Sixty percent of our body’s immune system lives in our digestive tract.  It is estimated that as many as 1 in 4 people has a food allergy or sensitivity.  The number of children and infants with food allergies is increasing. Sixty percent of people with food allergies do not have digestive problems. Problems like Autism, ADD, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, allergies, Gluten intolerance, psoriasis and eczema, sinus conditions, acid reflux, allergies and asthma are directly influenced by a comprised digestive system.
This workshop will explore the basic strategies of healing our digestive and immune systems. Topics of discussion will include the use of food allergy testing, testing for Gluten sensitivities, elimination diets, repairing a leaky gut, the use of digestive enzymes, healthy eating life styles, probiotics, essential fatty acids and vitamin D. Come and learn how.
Dates, Times & Locations:
September 21st- 7 to 9 pm at Brighton Community Education (810) 299-3818

850 Spencer Road, Brighton, MI 48116
September 29th  - 7 to 9 pm at Chelsea Community Education (734) 633-2208, ext. 6001
500 Washington Street, Chelsea, MI 48118.
September 28th- 7 to 9 pm at Ann Arbor Rec & Ed Department (734) 994-2300, ext. 53203
1515 S. Seventh, Ann Arbor, MI  48103
October 5th  - 7 to 9pm at Dexter Community Services and Athletics (734) 426-9515
7714 Ann Arbor St., Dexter, MI 48130

Food Rules: A Simple Guide To Healthy Eating

Food Rules: A Simple Guide To Healthy Eating
Selecting a healthy diet can be complicated and frustrating. Words like “polyphenols” and “gluten” are tossed around. Fad-diets come and go. We are encouraged to eat the “good” fats and avoid the “bad” ones. Nutritional science can feel like an inverse relationship between increasing vocabulary and decreasing understanding. With our expanding waist-lines and chronic diseases, Americans still don't know how to eat.
Michael Pollan's Food Rules

Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's DilemmaIn Defense of Food, and The Botany of Desire, is one of our nation's most engaging and convincing industrial food critics. In his newest book, Food Rules, he outlines simple, practical guidelines for healthy nutritional and lifestyle choices. He begins the book with three facts:
1. Western diets lead to Western diseases such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. A Western diet consists of processed foods, meat, added fat and sugar, refined grains, and very few vegetables. Of the Western diet, Pollan says we “have developed the one diet that reliably makes its people sick!”(Pollan, 2009, p. xi)
2. Populations eating a “traditional” diet do not suffer from these chronic diseases. The Inuit in Greenland eat primarily seal blubber, yet their arteries do not clog as rapidly as ours. Central American Indians consume tons of carbs in rice and beans, yet their weight does not balloon uncontrollably. The Masai in Africa feed primarily on cattle blood, meat and milk yet this protein addiction does not corrode their hearts.
3. People who jump off the runaway-Western-diet-train see great improvements in their health. By changing our habits we can attain true health and wellness.
So Why does the Western Diet Still Exist?
Pollan explains that “there's a lot of money in the Western diet. The more you process any food, the more profitable it becomes. The healthcare industry makes more money treating chronic diseases (which account for three quarters of the $2 trillion plus we spend each year on heath care in this country) than preventing them.” (Pollan, 2009, p. xiv)
How Can We Eat More Healthily?

Here is Michael Pollan's answer: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” By following most of the 64 rules he enumerates, we can lead more rich and productive lives. Following are some of the rules and suggestions found in the book.
1. Eat What? Eat Food.
Eat Food. Avoid what Pollan calls “edible food-like substances” which are highly processed, concocted in a lab, often derived from corn and soy, and chocked full of chemical additives that have never been a part of the human diet.
• No High Fructose Corn Syrup! It can sneak up on you in bread, condiments, and snack foods.
• Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients.
• Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce. If you have children, here's a great way to get them involved.
• Eat only foods that will eventually rot.
• Get out of the supermarket whenever you can. Check out the farmers market!
• If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't.

B. Eat What Kind of Food? Mostly Plants. 
• Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
• Eating what stands on one leg [mushrooms and plant foods] is better than eating what stands on two legs [fowl], which is better than eating what stands on four legs [cows, pigs and other mammals].” Chinese proverb.
• Eat animals that have themselves eaten well. Animals are often fed a high-energy diet that their bodies are not made to process. In order to avoid sickness caused by this inflammatory diet, industrial farmers also feed their animals a steady stream of antibiotics.
• Eat well-grown food from healthy soil. Soil feeds the plant. If the ground that surrounds the plant is full of chemical fertilizers or devoid of nutrients, the plant will suffer and so will you.
• Eat wild foods when you can. Try tasting purslane, lamb's quarters, nettle leaf, and many more delicious, easily distinguishable and local wild plants.
• Eat some foods that have been predigested by bacteria or fungi. Fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, soy sauce, kimchi, and sourdough bread provide vitamin B12, which you can't get from plants. Also these foods contain probiotics that improve digestive and immune systems and likely reduce allergic reactions and inflammation.
• Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.
• Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks.
C. Eat How? Not too much. 
• Pay more, eat less.
• Eat less.
• Did we mention eat less?
• Eat slowly.
• “The banquet is in the first bite.” Pollan (2009) writes that “no other bite will taste as good as the first” due to what economists call “the law of diminishing marginal utility” (p. 111). So savor the first few bites and stop eating sooner.
• Spend as much time enjoying the meal as it took to prepare it.
• “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper.” An old adage that bears repeating.
• Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does. Pollan (2009) jokes that gas stations should be called “processed corn stations” where we get “ethanol outside for your car and high-fructose corn syrup inside for you” (p. 125).
• Do all your eating at a table. The one in the kitchen, that is. Not the one where your computer hangs out, or where you rest your feet when you watch TV.
• Try not to eat alone. Make it a pleasurable, communal experience. You will eat less and enjoy more.
• Cook.
• Break the rules once in a while. Greasy french fries and flourless chocolate cakes are great...once in a while. Life is short!
Here's to New Beginnings
As Pollan points out in his book, we don't need to be scientists to eat more healthily. With simple and straightforward guidelines we can easily maintain healthy bodies, minds and spirits.


Children & Food Allergies: Achieving Optimal Health

Will and Claire
After months of trying, Will and Claire were finally pregnant. Like most first-time parents, the couple was initially ecstatic then terrified when the pregnancy test showed positive results. Raising a child is a huge responsibility and the couple wants to do everything they can to foster a positive, healthy environment. They resolved to read as many prenatal care books they could get their hands on and pay greater attention to their diets.
Among the standard diet and exercise tips, Will and Claire uncovered truly startling information. Many of their friends had infants or young children with eczema, asthma, skin rashes and food allergies. The couple thought food allergies were just acute and immediate reactions to bee stings and peanuts. However, they soon learned from a friend with a gluten food allergy that allergies can develop slowly over time, and the symptoms can manifest themselves all over the body. How did certain foods, such as gluten, dairy, peanuts, eggs, and soy, become so physiologically destructive? These foods supposedly have many health benefits - why do some individuals develop such strong aversions to them, and how have these aversions developed over human history? Also, why was infant health so varied, even among parents that seemed relatively healthy? Will and Claire began to dig deeper.
A Brief History of the Human Diet
Humans began eating grains, legumes and potatoes about 10,000 years ago when we discovered the joy of cooking. Julia Child would have been repulsed by early man's unimaginative diet consisting of meat, fish, poultry, leaves, roots and fruits. Fortunately for French cuisine aficionados and unfortunately for some digestive systems, grains, legumes and potatoes became dietary staples. Humans learned to grow and store their own food. They learned to raise animals and produce cheese and yogurt. It was no longer necessary to constantly hunt and gather- there was now time for art, science, music, and gastrointestinal disorders. Modern civilization was born.
Why do Dietary Staples Cause Allergies? 
What can disable effective digestion of grains, legumes and potatoes? Lectins. Lectins are proteins found in most plants, and all foods. They serve a variety of beneficial functions from controlling the blood's protein levels to targeting and eliminating pathogens. The problem with lectins is that some of them trigger immune reactions in sensitive digestive systems. The issue lies less with the lectins and more with the digestive tract's inability to fully break down the proteins found in food. Soy, peanut and gluten lectins have proven to be the most difficult for the human body to digest. The body’s inability to completely digest these foods creates stress in the intestines.  This continued stress is what creates the environment that ultimately gives way to a food allergy.
Too Many Lectins Spring a Leaky Gut
Detrimental lectins and food allergens trigger inflammation in the digestive tract. Leaky gut syndrome refers to digestive disturbances and infections caused by severe inflammation of the intestine. This inflammation creates increased permeability in the walls of the intestines. Partially digested food enters into the blood stream through small openings between the cells in the intestinal lining where it is met by a hostile immune system. The body produces an increasing amount of antibodies to fight the food we eat, and the food bound with the antibody continually pass from the intestine to the blood stream. By removing the allergen(s), we can heal our “leaky” guts and begin the process of improved health.
Though these lectins may be causing damage to our digestive system, we may not realize until days, weeks or years later. The symptoms can be confusing. One might think that an upset stomach would be the obvious result of a “leaky gut,” however symptoms can actually manifest throughout the body.  From depression to migraines to acne to Crohn's disease, the symptoms are extremely varied. This is surprising to some. However, when we remember that 70% of our immune system is located in our digestive tract, the appearance of wide-spread symptoms no longer seems so shocking. Will and Claire were startled by how common food allergies and “leaky guts” are in the United States. Even more startling was how easily these digestive disorders can be passed from generation to generation.
7 Symptoms of an Infant with Food Allergies: What Every Parent Should Know 
1. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and/or constipation, bloody stools
2. Hives, eczema, asthma
3. Prolonged colic, crying, inability to sleep at night
4. Poor growth, failure to thrive, inability to properly absorb nutrients
5. Acid reflux
6. Congestion of nose or chest, excessive spitting
7. Head banging, crib rocking
How Infants Develop Food Allergies
After exhaustively researching food allergies, Will and Claire turned their energy towards uncovering how children develop them. Three findings were particularly astonishing.
1. Infants born through Cesarian section may have added risk of food allergy development.
According to the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, mothers with food allergies are seven times more likely to transmit their food allergies to their children when they have Cesarean sections. Dr. Merete Eggesbo, of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, notes that Cesarian sections may delay the growth of normal intestinal flora- bacteria that lines the intestine- in new born infants.
2. When a mother does not have any food allergies, her breast milk may protect her child from developing a food allergy themselves. However...
3. Infants may develop food allergies through breast milk from a mother with a food allergy.
There are numerous cases of breast-fed children who exhibit failure-to-thrive symptoms such as diarrhea, constant irritability, etc. When the allergen is removed from the mother's diet, the infant's symptoms often disappear.
4. For the most part allergies are acquired, however a gluten food allergy can beinherited. It is particularly important to test yourself and your child for gluten allergies. A case that remains undetected by the age of 10 leads to a one in four chance of developing an autoimmune disease like diabetes.
5. Children do not outgrow allergies to gluten. This is why getting tested prior to giving birth is important, especially for mothers. Discovering your own gluten allergy may prevent it from spreading to your infant.
How Can we Protect Our Children, and Ourselves?
Suddenly, the removal of an entire food group no longer seemed so extreme. Claire and Will decided they should get tested for food allergies. The following are some of the most common food allergy tests currently available.

Gluten Sensitivity & Celiac Disease: Different Name, Same Game

Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity sound like two totally different entities. Celiac disease sounds severe while gluten sensitivity seems pretty harmless. Unfortunately, both are very serious digestive conditions and are actually much more similar than their names would indicate.

Both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are forms of gluten intolerance. Gluten and gliadin are proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye that give flour its elasticity. Gluten and gliadin can be found in cookies, breads, pastas, anything that uses flour and certain kinds of alcohol. An allergy to gluten can lead to both gluten sensitivity and eventually celiac disease.

Gluten sensitivity and celiac disease should be thought of as progressing points on the same continuum. Both are caused by gluten intolerances, and gluten sensitivity can quickly evolve into the more severe celiac disease.

Celiac disease sufferers are defined as those who have unhealthy, deteriorated villi. When gliadin and gluten trigger an allergic reaction, it inflames the small intestine. This inflammation flattens and destroys the lining (villi) of the small intestine, impeding nutrient absorption. Celiac disease is diagnosed through a biopsy of the small intestine which shows the villous atrophy.

Below is an image of healthy villi on the left, and villi worn down due to gluten consumption on the right. The villi are responsible for capturing and transmitting nutrients to the rest of the body. Flattened and deteriorated villi are much less functional.

Though it is well-known in the medical community that gluten sensitivity is a precursor to Celiac disease, it is often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. Why? Because most doctors test only for Celiac disease. Though the villi biopsy cannot measure gluten sensitivity, it is the most common test among medical professionals. Unfortunately, many people who have Gluten Sensitivity continue to suffer for years, leading to unnecessary villi damage and pain. It's time to demand preventative measures when it comes to your health.

Love Your Bacteria: Yeast Infections and IBS

Over 100 trillion bacteria are crawling inside your body right now, the majority of which reside in your digestive system. Gross? Yes. Necessary? Yes. Without it, food could not be digested, our immune system would be underdeveloped, and all of us would have IBS. It's time to start loving our bodies’ healthy bacteria.

When our healthy bacteria is wiped out by antibiotics or overridden by an excess in yeast, IBS symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain can arise. Yeast invades and irritates tissue, flourishing rapidly and stamping out the growth of beneficial bacteria. Since yeast feeds on sugars, diets rich in starch, refined carbohydrates, sweets and alcohol encourage its growth. Though eliminating these foods from your diet can help, the best offense is a good defense. Make sure you prevent yeast infections by using a probiotic to replenish friendly bacteria after using antibiotics, and avoid foods that feed yeast. Get tested for potential food allergies with an ELISA blood test, and make sure to avoid using antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. It's time to tell the whole story when it comes to healthy bacteria, yeast infections and IBS.

The 30-foot miracle: Discovering our Digestive Tract

Our digestive tract is a 30-foot-long muscular tube that begins at our mouth and ends at our anus. Its 3 main functions:

1. Transform food into absorbable nourishment.

2. Fend off invading organisms and toxins.

3. Expel waste products.

Ingested food travels down the digestive tract through a process called peristalsis, a wave-like muscle contraction. During peristalsis, different enzymes, bacteria and acids critical to digestion are secreted in a highly specialized and coordinated process. When food is completely broken down it passes through the digestive tract's tissue wall and is absorbed by the body’s cells.

Around 70% of our immune system is located in our digestive tract. Its primary role is to “ok” or “attack” a food we ingest. When our immune system doesn't like something in our tube, it uses inflammation and excess mucus as ammunition. If the immune system is constantly on the offensive, these reactions can damage our digestive tract. Inflammation deteriorates the intestinal lining, resulting in something called “Leaky Gut syndrome.”

Why do some medical professionals refuse to talk about the connection between poor health and poor digestion? Clearly our bodies have evolved a highly complex digestive immune system for a reason. Denying the fact that food plays a crucial role in our overall well-being seems misguided and potentially dangerous. It is critical that we start addressing digestion as a key element in human health.