Jul
04
2015

Health Depends on Healthy Soil

I never gave it much thought that soil quality should affect our health until I came across an article to that effect in the June Issue of the BC Medical Journal by Dr. Bill Mackie. It is entitled “Healthy soil, healthy population”. He makes the point that there is only a finite amount of fertile, arable land in British Columbia. The other areas are mountains where no food will grow.

In the past 5 years the Environmental Health Committee of BC (chairman Dr. Bill Mackie) has emphasized the importance of cutting back on the use of antibiotics in managing livestock as it causes resistant strains to enter the food chain and it also changes the bacterial composition of the soil. This damages the environment and it also makes antibiotics less effective in treating most of the bacterial infections.

Dr. Mackie attended the 4th International Conference on Sustainability Science in France in September 2013. During the conference professor Daniel Nahon asked the question: “Why should we change agriculture?” He stated that apart from global warming that can affect the way crops are cultivated, the techniques of agriculture over the past 100 years have to be reviewed as they contribute to soil erosion, increased resistance of insects to chemicals and more frequent flooding.

Soil creation from continental crust rock to cropable soil takes a long time: to get 4 to 12 inches of bedrock transformed into cropland takes 20,000 to 30,000 years. So, effectively the soils that we encounter in our lifetime are a non-renewable resource.

This means that we need government agencies to protect arable land. But this is not what is happening: The world’s reserve of cropland is 600 million hectares (=1482 million acres). What is destroying this land? It is soil destruction and soil sterilization. Erosion is the primary reason for soil destruction. This is mostly due to ploughing practices, forest clearing to build subdivisions as part of urbanization and herding associated with raising cattle. All these are responsible for shifting the balance towards soil destruction, which occurs 10 to 100 times faster than soil formation. Erosion rates are 10 tons per hectare (or 4 tons per acre) over 80% of Earth’s arable land.

With regard to urbanization keep in mind that in 1900 only 14% of the world population lived in cities. However, in 2000, 54% of the world population consisted of urban dwellers.

Some more data: In the US 100 square meters (1076.3 square feet) are lost every second. China is losing 500 square meters (5381.5 square feet) every second. When you translate that into an easy to imagine figure, these two countries alone destroy the area of Denmark each year!

Dr. Mackie stated that when current trends of global food production are stacked against global population increases, we will reach a point in 3 centuries from now where the population will no longer be able to grow enough food to feed itself.

There are many unknowns though: This projection could be reached earlier, if there is more soil erosion than anticipated, but it could also be delayed by conservation practices. In British Columbia there has been a Provincial Land Commission since 2002 that developed strict agricultural zoning laws, called Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). This makes it difficult for developers to build on valuable agricultural land, no matter how desirable this land would be from a real estate point of view. In BC this law has been instrumental in preserving agricultural land on the erosion side of the equation as mentioned above.

Health concerns

There are health concerns because of monoculture techniques that are employed on a large scale. With the monoculture practice artificial fertilizers have to be used to replenish the soil. But the plants are hardly extracting 50% of the fertilizers from the soil; the rest becomes part of agro pollution. Nitrogen and phosphorus are the main pollutants. Children who were fed nitrate-contaminated water were described as blue baby syndrome a few years back; this was caused by methemoglobinemia, which can cause brain damage or death. Now babies are fed formulas made with reverse osmosis or bottled water. The Center for Disease Control also linked miscarriages to high nitrate levels in drinking water.

Another effect of over fertilization is the leaching out of important minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium. These minerals are then low in vegetables we eat and this affects our metabolism, as magnesium for instance is a co-factor in hundreds of enzymatic reactions in the body.

Concentrated animal feeding operations cause problems with regard to manure disposal. The farmers of these animals use heavy metals to promote growth and this results in high concentrations of arsenic, copper, selenium and zinc in the manure. This leaches into ground water and kills wildlife. But there are also antibiotic residues and resistant bugs in the manure of these concentrated animal feeding operations. In addition the animals carry superbugs, which can cause serious problems in humans.

Toxicity of food

With the monoculture techniques minerals and nutrients were leached out and farmers had to use fertilizers, insecticides and Roundup weed killer to maintain the monocultures. This was good business for the chemical companies that produced all those substances, but has not been good for our health despite reassurances otherwise. The end result is that we humans have to deal with residues of insecticides in our food that function as estrogen-like substances causing cancer on the long-term.

We also get exposed to Roundup that has been classified by the World Health Organization as “probably carcinogenic in humans” (category 2A carcinogenic).

Fertilizers are rich in heavy metals and have been found to cause cancer and methemoglobinemia.

Add to this the GMO issue that has not been resolved. Large manufacturers and those who are heavily invested in them are again pushing the envelope to the limit, but GMO crops are not harmless as some reports of infertility, breast cancer, malformations in newborns and autoimmune reactions in humans have shown.

GMO research was hastily put together and tested on short-term animal models. This will not do regarding safety in humans. It is a disconcerting thought that presently the US population has been enrolled in an involuntary long-term toxicity study by the industry, as GMO was declared “safe”. In Europe governments have gone the cautious road and not allowed GMO as freely as in the US. I prefer organic food, which is a certain protection from insecticides, fertilizers, Roundup and GMO.

The entire so-called “standard farming practices” have insidious effects on our health and need to be reviewed by medical experts. One of the problems of starting new agro industry practices was the fact that there was no input from consumers, from health professionals or scientists to look at how this would affect us as humans. The old-fashioned way of just doing something and waiting until there is a crisis does not work any more in society today.

Discussion

Conservation agriculture employs three key principles that are worth mentioning:

1. Practice minimum mechanical soil disturbance, which is essential to maintaining minerals within the soil, stopping erosion, and preventing water loss.

2. Manage the topsoil to create a permanent organic soil cover; this allows for growth of organisms within the soil structure.

3. Adopt the practice of crop rotation with more than two species. This controls weeds and insects and cuts down the need for chemical sprays.

Much can be done by recycling garden refuse; the city of Kelowna, BC has developed the manufacturing of OgoGrow, which they call a “soil amendment”.

This is a mineral and organic compound rich soil that can be mixed with existing poor soil thus turning it into a higher quality soil.

Health Depends on Healthy Soil

Health Depends on Healthy Soil

Conclusion

When proper planning is done worldwide, programs like these can be adopted. Some form of agricultural land reserve legislation combined with soil enrichment with products similar to OgoGrow will slow down soil erosion.

Tampering with the food production of future generations is not an allowable option. We need more international conferences on sustainability science as mentioned above. But we also need activists in all countries looking out for our food quality.

At the present time the only alternative to eating tampered food is to buy organic food. Don’t allow chemical companies to mess with the quality of soil bacteria or food quality, don’t allow farmers to mess with antibiotics that contaminates your meat with superbugs. It is a multifaceted task that will involve worldwide co-operation.

But this kind of work has to be done for mankind to survive!

 

Reference: “Healthy soil, healthy population” by Bill Mackie, MD Chairman of Environmental Health Committee, BC/Canada BC Medical Journal Vol. 57, No.5, June 2015, page 201.

Sep
14
2013

Food Processing Can Be A Danger To Your Health

Food processing is found everywhere: in pizzas, hamburgers, ready to eat deep frozen dinners, and in the myriad of packages that you see in the center of the grocery store. There are aisles and aisles of ready-made food packages including potato and corn chips, power bars, low fat yoghurt, and on and on it goes.

So, what are the problems with these foods?

Here are the major players that you will find (sometimes not) on the food ingredient lists.

Hidden sugar

With the recommendation for the past few decades that we should use low fat yoghurt a whole industry has sprung up surrounding low fat products. If you study the labels you will see that this has been done at the expenses of adding hidden sugar content. Don’t go for the berry or other fruit yoghurt, because it is over processed, sweetened with sugar or high fructose corn syrup. This is a fast track to becoming a diabetic. Stick to plain yoghurt with 2 to 3 % fat, which has only the original milk sugar in it, but no additives. Also, in the US you ought to avoid any milk and milk products containing bovine growth hormone, which is solely there for increasing the milk farmer’s profit, but will seriously undermine your health (it blocks your growth hormone receptors). Ref. 1 and 3 explain in detail how the metabolism is being changed through added sugar and an overdose of starchy foods, which is the reason for the pancreas over producing insulin. This in turn causes such varied diseases like heart attacks, diabetes, inflammatory conditions like arthritis, MS, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

Cut out cookies, excessively starchy foods like potatoes, bread, pasta and rice. Within half an hour of ingesting these your system will be overrun with sugar, the breakdown product of starchy food.

Added salt

Added salt is often used to preserve foods, to lengthen their shelf life and to stimulate your appetite. In restaurants it is added to stimulate your appetite for more liquids. As a result more beverages (alcoholic and nonalcoholic) will be ordered, which is where the profit margin is highest. High amounts of salt will not be beneficial to you, as it will raise your blood pressure and on the long-term will cause high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. When you buy organic food, there is no added salt in it, although you get sodium chloride that is contained in the vegetables and fruit. Add very little salt, if any; instead add  herbs and spices, which contain valuable trace minerals.

Food Processing Can Be A Danger To Your Health

Food Processing Can Be A Danger To Your Health

Hidden fat

Whenever you have a food that was deep fried such as potato chips, corn chips or French fries, there is the danger of exposing yourself to trans fats from polyunsaturated fatty acids. This is also true for deep fried chicken or any other ready to eat foods that have been prepared in the deep fryer.This type of oil is often reused after it is filtered and advanced glycosylation end products (AGE’s) are accumulated in it. This ages your cells including your skin much faster. AGE’s also worsen diabetes by causing more complications like heart attacks and kidney failure. For the same reason you should avoid burning meats on the BBQ or food that you cook on a stove.

Hamburgers also have a lot of hidden fat, sometimes as much as 50%. This fat enters your bloodstream and is eventually deposited as fat deposits in your arteries. After decades of eating too many hamburgers and sausages your coronary arteries clog and you require a stent or a bypass surgery. If you do not want to become a statistic prematurely, cut out sausages, hamburgers and other processed meats replacing them with lean turkey breast, organic chicken and lean pork,venison or grass fed lean cuts of beef or bison.

MSG and other food additives

Many foods have artificial sweeteners in them, which includes excitotoxins like MSG and aspartame. MSG is added to stimulate your appetite, but it has devastating effects on your brain cells on the long term. The name may be disguised as yeast extract, sodium caseinate, broth stock, malt extract, natural flavors and others. Soda drinks either have added sugar, in which case your insulin response makes you want to eat more calories in a day leading to obesity and to dementia. Aspartame, which is used by diet conscious people as a low calorie drink, causes insulin resistance making you gain weight. It also damages your brain. I recommend the plant extract stevia, which is a sweetener that does not have the deleterious effects of aspartame. Sucralose (Splenda) was developed through research on insecticides when a student found out that it tasted sweet. Although Big Pharma has succeeded to introduce sucralose into the diet of diabetics, it is a sweetener that in my opinion is not safe. First it kills ants: a few years ago I did an experiment where I took a package of Splenda from Starbucks and sprinkled it on Hawaiian ants. In the beginning they were reluctant to eat it, but after a few hours they came and took it in. One day later there were only shriveled up dead ants left in the area where Splenda had been sprinkled. I refuse to eat insecticide-laced soda! Second, when you read the link about the “sweet deception about Splenda” above you find that it has reduced the growth rate of rats, caused anemia in mice, enlarged the liver and the brain of rats, shrunk ovaries of rats and caused kidney damage with calcifications in rats. We have no official human data, although millions of Splenda doses have been consumed.  Nobody has done clinical safety studies in man.

One of the food additives you may not think much about is gliadin, which is used in baking to bind the ingredients together. It is derived from wheat, which is usually the Clearfield variety of wheat (a dwarf variety). Dr. William Davis (Ref.1) has examined the effects of wheat and wheat products on humans in detail. Suffice it to say that it is safest to avoid wheat and wheat products entirely; otherwise you could develop bowel disease like celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease; heart disease, obesity, autoimmune diseases, but also CNS disease like Parkinson’s disease, ataxia, and dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease).

Other health problems associated with marketing and so-called “best practices” of agroindustry

Milk and milk products are not as innocent as in the past when no marketing boards were around. Animals are no longer freely roaming on green pastures, but are kept in high-density facilities and have to be put on antibiotics to prevent infectious illnesses. So we are told. In reality farmers have found out that antibiotics and bovine growth hormone will both increase milk production. The profit principle has been applied and as a result the consumers of milk and milk products have a change of their bowel flora from the antibiotics, which can cause heart attacks. The bovine growth hormone from milk and milk products causes breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Superbugs have emerged as a danger from treating beef animals with antibiotics in feeding lots leading to resistant bacterial strains that can cause human disease like flesh eating disease etc. These superbugs imported from the grocery store and meat market are what can make us sick! Eating only organic meat and organic foods are one way that we can use to protect ourselves. Organic milk or goat milk are alternatives to regular (unhealthy) milk.

Toxins in our foods

Roundup is so rampantly present in agroindustry to protect crops from weeds that traces of it are present in most regular crops. Despite claims that Roundup would be safe for the consumer, newer research has shown that it is not. Genetically modified crops are routinely sprayed with Roundup, as they are resistant to this herbicide, so I recommend to stay away from these crops as well.

Your best protection is to buy organic foods.

Heavy metals can be another source of food toxicity. Red wine was found to contain heavy metals, which could undermine that heart healthy effect of a glass of red wine per day.

Mercury is toxic to the central nervous system. It comes from the effluent of gold mines, the smog from coal burning and volcanic activity, which finds its way into the ocean. Fish is the main source of exposure to humans as explained in this link.

Conclusion

We need to be vigilant about the food we eat. The more it has gone through food processing, the more ingredients get mixed in. We need to ask questions about how the food that we eat was raised. Were food additives mixed in? Are they harmless or bad for our health? Beware of sugar as this causes insulin levels to raise causing obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Watch the addition of salt, which causes high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Avoid polyunsaturated fats, cook with olive oil instead. It’s the Mediterranean way of preventing heart attacks. No butter, no margarine, because this fat ends up in your arteries. Avoid wheat and wheat products that are often mixed into foods. Cook your own food whenever possible. Eat lots of vegetables and salads. Watch the glycemic index and avoid high glycemic index foods. Sweeten with stevia, but avoid all other sweeteners. This way you avoid the insulin response discussed above.

The dietitians of the US have summarized the problems the American public faces in Ref. 2. Essentially we need to take back the responsibility for our own food preparation and become less dependent on manufactured foods. A good collection of wheat-free recipes can be found under Ref. 3.

References

1. William Davis, MD: “Wheat Belly. Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health”. HarperCollins Publishers LTD., Toronto, Canada, 2011.

2. The Profession of Dietetics at a Critical Juncture: A Report on the 2006 Environmental Scan for the American Dietetic Association; Journal of the American Dietetic Association – Volume 107, Issue 7 (July 2007)

3.  William Davis, MD: “Wheat Belly Cookbook. 150 Recipes to Help You Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health”. HarperCollins Publishers LTD., Toronto, Canada, 2012.

Last edited Oct. 4, 2014

Incoming search terms:

May
25
2013

What We Can Do About Superbugs

Several decades ago nobody talked about superbugs. Then came stories of “flesh-eating disease” or necrotizing fasciitis. Since 2001 it became obvious that these cases have become more common, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) was often the underlying cause.

Physicians were accused of overprescribing unnecessary antibiotics for viral colds and flus. An educational program was rolled out to all physicians as part of the continuing education programs to use antibiotics only sparingly, but the frequency of these serious infections often requiring amputations and mutilating surgeries continued to escalate. Research into the phenomenon of increasing superbugs took place already in the 1970’s. In 1977 the FDA came to the conclusion that antibiotics were used widely in the US by the agroindustry for weight gain in livestock (pigs, cattle, chicken, turkeys). Although masked as protecting animals from infections, the real motivation of the farmer was to increase profits. The FDA recommendation in 1977 to change the practice of feeding livestock antibiotics did nothing to change that.

After a court review in 2012 a New York court ordered the FDA to do something about the same problem. The answer was a lame recommendation of a voluntary program to downsize the use of antibiotics in livestock, requiring a vet and a prescription for antibiotics. The problem with this is that no mandatory checks of livestock in farms by trained inspectors were required as part of this ruling and no penalties for farmers who continued the old antibiotic feeding practice. Fast-forward to an American citizen who visited India recently as told in this story.

It is clear that superbugs are all over the world. It is also clear from this article (and other literature I have reviewed) that 80% of today’s antibiotics are fed to livestock, not to treat infections, but because of their effect on weight gain in livestock and the associated larger profits. The result is that we are looking at farming practices that produce deadly superbugs. Next we are reading the headlines, when meat and meat products are recalled.

Here is an interesting list from the Environmental Working Group, which shows what percentage of meats in your neighborhood grocery store is contaminated, and these are the numbers for superbug contaminations: The worst is ground turkey with 81%, pork chops with 69%, ground beef with 55% and chicken breasts, wings or thighs with 39%.

What We Can Do About Superbugs

What We Can Do About Superbugs

This shows how important it is to wash meat thoroughly and to cook it long enough to kill the superbugs. It is also extremely important to frequently wash your hands when you prepare meat to avoid colonizing your skin surface with superbugs. Once a person has skin surface flora with superbugs, it only takes a small abrasion or a skin sore where the superbug can enter under the surface of the skin and start a serious infection. If the immune system is not in top shape to eradicate these bugs right away, the next step may be flesh-eating disease or toxic shock syndrome.

Solutions to stay on top of Superbugs:

In northern Saskatchewan, one the provinces of Canada, an 8 year community based study was done to see whether it would be possible to reduce community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) by a combination of hand washing and education regarding appropriate antibiotic use. Using this program it was shown that in the time period of 2006 to 2008 the infection rates went down from 242.8 to 129.3 infections/10,000 population, which is almost half of the infection rate from before.

What can be done about hospital associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (HA-MRSA) and other superbugs in the hospital? In a hospital it is extremely important that HA-MRSA free patients do not get exposed to this superbug as their immune system is already weakened from the underlying disease, which brought them to the hospital. At Stanford University a robot was developed that emits pulsating ultra violet light to kill any leftover superbug after the initial cleanup with scrubbing using bleach and germicidal solutions. The isolation rooms are treated with the double treatment and the operating rooms are disinfected overnight with the robot. So far tests have shown a complete eradication of the superbugs with these methods.

Breaking the chain of infection:

Since about 2005 the major food production animals have been shown to be colonized with superbugs (MRSA) as this publication shows.

With 80% of the world’s production of antibiotics still going into this industry for weight gaining purposes, it is high time that international “laws with teeth” as mentioned above get instituted. The WHO should get actively involved in this and the public needs to put pressure on politicians to achieve this. Medical history has shown that infectious epidemics can be cured by breaking the chain of infection. In the example regarding superbugs the story of interrupting the chain of infection is exactly the same here: As shown in this study from Stanford University MRSA bugs are not contained in organic foods. So when I attempt to eat 100% organic, which can be challenging at times, the infectious cycle involving MRSA and other Superbugs is intercepted, as I do not get exposed to the meat from food production animals treated with antibiotics for growth purposes. In the meantime I am protecting myself by keeping fit, taking vitamins and supplements all with the hope that the immune system stays strong from this. By eating organic meats and meat products I also keep my body free of toxins that would weaken my immune system and set me up for getting autoimmune diseases down the road.

The end result is that people who follow my example would  avoid colonization from exposure to superbug-infected meat products and at the same time prevent exposure to other toxins that are not allowed in the production of organic foods. Here is a story of a company that produces meat products without antibiotics (organic meats).

Conclusion:

You can interrupt the infectious cycle of superbugs by eating organic foods. Make sure your immune system is strong by exercising, supplementing with vitamins and minerals. Wash your hands with soap and clean water, particularly after handling meat or meat products. Do not take prolonged antibiotics unless there is a specific proven bacterial infection that requires it. Do not consume meats from animals that were fed antibiotics. Read food labels!

References:

1. Stick to organically grown meats:  http://www.helpguide.org/life/organic_foods_pesticides_gmo.htm

2. Super bugs in hospitals:  http://patients.about.com/od/atthehospital/a/hais.htm

3. Useful 2008 article : hand washing, reducing antibiotic use in humans and in animal feed are the solution to combat superbugs. http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/news/080401_mrsa

Last edited May 25, 2013

Incoming search terms: