Basics of Food Management

Food is such a basic part of our existence. Our lives revolve around it from our waking moment onwards. Food and feasting go hand in hand and even celebrations all over the world and across all cultures are centred on food. Our ancient Indian scriptures divide food into three categories, such as-

Satvic or pure foods: These are foods that heal, comfort, juicy, smooth and increase longevity, intelligence and strength and are digested well by our system.

Rajasik or the tasteful foods: These are salty, spicy, bitter, salty and can give rise to ill health, grief or discomfort.

Tamasik or the impure foods: These include stale, cold, left over foods, impure and half cooked causing great harm to the mind and the body.

Food is one aspect of our life that we take for granted. We are less mindful of the food that we consume. We leave our body to deal with the constant abuse from our day to day lives and lifestyles. We, humans, without taking our body for granted, need to create health generating systems and build a oneness with food, productive exercises, yoga, corrective breathing and meditation, rest and sleep and be spiritually aware and conscious. These steps translate into better stamina, strength, tone and energy with emphasis on the whole body as an entity, one that accentuates wellness and wellbeing.

The food we eat lays the foundation for every cell and tissue in our body. The purpose of food is to nourish us, build strength and to give vital energy. Digestive harmony is the key for release of this vital energy needed for healthy living. The science of Ayurveda – the creative and constructive life science – says that every part of our mind and body is governed by the DOSHAS – the bio-energetic force or elements that sustain life. Refined, processed and preserved foods are all totally devoid of this nutrition and vitality. Wholesome, raw and natural foods that have absorbed the cosmic energy, and are super charged with ample rainfall and sunshine must be utilized to the fullest for health and wellness.

The father of medicine, Hippocrates said “thy food is thy medicine. You are what you eat and what you eat you become”.

To most of us eating good food is just another chore and a trivial thing to do. How many of us are really mindful of the fact that good food performs miracles inside our cells and tissues and is responsible for 80 percent of our transformation. Food has a subtle effect on our minds as well. Food plays a pivotal role in influencing our brain behaviour, our moods, and thought processes and in handling stress. It is these wholesome, natural foods that bestow health and vigour liberating and protecting us from us from illnesses. Studies have shown that there are two dietary processes in the human body-nourishing and cleansing- that need to be regulated with good and sensible dietary habits. If neglected, it can lead to a build up of toxins which are the basis for most mental and physical degeneration.

Health is not just a great body or a zero size figure but covers physical fitness, mind science and spiritual growth and our efforts should be an integrated approach towards wellness. To achieve this eat appropriate foods that do not erode our digestive system. Yes, I mean, go real easy on all those junk foods, soft drinks, stale, cold foods and excessive meat eating and alcohol. Instead, begin to love fruits, veggies, nuts and foods in their natural wholesome form. It is important to ‘cater to your hunger and not pamper your appetite.’ I am urging you to follow this and not call it a ‘diet’. It is not intended for weight loss alone. On the contrary, it is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

So, let us celebrate good health.

How often have you come across the words ‘healthy’ and ‘food’ in the same sentence, but chose to ignore it? Despite being aware of the many benefits of eating healthy, I see so many people around me taking their health for granted. Our body is what we make of it. So why fill it with unhealthy food and end up bearing the brunt of it.

Eating healthy has innumerable advantages, some of them being:

1. Helps prevent and control health problems like heart diseases, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes.

2. With good nutrition your body becomes better equipped to deal with stress.

3. Good food stimulates the body to create more killer cells to ward off infections thus promoting immunity.

4. Food provides us with disease fighting antioxidants and can slow the natural process of ageing.

Indian diets, with mindfulness and planning are natural and unprocessed comprising of grains, pulses and dals, fruits and vegetables, nuts and oilseeds; all in adequate amounts to maintain health. Diet and Nutrition are responsible for 70 to 80% of your entire transformation. Food also influences your thought process, attitude and behavior. There are foods which can make you feel high, there are foods which can make you irritable and temperamental, there are foods which can excite you, and there are foods which can relax you.

Indian diets suit Indian population the best depending upon our culture, climatic conditions, atmosphere, pollution etc. Once a while enjoying other cuisines is great, but would you ever want to solely depend on pastas and burgers too often and face the risks attached to consuming such unhealthy, non fibrous foods?

As mentioned above the health risks are plenty! Our diets include complex carbohydrates from jowar, bajra, ragi, whole wheat etc as opposed to the refined carbohydrates. Our diets are designed to protect our hearts with low levels of oils, fats, sugars. In fact our diets strike this perfect balance of all food groups, nothing too much and nothing too little. High sugar intake is proportionate to diabetes, high fat levels can lead to hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, heart diseases, strokes etc.

My golden rules for better health:

Remember, our bodies are tailored to consume what we have been since childhood and what our fathers, fore fathers have been consuming. Our diets of rotis, dals/pulses, veggies, sprouts, salads etc on a daily basis will ensure complete health as opposed to constant consumption of junk foods /burgers/pizzas/excess amounts of cheese, cream etc. Relish on all that you love, but remember, anything too little or too much is equally damaging…

Guidelines for healthy eating and weight management

Follow these golden rules/steps of healthy eating for achieving a healthy weight loss and to maximize your health and longevity:

1. Frequent small helpings of food are recommended. Eat slowly. Eating frequently prevents hunger pangs, provides constant energy and maintains metabolism efficiently.

2. Select foods based on your preference and do not worry as much about the number of calories you consume but concentrate on combining the right foods and on the portion sizes. Do not deprive yourselves. This is likely to cause you to eat more the next day.

3. Add a wide variety of foods to your daily diet. Include wholesome foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, sprouts, and whole grains. These foods provide all the essential nutrients and fiber which are necessary for growth, good health and immunity.

4. Drink daily 8 to 10 glasses of liquids like water, and herbal teas. These drinks are fillers are hunger managers.

5. Include fresh fruits, fresh unstrained vegetable juices, vegetable, sprouts, whole grains, nuts and low fat milk/yoghurt.

6. Drink a glass of ginger/green tea after a heavy meal. This hastens digestion and improves metabolism.

7. Consume healthy snacks like salads, crackers, fruits, unsweetened and low fat yogurt, wholegrain biscuits and muffins.

8. Read labels well and choose foods that do not contain chemicals like preservatives and additives. Organically grown foods are a healthier option.

9. Avoid bad fats like butter, cream full-cream milk and rich salad dressings and sauces. Take care not to eliminate sources of good fats like nuts, seeds and olive oils which contain unsaturated fatty acids. Use these foods in moderation.

10. Eliminate white flour products like breads and biscuits, pastas, white rice, processed foods and sugary breakfast cereals. They lack fibre. They also cause a spike in our insulin level leading to fat storage.

11. Exercise on a regular basis. Stretching, yoga, calisthenics, walking and other mild forms of aerobic activities are recommended. These exercises can be done at home or in a gym with guidance. Stress can be reduced through yoga,meditation, good rest and sound sleep.

12. Avoid soft drinks, and juices. Also avoid sweets, desserts and fried snacks. Instead, eat a variety of nutrient dense foods. Limit the consumption of processed foods, fried foods and fast foods. If you must have them, remember to exercise moderation. Moderation is the key when you eat what you want without feeling deprived.

13. Use cooking methods like stewing, steaming, grilling and roasting instead of frying.

Good health is the result of conscious commitment that involves many factors like the food we eat, exercises, mental well-being, rest and sleep. Consistency is the most important factor when it comes to good nutrition. When you are often on the run, you need a plan that you can easily adopt and one that features a foundation of healthy food. Eating frequent well balanced meals is essential for anyone who wants to lose or maintain weight, have energy and stamina throughout the day, boosted immunity, to improve focus and concentration and above all for Mickeymizing your wellness quotient!

Finding Real Health in a World of Artificial Food

Remember the days when we shopped in food markets no bigger than a convenience store? They were full of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, nuts, beans, and grains. Markets back then had only a couple shelves that were stocked with non-perishable foods.

Today, it’s the opposite. We now have supermarkets that are predominantly stocked with non-perishable food items that can sit on a shelf for years. They are called “processed foods.” There are many reasons why this shift has taken place, but the real concern is, how do we now maneuver through a world full of artificial food? That’s a valid concern, so hopefully the following information will help you sift through this confusing world of food sources

Processed Food

Most processed foods are actually not real food at all. Real food is alive, and will spoil. Processed foods may include a few “real food” ingredients; however those items have been processed in order to give it a profitable shelf life – which ultimately reduces it from a living food, to a dead food. Dead food can sit on a shelf for a long time.

Addictive Food

Many manufacturers add addictive chemicals to their processed foods in order to cause cravings and hook us into consuming their product more frequently; therefore driving up their profits. I read years ago about MSG’s hallucinogenic effects that cause us to crave the food that is laced with MSG. These chemicals get lost in the huge list of ingredients. Many times people will eat the food and ignore the dangers. Usually they just don’t want to, or don’t have the time to investigate every ingredient. They are driven by their appetite and cravings because the last time they ate the food it gave them great enjoyment. But as we know, just because something was enjoyable, does not mean that it was safe.

Fortified and Enriched Food

Fortified and enriched foods typically originate as real food, however with the healthiest part removed; either purposely removed, or destroyed during the processing stage. This is done to give the product a long and profitable shelf-life. Unfortunately, the part that spoils is the part that contains the greatest health benefits. Adding synthetic vitamins, minerals, and fiber back into the product does not make up for the lost natural nutrition. It simply makes the product look better. Again, this reduces the real food to artificial food – dead food.

Here’s an interesting fact about fortified foods. If the manufacturer does not complete step 2, by injecting artificial nutrition back into the item, then it cannot be sold in a grocery store. A pharmacist told me years ago that it’s illegal to sell this kind of product in a grocery store because it’s not really food! Without being “fortified” with artificial nutrients it could only be sold in a drug store. Remember, our bodies are alive, and they require food that’s alive – in order to remain alive!

Real Food

Real food is grown from the earth. Fruits, vegetables, grains, lentils, seeds, and nuts are loaded with vitamins and minerals, natural medicine (phytochemicals), and energy; and are alive and full of remarkable components that keep us alive and healthy. You can never go wrong with living food choices. Living food has the right amount of fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals perfectly combined to work synergistically together. Living food has protein, carbohydrates, and fats balanced to compliment your body’s needs, and phytochemical medicines that fight the daily bugs and chemicals of life. With living food, there is no need to count carbs, omit fats, or double up on protein. The work has already been done for us. It’s been created to perfectly match our body’s needs. Eating real food is like inserting a square peg, into a square hole. It fits.

Furthermore, living food tastes great! If you remove artificial food sources from your diet, your taste buds will begin to detox and return to normal sensitivity. When that happens, you will find that artificial food tastes artificial and real food tastes marvelous!

What about animal protein? Animal protein is considered real food, but not living food. The purpose of animal protein is for our protein needs. Animal protein does not supply us with vitamins, minerals, or natural medicine. However, lean animal proteins can be very helpful for those who require more protein. Be aware though that animal fat and any chemicals or hormones that the animal is fed can be harmful to you. Choose animal proteins carefully and limit your intake.

So how do we maneuver in this world of artificial food? We’ve been conditioned to believe that we can solve this problem by simply reading the ingredient list and being aware of what we are eating. I don’t agree with this method. We can spend countless hours in our life reading words we don’t know, then Googling them to decide whether they are good or bad. Even then, we cannot be sure that what we are reading on the internet is true. The internet is full of opinions, sales pitches, and tainted studies. A person can go mad trying to follow all the internet health rules!

Why do we need to know all of the technical verbiage on an ingredient list anyway? After all, when a manufacturer sees that the public is catching on to their unhealthy ingredients and processing techniques, they simply change the names, which can send us back into the Google trap again or frustrate us to the point where we give up. So how do we get out of this bondage?

There are two ways to deal with this confusing issue. We can throw our hands up and say “Whatever, it’s too hard; I’m just going to eat what I want.” Or we can take what I think is an easier route and a healthier route, not only for ourselves but also for our families.

I learned long ago that the best way to identify a counterfeit is NOT to study the counterfeit, but to study the real thing. When you know what real food is, you know when it’s NOT on an ingredient list. So I tell my clients not to READ the ingredient list, but instead, sift through it. Look for the words you know, like “chicken,” “black beans,” “carrots,” etc. Then choose foods with ingredient lists that are clearly identified as 90 to 100% real food – preferably 100%. Keep in mind that 100% food may not even have an ingredient list, and if it did there would be only 1 ingredient!

Every day we are faced with tempting and unhealthy choices. Choose today to become proactive for your health and the health of your family. Here are a few tips to propel you in the right direction:

1. Use your valuable time to study real food, not the counterfeit.

2. Sift through ingredient lists to find real food.

3. Choose food items that are 90% to 100% real food.

4. Put dead food back on the shelf. Don’t spend your hard-earned money on something dead.

5. Plan ahead and prepare your meals.

6. Investing a little time now saves a tremendous amount of time, money, and pain later.

7. Don’t expect to get it right all the time. Simply aim for getting it right more times than wrong.

8. It’s not about perfection, it’s about perseverance!

Just my 2 cents! Bon appétit!

8 Dangerous And Shocking Ingredients Hidden In Your Foods

As a qualified personal trainer and health coach I’ve evaluated a lot of diets and meal plans over the years. I always ask “So what is your diet like?” And the most common response is… “Oh my diet’s pretty good actually.” It’s not until we delve deeper into what people are consuming on a daily basis where we start to realize that their diet wasn’t that healthy after all.

Just because a food product is sitting on a supermarket shelf doesn’t mean that it’s OK to eat. Think about it… Children can eat crayons but we don’t call crayons food. Therefore, why are we putting so many lifeless and nutrient devoid foods as well as many known toxins into our bodies these days?

The food companies certainly don’t make it easy. Most of the food labels don’t make much sense due to all the codes and unpronounceable names. But did you know that there are legal loopholes where manufacturers can add certain ingredients and chemicals to the product, but state on the label that the product doesn’t contain those ingredients at all? Ridiculous isn’t it!

As you read on you’ll come to realize why more and more people are starting to eat fresh and healthy unprocessed foods to avoid these disgraceful ingredients. Below I’ve outlined 8 dangerous and shocking ingredients hidden in your foods that you should be aware of.

1. Anti-Freeze

Yes you read correct… Anti-freeze is what goes into the radiator of your car so it won’t over heat but also won’t freeze up in colder climates. It’s called propylene glycol, also known as propane-1,2-diol or E1520. It’s a chemical that has many industrial uses such as Corexit, which is an oil dispersant used for oil spills in the ocean. It’s also used in pharmaceutical drugs and cosmetics, right through to many ice creams.

Luckily for the folks in the European Union, they have not cleared propylene glycol as a food additive or food grade product. My advice, make your own ice cream and stop consuming products that contain this chemical.

2. Human Hair

Proteins are the building blocks of life and are made up of amino acids. Although they are good for your health, I’m sure you’d agree that there must be a better way to extend the shelf life of some products other than using human hair or duck feathers.

The amino-acid L-Cysteine is used to prolong the shelf life of many products such as commercial breads. The L-Cysteine that is used to prolong these foods often comes from duck and chicken feathers as well as horns from cows that have been slaughtered. However the most commonly used version comes from human hair. Yes, you read that correctly.

Reports have shown that the hair used to derive L-Cysteine mostly comes from China, where it’s collected from hair salons and barber shops, then processed. Most fast food chains add this form of L-Cysteine to their burger buns and rolls.

To avoid consuming human hair or duck feathers in your foods, try buying freshly baked breads from your local baker as L-Cysteine isn’t in the flour, but added to the mix during production of breads and the like. Even better, make your own.

3. Arsenic

Arsenic is a known carcinogen, which means that it causes cancer in living tissue. The unfortunate thing about this toxic element is that it seems to keep showing up in our food supplies. It’s in everything from breakfast cereals and rice, through to fruit juice and your drinking water. Sometimes at levels up to 2 – 3 times what is considered safe. It’s also been shown to be in many protein powders. Yes, you read that correctly as well… those expensive protein powders that many people waste their money on have been shown to contain this toxic element amongst others.

Many wines and beers have also been shown to contain arsenic, mostly the clearer ones. To filter these beverages they use diatomaceous earth, which is a natural product but it contains iron and other elements, such as arsenic.

So to avoid this toxin, get a good quality water filter for your house and drink wine or beer that is unfiltered. The unfiltered wine and beer also contain more nutrients.

4. Anal Glands

This one sounds nice doesn’t it… Anal glands anyone? No thanks!

Most people don’t realize that some of the flavors used in your favorite ice creams amongst other things, comes from the castor sacs of beavers, which is located at their rear end of the animal. This secretion is called castoreum and is used to mark the beaver’s territory. Due to the close proximity of the castor sacs to the beaver’s anal glands, castoreum can be a combination of urine, secretions from the castor glands as well as secretions from the anal glands.

Castoreum is used to flavor vanilla, raspberry and strawberry ice cream and is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved food additive in many popular ice cream brands. It’s also used to flavor many beverages such as protein and meal replacement drinks. You will generally find it labeled as “Natural Flavoring”. Isn’t that great, so for all you know, many of these so-called “natural” ingredients could be anal secretion from other animals.

My advice… again, make your own ice creams so you don’t consume beaver droppings.

5. Borax

Borax has been banned as a food additive in Canada and the U.S. but is allowed in the European Union, even though they listed it as a substance of very high concern. It’s commonly used to make cosmetics, detergents, enamel glazes, fiberglass, as a flux in metallurgy and is used in fire retardants.

In the food industry it’s known by it’s E number: E285. Borax is used for acidity control, firming agent and preservative. It can be found in some caviars, noodles and depending on region can be added a variety of dishes to add a firm texture.

Borax has been given the revised classification as toxic for reproduction – category 1B.

6. Coal Tar

Doesn’t this one sound appetizing? No way! You might be thinking what on earth would coal tar be doing in food? Well the good old processed foods industry is at it again.

So many of the processed food items that grace the supermarket shelves these days contain a long list of food dyes. Most of those food dyes are derived from coal tar and it is listed as a known carcinogen (causes cancer in living tissue).

It’s used in such things as road manufacturing, road and pavement sealing coats, cosmetics, shampoos and pharmaceutical drugs.

In foods and beverages it’s known as E102, Tartrazine or Yellow #5 and can be found in sodas, flavored chips, pickles, cheese flavored products as well as many other food and beverage items. This is just another reason to keep processed foods away from your body as well as those of your loved ones.

7. Rodent Hair

Would you like some rodent hair with that? I’m sure this is something that you usually sprinkle over your freshly made healthy meals… Not. Well according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) it’s fine to have some rodent hair in your food.

Due to most food manufacturing being processed in large industrial facilities, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has an allowance for rodent hair in many products, in what they term “unavoidable defects”. They allow 1 rodent hair per 100g of chocolate, 5 rodent hairs per 18oz peanut butter jar and 22 rodent hairs per 100g cinnamon.

This will sure keep me away from processed foods for a very long time.

8. Boiled Beetles

It just keeps getting better doesn’t it? Now why would you need bits of beetles in your food you may ask? Known as carmine, natural red #4, crimson lake or E120, it’s a food coloring made by boiling cochineal insects in a sodium carbonate or ammonia solution.

It’s used to manufacture plastic flowers, inks, dyes, paints and cosmetics. In foods and beverages it’s used to color ice cream, candy, yogurt and certain fruit juices. It’s been shown to cause anaphylactic shock and severe allergic reactions in some people.

Other dyes used instead of natural #4 are synthetic alternatives such as: red #40 and red #2. These are derived from petroleum production. My advice, keep this garbage away from your body as much as you can.

We seem to wonder why that even though we are more technologically advanced than any other time in history, humans are also more sick and diseased than any other time in history.

To me it’s as plain as day. It is items that I’ve mentioned and the thousands of other food additives, flavors, colors and preservatives that our leaders allow manufacturers to add to the foods people eat that is helping to cause illness world wide.

So it really is up to you. As Hippocrates said thousands of years ago:

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”

So be smart and choose your food wisely.

To great health,

Paul Scicluna

A Case For Whole Food Supplements

The Standard American Diet (SAD) is lacking in many vital nutritional components. Being largely composed of prepackaged, convenience foods with few naturally grown food products; this diet has contributed to an epidemic of not only obesity but also extreme nutritional deficiency. While many commercially available vitamin and mineral supplements exist, they are manufactured in an artificial way that reduces bioavailability and promotes chemical contamination. As Americans are not likely to return to eating home grown food directly from their garden, the solution to the nutritional deficiency of America can be found in Whole Food Supplements which are vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient rich products made from actual food concentrates.

The Problem with the Standard American Diet

In the first part of the 1900’s most Americans ate a healthy, whole food diet because they had no choice. All food was grown either by the family or obtained from immediately local sources. America in the 1900’s was a largely agrarian society with most people living in rural areas and able to grow their own food. During the last century, a massive migration to urban areas has occurred. This has meant that even if one has the desire, most people no longer have the ability to produce self grown food. Either because there is no land or because many do not know how, very few people have a garden and even fewer produce protein in the form of dairy products and animal husbandry.

In spite of this developing migration, during World War II, families were encouraged to have a “victory garden”. This was not to ensure that Americans had a great diet but actually to ensure that American families could feed themselves at all, while allowing most of commercial food production to be sent to the troops overseas. That was the last period in history that America got most of their nutrition from locally grown food.

Beginning around the 1950’s, Americans did begin to recognize the value of vitamins and minerals within their diet. This was discovered because more and more pre-prepared, highly processed food products became available and nutritional deficiencies began to emerge.

After the end of World War II, many families became two-income families. In addition, many more single parents are now raising children by themselves. This means that in most homes, all of the adults present in any one household are likely employed outside of the home full-time leaving little time for food preparation alone much less any time for food production. America has become a convenience food nation consuming much of the diet from unnatural food sources.

Prepackaged and easy to prepare food products are just that, food “products”. Though they may contain carbohydrates, proteins, fats and some “essential” nutrients, they are not real food. The entire food supply chain is rife with contamination and chemical processing and many Americans are unaware of how little nutritional value the food that they consume every day contains. So much publicity and education has focused on the so called food pyramid. The governmental and educational agencies that have devised the perfect American diet have never truly addressed the lack of nutrients, other than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of basic vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, Vitamin D and Calcium.

While these RDA levels of vitamin and mineral consumption may be an absolute bottom line essential to avoid obvious diseases of deficiency such as scurvy or rickets, they are hardly adequate and do not reflect but a small portion of the nutrients contained in whole food, necessary for promotion of health and prevention of disease.

A Crisis in America: Obesity and Other Diseases in the Face of Malnutrition

The main focus of the American diet in recent years has become reducing fat and increasing carbohydrates in the diet. This stream of thought was intended to reduce the growing epidemic of obesity but over the past 20 years, obesity has risen into numbers that appear to be a crisis for Americans. In fact, over the past 20 years the number of adult Americans who are obese has risen by 60% to an unprecedented level of almost 35% of American adults being considered obese. A much worse situation is that a similar number of approximately 32% of American children qualify as overweight or obese. For the first time in American history, the life expectancy of these children may be lower than that of their parents or grandparents.

This has led to an epidemic of heart disease, diabetes and other weight related problems occurring in record numbers not only in adults but seen in children as young as 18 months of age. Additional diseases that may be related to a lack of appropriate nutrients other than simple vitamins in American diets may include a wide variety of conditions ranging from immune disorders implicated in conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus and Cancer to psychiatric and neurological conditions such as ADHD, Autism and Depression.

Most people believe that obesity occurs simply because people eat too much. While that is true in part, obesity also results from continuously consuming the wrong types of food. In the 1900s when Americans were consuming a largely natural, whole food diet directly from farm to table, obesity was an extremely rare occurrence.

As our diet has changed from an agrarian society’s nutrient rich food supply to the urbanized highly processed, artificial foods, our total food consumption has risen. This is in part because, though the body gets more calories from more food, it is still starved of nutrition causing one to eat even more. In addition, in our sedentary lifestyle our bodies actually need less food than when we lived and worked each day on the farm, yet we still eat more because of lack of proper nutrients, abundance of easily obtained processed food and other psychological conditions such as stress eating. In the end, America has become a nation of people who are obese but still malnourished and disease ridden.

An Attempt to Fix the Problem

The ideal diet truly would be that of returning to whole food “farm to table” eating where families either grow their own food and prepare it within minutes of harvesting or at a minimum obtain locally grown food from the market and prepare it within a day or so of harvesting. In today’s society this is no longer possible. Even when fresh vegetables and fruits are consumed as a large portion of the diet, our nation’s food supply is contaminated by the use of pesticides, herbicides and hormones and much of the nutrient value is lost by transportation of the food crop from thousands of miles away. Food is harvested before it is truly ripe, irradiated, stored cold and transported across states, nations and even oceans before it arrives in our grocery stores as tasteless, substandard, nutrient poor produce.

Many people are attempting to eat only organic, locally grown produce for this reason. While this may be an improvement over the nutritional value of the standard American diet, it is nearly always much more expensive and therefore unaffordable for many and unavailable for others as most markets do not focus on obtaining such products. So this effort, while valiant is still not enough.

The good news about the American nutritional situation is that it is quite easy to fix. Given appropriate nutrition, the human body has an amazing ability to heal itself. Many diseases and conditions caused by overconsumption and malnourishment can be easily corrected by supplementation with whole food nutritional products.

As Americans cannot rely on the food supply to provide adequate nutrition and also cannot count on the source, quality and purity of most commercially available nutritional supplements, the only answer appears to lie in whole food supplementation.

What is a Whole Food Supplement?

Whole food supplements are defined as nutritional supplements derived entirely from food. This is a much more natural and beneficial method of obtaining nutrition from food and herbal supplements alike.

Unfortunately, most commercially available nutritional supplements including vitamins, minerals and herbal products are made completely of single ingredient extracts or worse, artificially synthesized in a lab using chemical processes. While synthesized supplements may in fact provide basic vitamins and minerals known to be vital, artificially prepared products are missing many of the alkaloids, antioxidants and phytochemicals that are thought to play a major role in complete nutrition and disease prevention.

The same is true for herbal supplements and treatments as most commercially available herbal products do provide an extract or synthesized form of the primarily active chemical within the herb, they are still missing many of the synergistic ingredients thought to provide additional benefits of herbal and nutraceutical treatment.

Simply Taking Vitamins isn’t Enough

Vitamins and Minerals are absolutely necessary for life but the RDA is generally both inadequate in its estimate and unattainable through the average American diet.

While many commercially available nutritional supplements are available at every corner, through necessity, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does little to regulate the manufacturing of food supplements such as vitamins, minerals and herbal products. The FDA cannot apparently manage even its’ main tasks of regulation of the pharmaceutical industry and assurance of the safety of the American food supply.

In the last several years, many counterfeit pharmaceutical products have been discovered such as flu medication being sold online, manufactured outside of the United States was found to be gelatin capsules filled with sheetrock particles. In addition Americans have seen case after case of E. Coli and Salmonella contamination of both American and foreign farm crops such as lettuce, tomatoes, onions and peppers enter our grocery stores. Some of these products were even the so called “organic” products, purported to be safer than traditional crops.

Why a Whole Food Supplement

As there is inadequate supervision of the pharmaceutical and food production industries, there is even less of the nutritional supplement market. The average vitamin or nutritional supplement is manufactured using chemical synthesis and heat processing which destroys the nutritional value of the product within. In addition, many commercially available products are manufactured with fillers, additives, preservatives and other dubious chemicals. Whole food supplements are not.

Within the last several years, significant shortcomings have come to light in terms of foreign made food and health products. Many products have proven to be contaminated with not only the known chemicals that are present in the American food supply but also with much more dangerous unknown chemicals that should never enter the manufacturing process. The only way to ensure that this does not happen is to purchase high quality products from a company with a well established reputation for maintaining high standards of manufacturing and purity. As whole food supplements are natural products, it would be optimal if the manufacturer employed practices of sustainability and green policy.

The ideal food supplement manufacturer recognizes that vitamins do not exist in isolation. The nutritional value of whole food is due to the interweaving of the entire spectrum of nutrients with vitamins and minerals acting in a synergistic fashion with hundreds of other plant alkaloids, phytochemicals and enzymes. The cofactors and bioflavonoids such as terpenes and isoflavones present in whole foods and whole food supplements are integral in the process to restore biochemical balance to the body.

This is quite easy to identify when examining the label of a nutritional supplement, vitamin or herbal product. Though the FDA doesn’t do an adequate job of monitoring the food supply or pharmaceutical industry, they have established standards of labeling which include appropriate identification of all ingredients contained in a supplement. Close examination of most regular supplements when compared to whole food supplements will show that most products contain synthetic vitamins, chemicals and filler products while whole food supplements contain natural vitamins and minerals obtained from concentrated food sources such as fruits and vegetables.

Supplements manufactured from whole food sources will contain not only the natural form of vitamins and minerals but also all of the important phytochemicals and phytonutrients important to restoration of nutritional health and prevention of disease derived from whole food concentrates.

Choosing a Quality Supplement

Whole food supplements are nutritional products which have been manufactured directly from food. Food grown in natural conditions is concentrated using carefully designed and conducted cold processing techniques. These methods allow the concentration of the entire spectrum of nutritional value without removing the phytochemicals, alkaloids and other valuable natural substances that ensure adequate nutritional support and help to prevent disease.

When choosing a whole food supplement one should ensure that the product is from a manufacturing company known to have a long standing reputation for quality and experience in whole food processing. The products should be constituted entirely of whole food products which have been refined using cold processing without the nutrient reducing effects of extreme heat, pasteurization and irradiation. They should also be free of artificial filler products and preservative chemicals. The manufacturer should have a process of testing for purity and guarantee of quality and ideally should offer a money back guarantee if one is not satisfied with the product. For the American consumer, optimally an American product will be purchased an in an effort to aid the environment, a company with “green” policies should be chosen to promote sustainability of the food supply.

Specific Nutrient Needs

Vitamin A

Vitamin A and the carotenoids are highly present in many vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables along with fish and animal livers and are essential for:

o proper functioning of the eye and skin including the gastrointestinal tract
o acts as an antioxidant, protecting against cancer and diseases of aging
o important in support of the immune system for protection against viruses and infections of the organ linings of bladder, kidneys, lungs and mucous membranes
o essential for protein utilization

Vitamin A deficiency causes dry hair, skin, eye disorders, fatigue, reproductive difficulties, frequent colds and infections, and skin disorders.

Traditional vitamin supplements will typically contain synthetic Vitamin A Palmitate and/or beta carotene isolate. Whole Food Supplements will contain Vitamin A1, Vitamin A2, retinal, retinoic acid and a number of more the 500 carotenes all of which are precursors to Vitamin A along with essential fatty acid, natural sugars, minerals and other phytonutrients found only in whole food.

Vitamin B Complex

Vitamin B is actually a number of similarly related compounds found in yellow and green fruits and vegetables particularly leafy green and cruciferous vegetables along with nuts, grains, eggs, dairy products and meats and are known to be essential for:

o maintenance of skin, eyes, hair, liver and mouth
o healthy gastrointestinal tract and brain functioning
o coenzymes involved in energy production
o proper functioning of nervous system particularly in the elderly

Specific Vitamin B Deficiencies:

B-1 Thiamine deficiency – Beriberi, canker sores, mental disorders such as dementia, depression and dizziness, fatigue, indigestion, diarrhea, numbness and muscle atropy

B-2 Riboflavin deficiency -mouth sores, cataracts, dermatitis, hair loss, neurological symptoms on skin, light sensitivity, seizures

B-3 Niacin deficiency – pellagra, bad breath, skin and mouth disorders, memory impairment, confusion, depression, muscle weakness

B-5 Pantothenic Acid deficiency – abdominal pains, skin disorders, hair loss, muscle spasms and poor coordination, immune impairment, low blood pressure

B-6 Pyridoxine deficiency – eye, skin and mouth inflammation, mucous membrane disorders, lack of wound healing

B-12 Cyanocobalamin deficiency – pernicious anemia, unsteady gate, dizziness, drowsiness, depression, hallucination headaches, memory loss, tinnitus, spinal cord degeneration

Folic Acid deficiency – certain types of anemia, fatigue, mental disorders, insomnia, diarrhea, spina bifida in developing infant

Traditional Vitamin B supplements will generally contain only the synthetic form of one or more of the B vitamin group, while whole food supplements will contain all of the Vitamin B family along with the added benefits of phytonutrients such as inositols, PABA, biotin and choline derived from concentration of whole foods.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) is found in citrus fruits, berries and green vegetables and is essential for:

o tissue growth and repair
o adrenal gland function
o healthy gums
o production of anti stress hormones and interferon
o absorption of iron in the gastrointestinal system
o metabolism of amino acids and vitamins
o activity as an antioxidant and support of the immune system

Vitamin C deficiency causes Scurvy, poor wound healing, gum disease, edema, weakness, frequent infections, fatigue, and joint pains.

Traditional Vitamin C supplements will have only Ascorbic Acid or Ascorbate, while Whole Food Supplement vitamin C will contain phytonutrients such as rutin, bioflavonoids, tyrosinase, ascorbinogen, vitamin C factors such as J, K and P along with mineral co-factors necessary for vitamin C activity all derived appropriately from whole food.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is present largely in dairy food products but also in fish and fish oils, green leafy vegetables, vegetable oils, egg yolks and sweet potatoes and is necessary for:

o bone and teeth growth and development in children
o muscle performance including skeletal and cardiac muscle
o prevention of bone and tooth loss in elderly
o thyroid and immune system functioning
o normal blood clotting

Vitamin D deficiency includes rickets, osteomalacea, loss of appetite, burning of mouth and throat, diarrhea, insomnia, and visual difficulties.

Most commercial Vitamin D products including prescription formulas will contain only Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) which is less absorbable and more difficult to use but has a longer shelf life than it’s cousin Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) while whole food supplements will contain significant amounts of Vitamin D3 along with many other beneficial phytonutrients in the form of whole food concentrates.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is found in cold pressed vegetable oils, dark green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts and grains and is essential for:

o antioxidant activity important for the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease
o circulation and tissue repair
o blood clotting and healing
o skin and hair health

Vitamin E deficiency may result in damage to red blood cells, nerve destruction, infertility, menstrual problems, and neuromuscular disorders.

Traditional vitamin E supplements will generally include only one of the 8 active components of the vitamin E family, alpha-tocopherol. Whole food supplements will contain not only alpha-tocopherol but also the 7 other alpha, beta, gamma and delta forms of both tocopherol and tocotrienol derived from concentrated food.

Calcium

Calcium is vital for the formation of bones and teeth and the maintenance of gums. It is essential for the functioning of all muscular tissue, particularly the heart and participates in cellular functioning in virtually every area of the body. Calcium is highly present in dairy products, meaty and oily fish and green leafy vegetables.

Calcium deficiency can lead to brittle bones, teeth and nails, skin disorders, cardiac disorders such as high blood pressure and heart palpitations, cognitive impairment, hyperactivity and seizure disorders.

Calcium contained in most traditional supplements will contain only calcium carbonate or calcium citrate with the possible addition of Vitamin D or may contain D1-calcium-phosphate which is completely insoluble and cannot be absorbed. Whole Food Supplement calcium products will contain additional nutrients such as amino acids and vitamin C which are necessary for calcium absorption and utilization.

Iron

Iron is essential for the production of hemoglobin which is vital to the supply of oxygen throughout the body. Iron is also important for production of many important enzymes within the body. It can be found in meats, fish, eggs, green leafy vegetables, nuts and grains in large amounts as well as a number of herbs such as alfalfa and milk thistle.

Deficiency of Iron includes symptoms of anemia, weakness and fatigue, hair loss, mouth inflammation, fingernail malformation and mental impairment.

Most commercially available iron supplements will contain iron sulfate or iron gluconate as a singular product or in combination with other vitamins and minerals. Iron is best absorbed in the presence of vitamin C and when consumed as a constituent of a food source. Whole food supplement iron will result in better absorption and less stomach upset as it is derived from whole food.

Magnesium

Magnesium is vital as an enzyme catalyst especially with regard to energy production. It also aids in cellular calcium and potassium uptake which makes it essential for the transmission of muscle and nerve impulses. It can be readily found in many foods especially animal products such as dairy, meat and seafood but also in many fruits and vegetables such as apples, apricots, bananas, whole grains and soy products.

Deficiency of magnesium will cause muscular irritability, mental disorders, chronic fatigue, chronic pain syndromes, depression and pulmonary disorders along with being a factor in hypertension and sudden cardiac death.

Traditionally prepared magnesium supplements will contain only magnesium usually in the form of magnesium chloride or magnesium sulfate while whole food supplements will contain other minerals such as calcium and potassium along with vitamin c and other nutrients from whole food concentrates necessary for the proper absorption and utilization of magnesium.

Zinc

Zinc is important in the growth and function of reproductive organs and may help regulate oil gland activity and prevent acne. It is essential for protein and collagen synthesis and vital to the functioning of a healthy immune system and has been shown to have potent antiviral activity. It plays a major role in wound healing and the sensation of taste and smell. It is also a constituent of many physiological chemicals such as insulin and various enzymes. Zinc is highly present in eggs, fish, beans, meats, mushrooms and many seed such as pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

Deficiency of zinc may result in a loss of taste and smell and may cause the fingernails to become weak and thin. Other signs may include delayed sexual maturation, growth impairment, disorders of sexual organs of both males and females, fatigue, hair loss, slow wound healing and recurrent infections.

Many commercially available supplements will contain either zinc gluconate as a singular product or in combination with other minerals without regard as to the appropriate ratios for optimal absorption and utilization within the body. As whole food supplements are derived from actual food, the appropriate ratios necessary for maximum benefit are already present established by nature.

Unique Benefits of Whole Food Supplements

According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), over 70% of Americans do not consume enough whole food products to provide even the RDA of vitamins. While vitamins are necessary for life, ordinary vitamin supplements will not entirely fill the gap. Unlike most commercial dietary supplements which are stand alone chemicals, whole food supplements contain any number of several thousand known and unknown phytonutrients such as:

o Carotenoids
o Polyphenols (Flavonoids)
o Phenols
o Indoles
o Lignans (Phytoestrogens)
o Phytates (Inositols)
o Saponins
o Sulfides and Thiols
o Terpenes

Research has proven these nutrients to be protective against many diseases. Some types of phytonutrients are known to provide such benefits as enhanced immunity, cancer prevention, detoxification and DNA repair.

Carotenoids

The phytonutrient category of carotenoids has been shown to protect against certain types of cancer, optical failure from diseases such as macular degeneration and assist in the prevention of cardiac disease. Carotenoids are partially responsible for the vibrant colors of many fruits and vegetables.

Carotenoids can help prevent vitamin A deficiency by acting as precursors to Vitamin A which assists the body in manufacturing Vitamin A. In addition several carotenoids are known to be anti-oxidants and may protect against diseases of aging and exposure to environmental toxins. Carotenoids may also be a factor in the prevention and treatment of other diseases such as:

o Cancer – including cervical, throat, lung, prostate and skin cancers
o Heart disease – including angina pectoris and congestive heart failure
o Infections – including AIDS, Chlamydia, Candidiasis and pneumonia
o Immune system mediated disorders – including rheumatoid arthritis, and photosensitivity
o Other conditions – such as asthma and osteoarthritis

A balanced formula of carotenoids such as found in whole foods and whole food supplements will be better absorbed than individual supplements as too much of any one carotenoids may inhibit the absorption of others. This is one of the many reasons why whole food supplements are more beneficial than simple vitamin supplementation.

Carotenoids known to be present and beneficial can be found in the following fruits or vegetables:

o alpha carotene – carrots
o beta carotene – green cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, yellow/orange vegetables such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin and carrots
o beta cryptoxanthin – orange fruits such as mangos, peaches and apricots
o lutein – leafy green vegetables such as turnip greens, collard greens and spinach
o lycopene – red fruits such as watermelon, guava, tomatoes and red grapefruit
o zeaxanthin – green vegetables such as green beans and broccoli, yellow food such as eggs mangos and citrus fruits

Polyphenols

Polyphenols (Flavonoids) are known to be active antioxidants and are thought to be important in preventing diseases caused by oxidative stress such as some cancers and some forms of cardiac disease and some inflammatory processes which cause diseases such as arthritis and other diseases of aging. Some examples of polyphenols found in food products include:

o anthocyanins – red foods such as berries, red cabbage, red grapes
o flavones – celery and parsley
o ellagic acid – berries such as strawberries, blueberries and raspberries
o catechins – tea, wine and chocolate along with other tart foods such as berries and apples
o flavanones – found in citrus fruits
o coumarins – found in grains and grasses such as wheat grass

Phenols

Phenols encompass a number of anti oxidant nutrients such as Resveratrol and are known to be powerful antioxidants. Phenols have proven to be effective in the prevention of age related disorders and many diseases caused in part by oxidative stress such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Phenols are present in purple fruits such as grapes and blueberries along with wine and tea.

Indoles

Indoles are known to aid in hormone production and maintenance of balance. Indoles are also thought to provide cellular protection against cancers such as colon cancer and endometrial cancer along with others. They are largely present in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbages.

Lignans

Lignans (Phytoestrogens) have weak estrogen like activity which is important in the prevention and possible treatment of hormone mediated cancers such as breast, testicular and prostate cancer. They also may block inflammatory processes which may aid in the treatment of diseases such as arthritis and platelet aggregation leading to stroke. Lignans highly present in flax seed and soy products but are also found in other grains such as wheat, barley and oats along with beans and vegetables such as garlic and broccoli.

Inositols

Phytates (Inositols) may help lower blood cholesterol and aid in prevention of mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression. Inositols and Phytates are present in large amounts in grains, nuts and melon family members such as cantaloupe, squash and cucumbers.

Saponins

Saponins are known to lower cholesterol and may act as an immune booster protecting the body against infections from viruses, bacteria and fungi. They may also provide some protection against heart disease and have proven to be effective in the treatment of cancer. Several anti cancer drugs are based on the saponin molecular structure. Saponins can be found in foods such as asparagus, red onions, alfalfa sprouts, and soybeans.

Thiols

Sulfides and Thiols are vital to the functioning of the cardiovascular system including the smooth muscles of the arteries and arterioles and the linings of both veins and arteries. Thiols have proven instrumental in the development of plaques contributing to atherosclerosis, arteriosclerosis, myocardial infarction and stroke. Sulfides and thiols are highly present in members of the odiferous Lilly family such as garlic, onion, chives and leeks

Terpenes

Terpenes are thought to protect against cancer and free radical damage which may contribute to diseases of aging such as stroke and alzheimers disease. Terpenes are highly present in foods such as green foods, grain and soy products and also in many herbs such as Gingko biloba.

These phytonutrients are just a few examples of natural molecules known to aid in promotion of health and make the case for the use of Whole Food Supplements. There are thousands more, yet to be identified that are present and beneficial and cannot be synthesized in a lab. Supplementation with isolated vitamins and minerals alone will not solve a nutritional deficiency.

As Americans are unlikely to return to the farm, consumption of a whole food supplement appears to be the only way to actually bridge the nutritional canyon that the American diet has created due to a lifestyle of convenient packaged food that is easy to prepare but sorely deficient in nutritional quality.

3 Ways to Conquer Your Food Cravings

Cravings feel like itches that desperately need to be scratched. Food cravings can be described as an extreme desire to consume specific foods. These feelings are often stronger than normal hunger.

Food engineers and food scientists have studied what makes us crave certain foods more than others. Fat, salt and sweet is the winning trifecta of taste that fuels most of our food cravings. Taste is king, and the foods that taste the best are the ones that deliver on the preferred ratios for salt, sugar, fat, and other features that make food exciting. Food manufacturers, scientists, and engineers use a wide variety of these factors to make food more attractive. They know that for some of us, our craving-focus may be on the texture of food. It might be creamy, crunchy or a mouth-watering balance of both. For others, their craving-focus might be centered on taste. The taste might be salty, sweet, or a lip-smacking blend of each. The goal is to make us want to eat more.

Calories are a measure of how much energy we get from a serving size of food.

Caloric density, different from nutrient density, is an important means that is used to keep us coming back for more. The caloric density or energy density of a particular food is a measurement of the average calories per unit (gram or ounce or bite) of that food. All foods contain nutrients. Unlike calorie dense foods, nutrient dense foods are high in nutrients for the number of calories per unit (gram or ounce or bite) they contain. Foods that are energy or calorie dense have a high concentration of calories per bite. Some common everyday processed foods that are energy dense are the packaged snack foods, frosted cakes with filling, cookies, and candies. Traditional fast foods such as cheeseburgers, fried chicken, and French fries and bakery items like doughnuts are legendary for their energy density. Junk foods are considered empty calorie foods because they are low in nutritional density and high on calories per ounce or bite. These high energy dense or high calorie dense foods offer a high concentration of calories per bite, and are associated with high pleasure by the brain These foods are designed to be tasty (i.e. potato chips) and not filling. Because junk foods are low in satisfaction value, people tend not to feel full when they eat them. This low satisfaction experience almost always leads to over eating. Junk food is characteristically high in palatability, high in fat, and high in calories, but low in fiber and volume.

Low energy dense foods, in contrast to high energy dense foods, tend to be highly nutrient dense. In general they are moist and juicy. Low energy dense foods have a high percentage of fiber that retains their natural water. Most vegetables, fruits, and legumes are examples of low energy dense foods.

Follow these 3 tips to conquer your food cravings, and get an added bonus of weight loss, and inches off your waist.

Tip #1 Seek out and eat low caloric density or low energy density foods

These foods are usually high in water and low in fat. Intentionally limit your consumption of high caloric density foods which are usually processed snacks desserts and junk foods.

To do this let you plate be your guide. Dilute out high caloric density foods/meals by filling ½ your plate with unprocessed whole grains, starchy veggies, and/or legumes or fruit. Adding vegetables to any dish lowers the caloric density of most meals. Go for low caloric density foods for craving and weight control.

Tip #2 Eat until you are full.

Along the road from hunger to satiety eat until you are comfortably full. It is easier to conquer your cravings when you are full. Be intentional. Since energy dense food offers a lot more calories and will leave you asking for more, choose low energy dense foods which are low in calories and high in nutrient density, water, and fiber that will leave you satisfied. Feeling feel full and satisfied is the strongest way to conquer food cravings.

Tip #3 Sequence eating your meals.

Start each of your meals with fruit, salad, or soup. This will get you started with low energy dense foods which are more filling and nutritious than their high calorie dense counterparts. Vegetables without oil offer the lowest caloric density.

A Guide to Food “Allergy” Etiquette

Likely you’ve noticed, but there are a growing number of people with food “issues.” It might be a food intolerance, a food sensitivity, or even a very serious, life threatening food allergy. I’m one of them. Maybe you are too.

But maybe you are not. And maybe you are now daily exposed to people talking about their food avoidances in the work place to stores promoting the latest in allergy-free products, and are even told not to bring your favorite foods to schools or potlucks for the sake of a small minority that might have an adverse reaction to such foods. SO annoying, right? But seriously, does this make you angry?

Just let me tell you, no one chooses to have food issues. Parents do not choose for their sons or daughters to go into anaphylactic shock when exposed to peanuts, dairy or any other random foods that might normally seem completely benign. In fact, it’s something all of us parents fear. While you are grumbling about peanut butter, can you imagine the fear of that parent praying their child does not accidentally ingest or even come in contact with the food that could land them in the hospital, or worse, while they are at school or out in the world? In a far less serious example, I did not choose to break out in painful acne all over my back every time I eat dairy. And others did not choose to experience terrible gas and bloating when eating foods with gluten, sugar, soy, etc. I know sometimes it may seem that people are using food avoidance as a diet or other regimen apart from a true food allergy, but give them the benefit of the doubt. All of us in a second flat would choose to be able to eat anything we desired if given the ability. Oh how I would LOVE to eat a piece of cheesecake without paying a price. Or really, just to have a simple latte. Or buy a thick chocolate chip cookie full of high quality butter. Great, now my mouth is watering, and I digress.

You may be wondering what the differences between food allergies, food intolerances and food sensitivities are, anyway. Let me break it down real quick so you can a better sense of where people are coming from.

Food Allergy: This is by far the most serious. This is an immune-modulated reaction related to the IgE antibody. These reactions usually occur within minutes of eating a food and can range from something as simple as a mouth rash to more serious symptoms such as hives, vomiting, or anaphylactic shock.

Food Sensitivity: These reactions are modulated by non-IgE antibodies or T-cell reactions and are typically delayed in nature. The reactions may occur hours after eating a food up to 3 days later. It can be extremely frustrating to figure out which foods are the actual culprits so have some patience with your poor friends or family members who are still trying to sort it out. Better yet, tell them about Mediator Release Testing. In these cases the symptoms are rarely life threatening but can include things such as digestive issues/IBS, headaches/migraines, body aches, fatigue, eczema, and a host of other ambiguous symptoms that might equate to “feeling lousy.”

Food Intolerance: This is the result of the body’s inability to correctly break down a food due to some deficiency in an enzyme or other body process that would normally allow you to digest and assimilate that food in a normal manner. The easiest example is lactose intolerance. When the enzyme Lactase, produced in the small intestine, is lacking, people cannot break down the lactose in dairy products efficiently. The undigested lactose goes into the intestines and then produces unpleasant gas and bloating. Avoiding dairy or taking oral Lactase usually solves the problem.

Celiac Disease: I feel the need to mention this one here because it is none of the above but commonly encountered. You may know that those with Celiac Disease must be on a gluten free diet, but that is not because gluten is an allergy. It’s because gluten causes an autoimmune disorder. The presence of gluten signals certain antibodies to damage the villi of the small intestine, making it an attack against “self.” The destruction of these villi, which are the absorptive surfaces of the small intestine, eventually produce malabsorption of nutrients and a host of co-morbidities. Even the smallest trace of gluten can trigger these events.

Irregardless of the type of food issue a person has, I think the common frustration among folks is what to do about it or how to help. Well first of all, there is nothing you can do about it. People’s food issues are people’s food issues. What you can do to help is be accommodating.

Do you know how many times I’ve heard people say to me in my office, “Danielle, I just don’t want to be a burden to anyone.” So then they’ll go, eating the food of family and friends, that they know will make them sick. What I’m saying is that many people would rather make themselves sick than have you think ill of them for bringing up a food issue. I know it may seem easy to just not eat, but have you ever seen someone give you the eye for not eating anything at a party? It’s even worse if you are thin. And doubly worse if it’s around family. People hate the non-eater. It’s a no-win situation.

Being accommodating to food sensitivity/food allergy/food intolerance sufferers first requires you to ask. When was the last time you asked on an invite or in a group if there were any food allergies to be aware of? And even if you did, have you ever though that a large majority of them don’t even mention their avoidances simply out of politeness?

Secondly, do a little research on these food groups. How many people do you know that are gluten free? Check out your grocery store for gluten free options and products. Do a little reading online about common foods to avoid. Discuss the issue with these particular friends to learn a little more. Trust me, they will appreciate you asking and might even share why they are avoiding certain foods in the first place.

Thirdly, take it seriously. Remember that even a little bite of allergenic foods for some people can provoke serious symptoms. As I mentioned before, sufferers of Celiac Disease, for example, can have NO gluten. Even the contamination from foods processed in the same facility as wheat can cause malabsorption and inflammation in their small intestine. Over time this sort of damage can lead to vitamin/mineral deficiencies and even cancer. It’s serious. Other people with gluten sensitivity may be able to get away with a touch of gluten here or there. You just never know the severity, so ask.

Lastly, try not to be offended. Even if the dish you so carefully created for your allergy-suffering friend seems perfect in every way, try not to take offence if they still can’t eat it. I’ve been there, in both respects. I’ve had people create dairy-free meals for me only to have seemingly forgotten that butter constitutes dairy (admittedly I still eat it and suffer the consequences). On the flip side I’ve created meals or baked goods for others where I may have remembered to accommodate a few of their allergies but unfortunately forgot about one. It happens. Get over it and enjoy the company.

Now I know this is no perfect science and there will still be frustration, anger and annoyance when dealing with people’s food issues, but hopefully we can all get along a little bit better just by being more aware and sensitive to those around us. Next time you bring a dish to your work potluck or church event, consider making something gluten free. Maybe prepare something Vegan. The options are endless. Take stock of those around you and think about how you can be more accommodating. You will be amazed how much your efforts are appreciated.