Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Food Myth - Part 2

I have received a number of positive comments about my recent blog The Food Myth. Some people were confused about my message. Thanks very much for the comments - I view all comments as positive. They help us to understand each other, and ourselves.  This post is a clarification of my position with regards to The Food Myth.

Myth: The best way to meet your nutritional needs is through a healthy diet.  eg, Eat the right foods.

Fact: Eating the right foods is an excellent start to meeting your nutritional needs.  However, it is insufficient and eating the wrong foods can be dangerous. 

First let's be clear what I mean by food.  I mean foods in their natural state - raw or cooked.  Non-supplemented foods. Many of the foods we buy in the store are 'supplemented foods', or invented foods. Even the basics like bread and meat, cheese and wine, often have additives that are nutritional, or perhaps not.

I love Gerry's comment that when she was pregnant in Japan - she was advised to eat small amounts of 30 different types of food every day.  This advice is very good.  We don't know for certain which foods are essential to a healthy baby, so we  try to eat many different foods to ensure all the needs are met. This is much healthier than binging on a single food - which probably only contains a small number of the essential ingredients to help a baby grow. The same is true for us as adults.  Every day we grow 'new cells', and they need nutrition.  But I'd guess that many North Americans don't eat 30 different foods in a week.

Fact: Eating supplemented foods is an excellent second step to meeting your nutritional needs.  However, it is insufficient, and sometimes dangerous. 

It is unfortunate that we do not have a good word to name 'supplemented foods'.  We have a very fuzzy distinction between foods and supplements, made worse by the huge quantities of supplemented foods that are now on the market. We need a word for supplemented foods, to distinguish foods, from supplemented foods, and from supplements. I propose the word 'sfood' for supplemented food, and 'sfoods' for supplemented foods.

Salt is supplemented with iodine, because most people cannot get enough iodine in the food they eat. Supplementing table salt with iodine improves the health status of most people in the general population. On the other hand, table salt you buy today is not just supplemented with iodine - it is also contains non-food products to keep it flowing smoothly.

If you buy rock salt, or sea salt, it is not normally supplemented with iodine. Table salt is supplemented, therefore it is a 'sfood'.

or is it?

According to many people, Mercola, for example, table salt does not contain 'food salt'. It contains a highly processed form of sodium chloride, and iodine supplement and some chemicals to help if flow freely.  The table salt in my store also contains sugar.  Mercola says that table salt is very unhealthy and upsets your normal fluid balances.

So, according to Mercola, and others, table salt is not a food, and not a sfood.  This makes it is a supplement.  Eg. it is a non-food, containing a supplement that is essential to your health.  Supplements normally have 'additives' in the package.  As does the iodine supplement that is sold as 'table salt'.

Politicians, health professionals and product manufacturers can argue for decades about table salt.  Is it a food?  A sfood?  A supplement. Who is right?  The only important decision is your Personal Health Freedom decision.  You can decide for yourself and act on your decision - as long as sea salt and rock salt are available as alternative purchases. But, when you buy a processed food product containing salt, in most cases, you don't know what kind of salt it contains.  So, if you want to avoid table salt, you must take severe actions.

There are many valuable sfoods.  Breakfast cereals, breads, margarines and many other foods are supplemented with essential nutrients - changing them from foods, to sfoods.

Fact: Meeting your nutritional needs by choosing the right supplements is an excellent first step to optimizing your health status.  

There is a huge difference between 'meeting your nutritional needs' and 'optimizing your health status'.  Vitamin and mineral guidelines are generally designed to prevent illness.  To quote the Nutrition Information Resource Centre "Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) – the average dietary intake level of a nutrient that prevents a deficiency in 98% of a population."  There is a huge difference between preventing a deficiency, and optimizing your health.  If you just 'meet your nutritional needs', you may suffer many deficiency related illnesses that are just 'below the level of diagnosis'.  And few people have diets that regularly meet the RDA recommendations.

"Optimizing your health status" is the primary goal of Personal Health Freedom.

'Meeting your nutritional needs' is similar to getting 50 percent on an exam.  A pass mark. Sufficient - but hardly a worthwhile goal.  We can easily reach 70 percent, 80 percent or higher with some research, study and effort.

We need to ensure that the food myth is busted - to free ourselves, to move our health forward, personally, and as families, communities and societies.
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Primary Causes of Illness

This post was written in 2010.  In 2018, I published the book: A Calculus of Curing, which presents a more thorough and comprehensive view of causes of illness.  You can read about the book by clicking this link. 

The information presented in this blog post has been rewritten and can be seen here. This post contains a simplified version.

Our current 'health system' tends to focus on symptoms and treatments. Disease is diagnosed through symptoms.  And we often treat the symptoms instead of the illness ignoring the cause.  Often we hear someone raising money to find 'the cure' for cancer --why?  Is it because we have given up trying to find the causes.  Is cancer is a monster of so many different causes - and our medical and health systems cannot deal with this reality.  Or is it simply that you can 'sell' a cure, or sell the search for a cure - but you cannot sell a 'cause'.   I believe that a more thorough study of disease causes, in general and in specific cases, will improve our health status.

Are diseases, illnesses and infirmities defined by their symptoms?  Or their causes?  Answering this question is not as simple as you might guess.  However, we can clearly define and categorize the basic causes of disease and infirmity.  Is it a disease, an illness, an infirmity?  The words have similar, overlapping meanings.  I will use the word 'illness' from this point forward.

There are six basic causes of illness. They are: genetics, nutrients, parasites, toxins, stress and growth.  In each case, the illness can be tracked to a deficiency, or a surplus of some health factor.  In this simple chart, you can visualize the scale for each of the six basic causes of illness as simple deviations from a healthy status.

Genetics - we are each conceived with a specific genetic code. In some cases, this genetic code is faulty, leading to illness, sometimes very quickly, and sometimes after a very long time.

Genetic factors can be deficient - where the person does not have genes to avoid an illness, or healthy, or excessive - where the genetic factors have a negative effect on the person's health.

Nutrients are a key to health, but also a key to illness.  Many essential nutrients have corresponding deficiency illnesses.  Scurvy is a severe deficiency of Vitamin C.  A healthy intake of nutrients leads to healthy cells and a healthy body.  Excesses of essential nutrients can cause illness. Nutrients can clearly be seen as deficient, healthy or excessive depending on the amount consumed. The most challenging question about nutrients is 'what is optimal' at this point in my life, and my health. Illness caused by nutrient deficiencies or excess can be easily diagnosed if they occur in the short term.  Illness caused by long term nutrient deficiencies or excesses are more difficult to understand.

Toxins are often cited as causes of illness.  As with other health factors - we can demonstrate that many toxins can be deficient, leading to unhealthy states - or sufficient for health and health enhancement, to excessive, leading to health problems. As we create new chemicals daily - it is very difficult to track which might be fast, or slow toxins.  Note: I have taken care to not label nutritional excess as toxicity - to clearly differentiate between nutrients and toxins.  Nutrients are foods that we need to live a normal healthy life.  Toxins are not.  However, many foods contain toxins - plants and animals develop toxins to defend themselves from predators. And many plants create or use chemicals that are toxic to people.

Parasites, bacteria, viruses, etc -are  one of the most commonly cited causes of illness. However, even with parasites, it is important to remember that you can suffer from a parasite deficiency. Your body  may be blessed with healthy bacteria. Some parasites can cause illness. Like genetic and nutritional factors, parasites can be deficient, healthy or excessive.

Growth and healing systems are another potential cause of illness. Our bodies are well adapted to dealing with health issues.  We have systems that protect us and heal us when any of the above five factors create health issues. We have growth and healing systems, and an immune system.  But sometimes these complex systems go off the rails. Our bodies require healthy immune systems and healing systems to deal with the stress of day to day living.  If these systems are deficient, as they often are elderly people, illness can creep in. Alternatively, healing and growth can also become excessive, running amok, leading to  a specialized set of infirmity or illness, ranging from allergies to tumors.

Growth and healing systems can cause illness when they are out of balance.  Like each of the others, these factors can be deficient, sufficient or excessive.

Stress is the final potential cause of illness. Too little stress, specifically in the forms of physical and mental exercise - can turn our muscles and brains to mush.  A healthy amount of stress is vital.  But excessive stress can lead to physical or mental illness and even to broken bones. Technically, we could view most illness causes as 'stress'.  Nutrient deficiency, toxin excess, etc.  However, for the purpose of categorizing causes of illness we need to limit stress to stresses not covered by other categories.  Things like physical, or mental 'whacks on the side of the head'.

That's it.  Six causes of illness.  When we speak about health and illness, we can clearly see how they are linked together. Healthy is the balance point for each of the factors.  Go too low, or too high - and you throw your body out of balance, and illness is the result.  This is one important way of looking at, and classifying all illness.

Note: the sequence has been updated from the original post to create a hierarchy that can be aligned with the hierarchy of health. It can also be noticed that each of the elements in the hierarchy of health can be a source of illness when they are out of balance.

We know it's not that simple.  Many illnesses are caused by secondary or tertiary health issues, or combinations of health issues. However, it is important to understand the primary causes of illness as a foundation to the study of health, and also to effectively study preventatives.

You may be suffering from several different deficiencies and excesses, from mild to severe.  The health issue then becomes - which is most important - and what actions should be taken today, this week, this month?

Those decisions are personal.  Actions to prevent illness and to deal with illness are also personal.  It's  about Personal Health Freedom.
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Food Myth

The best way to meet your nutritional needs is through a healthy diet.  eg, Eat the right foods.

Is a myth.  It is not a valid scientific hypothesis. It cannot be tested by the scientific method.  The truth is, we don't know what is the best way to meet our nutritional needs.  The truth is, we do not have more than the faintest idea what our needs are for optimal nutrition.

This particular myth is often presented as 'fact' at the end of a series of 'scientific studies', giving it credence as if it was the result of a scientific study.  This only encourages sloppy thinking.

You can see many articles and reports that present evidence from scientific studies on the effects of vitamins on disease, and then leap to the unscientific conclusion, the mother-false-hood statement, "The best way to meet your nutritional needs is through food."

Why is this statement a myth?  Why is if 'false'?  First of all, it is a myth because, simply, it cannot be proven.  There is no scientific test that can be designed to prove that "your best source of nutrition is through food (where food does not include nutritional supplements)".  The only scientific tests completed to date have proven the opposite.

Scientific tests have shown that adults who consume calcium supplements - are healthier than those who try to meet their calcium needs through their diet.

Scientific test have shown that, for most people in the northern hemisphere - it is better to meet your Vitamin D needs through supplements than through diet. If you don't get enough sun, you can try eating a lot of fish, liver, etc. But because this is difficult, and possibly dangerous, many foods are 'supplemented' with Vitamin D, including milk, yogurt, margarine and breakfast cereals.

This bring us to one of the other issues with the statement: "The best way to meet your nutritional needs is through a healthy diet."  What is food?  What does a healthy diet consist of?  Is it better to meet your nutritional needs through 'supplemented foods' where you have no control over the amount of supplement - and possibly no knowledge of the supplement - or through personal supplement decisions - where you make the choices?  Or both? .

The second reason it is a myth, is that it is a 'black swan statement'.   There was once a theory that there were 'no black swans'.  And this theory held true for many years - until black swans were discovered in Australia.  And the theory was dead. The Food Myth is, like the Black Swan Theory, an 'all or nothing' thinking error.  As a result, a single contrary report nullifies the myth.  The food myth has been proven wrong many times.  There are many specific, well known examples where (non-supplemented) food is NOT the best way to meet your nutritional needs. Salt is supplemented with iodine - because most people cannot meet their iodine requirements through non-supplemented food.

Next time someone hands you the myth - 'the best way to meet your nutritional needs is through a healthy diet', ask them simply:

"Interesting, what scientific studies have proven this to be true?"  But don't hold your breath waiting for an answer - one of your nutritional needs is oxygen.

Why is this important to Personal Health Freedom?  We believe it is important for every person to make their own health choices, and to be responsible for those choices.  We also believe it is important to study, not to discount, the value of nutritional supplements to improve health.

The Food Myth discourages personal actions and personal decisions - while pretending to give you 'responsibility or perhaps simply 'blame' for your dietary choices.

Personal Health Freedom wants you to have the freedom to make personal decisions about your health, including both your diet and your supplements, as well as the freedom to act on those decisions.

See Part 2 of the Food Myth here
and the Reader's Digest version of the Food Myth here

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Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: