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Top 5 Myths of Healthy Eating

You may have seen this item in the news recently- the World Health Organisation has fingered processed meat and red meat as contributing causes of cancer. News websites and magazines are frequently inundated with information about this food that’s killing you and that food that’ll magically help you burn fat, and it becomes nearly impossible for the reader to figure out which end is up.

The truth is, a lot of what you read about nutrition, even from ostensibly reputable sources, can be misleading at best. Numerous dietary myths have come down to us from decades past that are hard to overcome, and many more pop up every year.

So, what do you absolutely need to know about nutrition to cut through the fog and chart a clear path?

One Size Does Not Fit All

There are those in the nutrition business who will tell you to eat lots and lots of raw vegetables and whole grains. As Chinese medicine has always recognised, there are many people who can’t digest all that bulk biomass without experiencing gas, bloating and general misery. Chinese medicine often recommends cooked vegetables for this reason. As for whole grains, you may remember our post on that topic, but we’ll circle back to it below.

As for the fad diet of the hour, the truth is that everyone’s digestive system is built a bit differently. You can’t just take a diet off the shelf and expect it to be your own permanent solution. That’s why traditional medical systems such as Ayurveda, Tibetan and Traditional Chinese Medicine evaluate each person individually before making dietary recommendations. In traditional Indian cooking, for example, there is a system for helping those with different dietary needs in the same household by providing spices, chutneys and other additives that will help them to digest foods that are not what their particular digestive system would prefer.

Low Fat Diets Aren’t

The myth of the healthy low-fat diet hangs around like the stench of skunk spray, decade after decade, despite having been long since disproven. You can’t look up a recipe online without running into someone peddling a low-fat version.

The truth is, your body desperately needs healthy saturated fats for some of the main building-blocks of cells and neurotransmitters, for the dissolved micronutrients they carry, and above all for the health of your brain. This doesn’t mean, of course, that all fats are created equal. Transfats, a leading cancer-causing substance created by prolonged heating or chemical alteration of fats, have thankfully been acknowledged as the danger they are. But the truth is that the Omega 6 fats in most vegetable oils aren’t very good for you either. The body requires a certain ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fat, and most fats in processed foods are the latter.

The fact is, we don’t get fat from fat, generally speaking. We get fat because we eat too many carbohydrates, which our bodies can’t immediately burn. When that happens, insulin is released is vast quantities to get the excess sugar out of our bloodstreams, which is then converted to fat. That’s why you crash after a sugar high. If you want to avoid this vicious cycle, you actually have to get to the point of teaching your body to burn fat, a process which includes lower carb intake, intermittent fasting and exercise.

When you’re looking for healthy fats to incorporate into your diet, think olive oil, raw nuts and seeds, coconuts and coconut oil, avocadoes and restrained amounts of free-range meat and dairy.

 

Some ‘Health Foods’ Can Kill

While benign natural alternatives to sugar do exist, artificial sweeteners are among the most pernicious examples of government pandering to industry by allowing substances conclusively linked to major diseases to be placed on the market under a smokescreen of denial.

Among the worst is Aspartame, currently marketed as Splenda. Aspartame was originally developed in a search for an ulcer drug, and was only later marketed as a food additive. The FDA has known since 1974 that the substance caused brain tumours in rats, and that many of the studies paid for by the manufacturers were flawed. Independent studies have linked it to cancer, brain damage and other serious chronic conditions. Under industry pressure, both the FDA and the US attorney hired to investigate aspartame swept the issue under the carpet. Among other effects, aspartame exposed to heat in the body breaks down into methyl alcohol, a poison.

Sucralose, a sugar derivative which the body cannot metabolise, has been linked to massive damage to gut flora, without which our digestive tract cannot function, as well as other illnesses. As with aspartame, the scientific basis for approving this product was deeply flawed, and yet the emergence of a wide variety of health complaints linked to sucralose is continually dismissed.

Another example of an unhealthy health-food is soy. Because it contains estrogen-mimicking chemicals, it can throw off our hormonal balance, a process that is strongly linked to cancer. A little bit of soy was alright in the Asian diet, but now, as a cash crop used in many processed foods and to feed factory-farmed animals, it pervades our diet to a ridiculous degree.

 

The Problem With Industrial Agriculture

The soy problem is just one slice of what’s dangerous about the way our food is created. Corn, as animal feed and as the pernicious additive High-Fructose Corn Syrup which pervades processed food and helps to addict us to sugar, fulfills a similar role.

These crops are used to feed animals raised in filthy, overcrowded spaces. These animals will never see the sunlight or eat a piece of grass. Naturally, they are horrendously unhealthy and need to be pumped full of antibiotics to live long enough to get to your table.

Many of the grains, fruits and vegetables available today are genetically modified, grown intensively in micronutrient-depleted soils through the use of chemical fertiliser, reducing their nutritional value, and saturated with pernicious pesticides. The result is that many of the healthy foods you think you’re eating are nutritionally dead and loaded with chemicals that will assault your health.

Then there’s the processed food industry, implicated by the WHO report. Humans have always processed food to some degree in order to survive- drying, jerkying, smoking, preserves, pickling and other fermentation methods and so on. The problem with many modern approaches is the range of chemical additives they involve and the nutrients they kill.

If you want healthy food, then organic, free-range, hormone and antibiotic-free, unpasteurised products are your friends. The thing about the processed meats the WHO was talking about is that they are fundamentally different from the processed meats of previous generations, from the health and nutrition of the animal to the methods of preservation to the sheer amount being eaten.

Consider replacing some of these new processed foods with old ones. Naturally fermented yogurts, picked vegetables and so on are good sources of the bacteria your digestive tract needs in order to function.

 

Unhealthy Grains

Bulk grains are a recent addition to the human diet in biological terms, and while eating them has helped to sustain our societies, we are now faced with the triple problems of overabundance, overuse and harmful processing.

Overabundance of grains has meant that we are generally eating far too many of them. Grains are basically empty carbohydrates, little more than a sugar hit as far as your metabolism is concerned.

Overuse of grains by the food industry has seen grains pop up in new foods, including meat and most processed foods. We are encouraged to eat grains four meals a day, from our breakfast cereals to our lunchtime sandwiches to our chips to rolls and pasta at dinner. This is far more raw starch than we could ever use.

Processing of grains is another big problem. Processed grains have been robbed of their nutrients, and unhealthy chemicals are left in their place. No amount of “enrichment” can make it healthy again.

Gluten: The rise of gluten allergy is linked to the overabundance of processed grains in our diet, and even low-level gluten allergy can adversely affect your health in numerous ways. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley among other grains, interferes with your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and promotes constipation. Undigested gluten causes your immune system to attack your intestines. Over time, gluten causes a number of nutrient deficiencies, unpleasant physical symptoms and degenerative effects.

Research has shown that gluten-intolerance is on the rise relative to past generations, partly because we have created varieties of grain with much higher gluten content, and partly because of the use of high-gluten white flour and the decline of whole-grain and mixed-grain flours.

 

Getting on Track

If you want to optimise the way you fuel your body, try to think in terms of the diet that was natural to human beings before industrial intervention in the food chain. We’re not necessarily talking about a Paleo diet, what the cave men allegedly ate. We are talking about a mix of naturally-grown foods that is right for your nutritional type. If you can make that adjustment, you can learn to steer away from the many threats to your nutrition and health which lurk in the modern grocery store.


Healing PTSD: Tai Chi and Energy Psychology to the Rescue…

Here’s a terrifying statistic for you – during 2012 alone, 349 active-duty U.S. military personnel took their own lives. More astounding is that number is 54 more than were killed in combat in Afghanistan that same year and a second all-time peak in three years! (Since 2001, more than 6,800 American service personnel have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan).

According to a well-known Veterans Affairs investigation, 22 veterans commit suicide in the US every day.

It is safe to say that many of these cases involve Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other psychological consequences of combat such as depression. PTSD is not a phenomenon confined to soldiers, but for obvious reasons, its highest concentrations are found in military and veteran populations.

What is PTSD?

Like all forms of traumatic programming, PTSD creates involuntary behaviour. The difference with PTSD is that the trauma is so intense that it starts to invade every aspect of life. Intrusive memories, flashbacks, the involuntary engagement of the fight-or-flight response leading to difficulty concentrating as well as insomnia and other symptoms, and emotional numbing in response to the traumatic event are all common symptoms. The hyper-arousal state caused by PTSD can lead to violent outbursts, and the experience can lead to substance abuse and other aberrant behaviours.

Modern warfare is a perfect breeding ground for PTSD. In World War I, when it was known as Shell Shock, men faced with the decimation of their units by weapons they couldn’t see or fight against, with the constant danger of bombardment and the prospect of being asked to perform suicidal charges against machine guns, it became obvious that the human mind is not designed to cope with the machinery of modern war.

PTSD and its symptoms of hyper-vigilance, anxiety, anger, overreaction and helplessness are strongly associated with repeated subjection to danger that cannot be fought off or even seen coming. Think about it for a moment…

In “conventional” war, from World War II through the first Gulf War, there was a clear front line and you knew when you were in danger and when you probably were not. As traumatic as those conflicts could be, you had “down time”.

However, in a “Vietnam-like” scenario – which is exactly the kind of conflict allied forces have faced in Iraq and Afghanistan – you can never know what’s about to hit you. There is no clear, visible enemy to fight, everyday life can turn into a battlefield instantly and the next IED may be right around the corner. The repeated tours of front-line duty typical of Afghanistan and Iraq have actually exceeded those of any previous war in terms of prolonged exposure to this hideously complex war environment.

However, many types of traumatic events, and particularly repeated or sudden traumas, can generate PTSD in the civilian population. Auto accident victims, victims of childhood abuse and civilian victims or war and terrorism are among the most frequent groups of PTSD sufferers.

What We Can Do About It

Veterans’ organisations are generally very good at educating people about the basics of helping someone with PTSD. Patience and support are crucial, because by the nature of the disorder, the person suffering from it will often drive people away and destroy all ties with ordinary life. It is therefore important when acknowledging the condition to offer support and, in professional settings, to make it clear that while they should seek treatment, there will be no professional repercussions. The two essential points to remember with PTSD are to make sure those who suffer it get help, which they will often resist, and that as difficult as the symptoms may be for everyone, it is essential to give PTSD sufferers a stable professional and personal support system while they work through the disorder.

With that support structure in place, how can we ultimately deal with the condition? Numerous methods of treatment have been tried, from talk therapy and pharmaceutical medication to hypnosis and virtual reality therapy, with varying results. In many cases, without a substantial reduction in the underlying condition, the patient ultimately gives up.

In this video, Jacob White, a Vietnam veteran and Tai Chi master, talks about his own struggle with PTSD and how he used the techniques of Tai Chi to transform his inner state. What I like about this video is that Jacob underscores the transformation that needs to take place from the reactions and default settings of a soldier to those of a warrior, which is a fundamental change in how we process the world.

The Warrior Within from Jacob White on Vimeo.

Tai Chi is one avenue of work that has shown promise with PTSD, but there are a number of other approaches that have as well. Thought-Field Therapy (TFT) and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) are approaches combining acupuncture point pressure with cognitive exercises which have shown startling results in several peer-reviewed studies. In studies with child survivors of the Rwandan Genocide and combat veterans where the subjects were assessed using standard PTSD checklist measures, decreases across most symptom areas of 40% or more were recorded, and retained over time after 90-day and 1-year follow-ups (1). A control study with EFT showed that after three months, 86% of treated subjects no longer met clinical criteria for PTSD (Presented at Society of Behavioral Medicine 2010). In some studies, brainwaves were monitored before and after the therapy, and showed significant change.

TFT and EFT are among the most basic tools of Energy Psychology. The deeper baggage of traumatic events often takes more sophisticated tools to root out. It is in areas like cognitive reframing and the relationship between cognition, emotions and the body’s neurochemical responses that some interesting studies are being done. Psychoneuroimmunology, which studies this relationship, has found that PTSD sufferers literally have an altered biochemistry caused by the relationship between emotional states and immune system triggers.

In any case, it is reassuring to know that the decades-long struggles of PTSD sufferers of previous generations need not be repeated, that the condition can not only be managed, but substantially reduced.

Do you know any PTSD sufferers or those caring for them? Let’s get the word out that there is hope!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

(1) (Traumatology, (2010), 15(1), 45-55; International Journal of Emergency Mental Health, Winter 2010, 12(1), 41-50; and International Journal of Healing and Caring, September 2009, 9(3)).


The Story Trap

Storytelling is a basic human quality. We are incapable of understanding our world without forming stories to understand it. Sharing stories is a basic function of community and culture. But when control of those stories becomes a tool used by those in power to induce us to think and act in a certain way, we need to be more conscious than ever of how stories affect the tone, the actions and the liberty of a society.

Dividing Stories

In America today, as in many Western countries, the political function of story is largely to divide, to suppress constructive dialogue and to encourage polarisation of the public. This is seen as useful not only by the politicians but by pressure groups of one sort or another who advocate ideologies.

Consider some of these stories which you may have heard:

“Those damned communists are socialising our healthcare and destroying the best medical system in the world!”

“First the government wants to take away our guns, and then our freedom!”

“America won’t be safe until law enforcement/ intelligence agencies have enough powers and/or until sentences are harsh enough!”

“All those corrupt investment houses and companies are too big to fail, so we’ll bail them out while talking about how the corrupt one percent is ruining the economy.”

“Uncontrolled immigration is destroying America.”

“It’s intolerant to oppose morally bankrupt positions and practices if they come from an ethnic minority.”

These positions have all become so engrained, so obvious and absolute to those that hold them and so reviled by those who don’t that it is almost impossible to have a productive discussion on any of these points. Objective facts that don’t fit the narratives, sometimes even on both sides of the political spectrum, are pushed aside. Consider the “too big to fail” argument that arose during the Global Financial Crisis. Bailouts weren’t accompanied by sufficient reforms to accountability, nor by a responsibility on the part of the private sector to help those affected by their poor decision-making. Foreclosures and other financial catastrophes continued to afflict the general public, while Wall Street and the major corporations learned that the taxpayer would always bail them out.

The free market phobia of regulation on the one hand and the Obama administration’s naive willingness to shield economic actors from the consequences of their actions in the name of the public good on the other resulted in a solution that solved nothing. One set was trapped by free market ideology, the other by interventionism. The few honest free market advocates on the right who were willing to let the market decide who failed, and those on the left who wanted to seriously address the problems of income inequality and a marketplace captive to the interests of the corporate few, not only got no serious hearing, but couldn’t have had a meaningful conversation with each other if they had. Each was a captive of its own stories, libertarian economics on the one hand and socialism and its successors on the other, neither of which was adequate to address the problem at hand. Each story was by reflex completely exclusive of the other.

Unifying Stories

In many other parts of the world, and indeed in many ethnic and ideological communities, the problem is not that stories are used to divide, but that they are used to enforce unity and intellectual conformity. In the words of Salman Rushdie in the video below, you are told not only what the story is, but how it is to be interpreted and how it is to be told. Any departure from that norm, any attempt to think differently about the story, becomes a punishable heresy.

The results of this line of thought over the past fifty years of Islamic fundamentalism has been the complete suppression of open discussion and debate throughout the Islamic world. Worse, going back to the point about political correctness above, it has forced the non-Islamic world to accept the same, unquestioned, strict interpretation of Islamic belief, threatening anyone who would question the sacred and unchangeable stories of Islam with anger, ostracism and death. At the same time, this tight control of the meaning of the Islamic story creates inherent biases as to what Muslims are supposed to care about. Cartoon in a European newspaper- outrage! Salman Rushdie writes a book- outrage! Muslims killing and oppressing other Muslims, let alone religious minorities in their own countries- yawn. The One True Story creates a unifying identity not only though conformity of belief, but through conformity of anger.

The same principle applies to unifying political stories. In Russia, for example, it is a criminal offense to “misrepresent” the Great Patriotic War- World War II to us. To misrepresent means to depart from the official line, which not only justifies Stalin’s repression and the occupation of Eastern Europe as necessary to counter Nazi Germany and subsequent “Western aggression”, but also airbrushes certain things out of the history books, such as the extremely bad behaviour of the Red Army in Eastern Europe and especially Germany after the victory.

The Great Patriotic War is a touchstone for Russian national unity, and as such becomes politically useful in supporting certain narratives, especially those that justify political repression and military intervention in what Russia calls the “near abroad” as countermeasures to continued Western aggression or perceived attempts to keep Russia down. These same narratives serve as a distraction from the disastrous state of the economy and other domestic problems, as nationalist narratives often do in many countries.

When Story Becomes Ideology

Stories are a necessary part of human life. Without them, we could not understand our world. But we have to beware of stories that are used to divide, to suppress, to prescribe anger. Beware also of stories that can’t take questions or allow meaningful discussion with other points of view. It happens everywhere, from Capitol Hill to places of worship to the mass media to the halls of academia. The stories you subscribe to are up to you. You owe it to yourself to make sure that you don’t sell out that freedom.


Ground-Breaking CANCER Documentary (Plus 10 Tips to Minimize Your Risk)

 

Every minute, more than 15 people will die of cancer.  That’s why we’d like to take a minute to introduce you to the trailer for Ty Bollinger’s documentary The Truth About Cancer: A Global Quest.  Inspired by the loss of his dad to cancer, Ty travels the world in search of the real answers about cancer and its treatment.

What are the real risk factors for cancer? What can you do to decrease your risk and improve your chances of survival? There is so much disinformation out there that people often don’t know what to do or where to turn. Worst of all, it’s in the financial interests of the pharmaceutical industry to focus your attention on their new drugs, rather than anything that might help you avoid them, so you really have to dig to find the research that we need to see, the research that can help us avoid this modern epidemic.

Five Risk Factors

The body can keep cancer at bay. One of the great myths is that the immune system can’t fight cancer. The body can repair the DNA of cells that were damaged by chemical or radioactive agents. The immune system can fight cancer. It happens all the time. The trick is to find out what’s preventing the body from doing its job. Here are a few of the culprits.

  1. Chemical: The first big set of risk factors are chemical in origin, from the aluminum salts in your deodorant to the chemicals you may have sprayed on your lawn. Many of these chemicals are free radicals, molecules that chemically damage your cells. It is important to know that many commercial chemicals introduced to our food chain, household products and ecosystem undergo no rigorous testing for carcinogenic properties. You can find more information about these chemicals from the National Cancer Prevention Coalition.
  2. Nutritional: Nutrition has a multiple impact on our chances of developing cancer. First, by eating unhealthily, we can seriously damage our immune systems, which matter very much in cancer prevention. Second, by eating processed and non-organic foods, we take in carcinogenic pesticides and carcinogenic food additives. Artificial sweeteners are one food additive business that has been working hard to keep the carcinogenic effects of their products under wraps.
  3. Electromagnetic: Multiple studies have shown high correlation between cancer and exposure to man-made electromagnetic fields, including those from power lines and electronic devices, and, unfortunately, medical imaging technologies based on X-rays where the dosage is not tightly controlled. When the US Environmental Protection Agency was ready to declare electromagnetic pollution a risk factor for cancer, it seems that certain special interest groups, notably the military, stepped in to prevent it.
  4. Emotional: Many studies have found that a person’s emotional life highly correlates with their cancer risk. We’ve written before about the link between the emotions, the brain, the hormonal signalling system and the immune system. In this case, one particular trait, emotional repression, correlates highly with cancer. One longitudinal study of a population found that among those who ultimately died of lung cancer, although all those who died were smokers, all of the smokers who died were the ones who had this trait.
  5. Hormonal: Cancer is highly dependent on the hormonal balance of the body for growth. By ingesting or coming into contact with artificial hormones, you destroy your own hormonal balance and create a cancer-friendly environment. These include, most obviously, the growth hormones your meat and dairy products may contain. There is also a class of molecules that simulates estrogen in the body, which can be found in such pervasive food additives as soy as well as parabens and heavy metals found in cosmetics and personal care products.

Five Steps for Risk Mitigation

  1. Nutrition: By adjusting your diet to strengthen your immune system, alkalise your body and avoid harmful substances, you can give your body a boost. Many fruits, vegetables and spices contain effective antioxidants to help your body deal with those free radical chemicals. Some foods have also been shown to have a significant impact on cancer.
  2. Detoxification: Clearing the accumulated toxins out of your system is a good first step in boosting your immune system. This can also help to reset the biochemical environment in your body, leading to better hormonal balance and stronger immune system.
  3. Emotional Health: The effect of prolonged negative emotions, like anger or frustration, on our biochemistry is pernicious. But by transforming that negative emotion into a positive one, rapid and palpable physiological and chemical changes take place, on the order of 1400 distinct reactions. There are numerous methods for improving your emotional life and dealing with emotional baggage. Getting yourself out of ‘Survival Mode’ will help to balance your hormone and neurotransmitter levels, improving the health of your immune system.
  4. Exercise: Daily exercise has been shown to have a dramatic effect on cancer survival rates. Anaerobic exercise in particular stimulates the release of Human Growth Hormone, helping to strengthen the immune system.
  5. Research: Learning about your risk factors and how to adjust your lifestyle can give you an early edge in preventing or diminishing cancer.

To learn more, check out the trailer for Ty Bollinger’s upcoming documentary The Truth About Cancer: A Global Quest.


Jedi for Real Food

The struggle against the Dark Side of the grocery store continues in this outrageous Star Wars-themed battle of the foods.


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