From Here to Eternity…

From Here to Eternity…

I will always be a vegan. Now that I know, what I know. I have seen the remarkable effects physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Sounds dramatic, right?  Well, it has been.  In my early 40’s I was carrying around an autoimmune diagnosis, 40 pounds of extra weight, I was depressed and tired.   Now, not quite 4 years later, my doctor still marvels at my annual blood-work. He is amazed that I am at my recommended body weight and not taking any medications.  Amazed because the Mayo clinic estimates 7 out of 10 of us adults are taking some form of a prescription drug, with many of us taking 3 or more meds…and 75% of us are overweight and 40% of us are obese.   Being sick and overweight has become the new norm.  Therefore it’s not surprising that the US is ranked dead last in the “healthy’ category against 10 other wealthy countries in the world.   How is that possible? 

Well, imagine you are sitting at a table and you keep banging your leg against the chair so long and so hard that it becomes bruised and quite painful.  Finally, someone comes along and says, “Hey, I’ve got a medication that will soothe your pain and another medication that can fix those nasty bruises.”  So you take the pills, and sure enough, the pain goes away and your skin looks better, so you think you’re healed.   But you’re still banging your leg on the chair, and now because the real problem has never been addressed, your original issue has become catastrophic.  Yet nobody ever tells you, “Hey stop banging your leg on the table.” Doctors are taught to prescribe medications for a certain set of symptoms. They are not required to recommend nutritional interventions and, in fact, nutrition is not even a requirement in most medical schools. With the AMA only allowing doctors 15 minutes to spend per patient, it’s not long enough to talk about diet anyway, it’s just long enough to write a script.  Because the truth is there is no money to be made if we are all well, only if we are sick.     

Heart disease and diabetes are directly correlated to an excessive amount of animal protein consumption and are rarely related to genetics. But a good many people believe they are simply victims of their genes, doomed to a life of middle-age weight gain, cancer, heart disease and diabetes.  And we are seeing a rise in colon cancer rates for the first time in people in their 20’s, a disease not normally seen until our 50’s. A recent study by the Pentagon revealed that 71% of young men between the ages of 17-24 (over 24 million) are ineligible to serve in the military because they are physically unfit. And I am sadder, yet, that we are rearing a generation of kids who are not predicted to live as long as their parents…all because of our food choices.

Truth is, four years ago, I never gave much thought to the likes of a cow, a chicken, or a pig.  I only knew that they would eventually become food bought in a store.   I never made a connection that those packs of chicken and ground beef were once living breathing animals. I didn’t know that they were purposely hidden away on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s), because if we actually saw what was happening to them we would be disgusted and appalled.  I felt better buying cage-free eggs.  Though more expensive, I figured cage-free was better because these chickens were allowed to run around in the sun.    What I didn’t know was that baby chicks have their beaks cut off so they don’t peck other chicks in their cramped living quarters.  And that cage-free really just means that tens of thousands of chickens are crammed in warehouses instead of cages, and where there is only 1 foot of space per chicken on average. Many of them sustain painful lesions and suffer from ammonia blisters due to sitting on unsanitary floors.  A sad life indeed. 

I also didn’t know that dairy cows were forced to stand in inches of their own excrement while getting milked 10 months out of a year until they are eventually turned into ground beef.  I didn’t know that most E-coli outbreaks in lettuce and kale stemmed from a CAFO’s waste lagoon, or pools of poop, that pollute our fields, rivers, and streams.  And worse, some of these CAFO’s can make the individuals living by them very, very sick.  Don’t even get me started on Duplin County, North Carolina. 

I have also learned that it takes a lot of money and resources for us to eat these animals.  I didn’t know that lobbyists fought to have our tax dollars subsidize the meat and dairy industry.  I didn’t know that it takes nearly 2,400 gallons of water just to grow just 1 pound of meat.  I didn’t know that 800 million people could be fed with just the grain that livestock eat alone.  And that much of that grain is produced here in the Midwest.  It’s why they call Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, eastern Nebraska, and eastern Kansas the corn-belt because we grow corn for livestock.  In fact, more than 90 million acres of grain is planted here just to feed livestock feed alone.  It is also an area where cancer rates are on the rise and the levels of pesticide use are skyrocketing.   

But that’s not the only thing…about 24% (some argue it’s more like 50%) of all global greenhouse gases come from our support of commercial agriculture. These warming gases are caused by things like livestock methane gas production, and deforestation, or the clear-cutting of trees in order to make room for more livestock.  You’ve probably heard that the Amazon Jungle in South America in on fire.  That is because they are a developing nation that is looking at places like the U.S. (land of the rich and plentiful) as an example. So now they are cutting down trees in record numbers because they have discovered the economic value in cattle production; those companies who own the factory farms are the fuel for the fire.  And those who have long associated eating meat with affluence and prestige inadvertently fan their flames.    

Plant-Based eating has never been shown to cause disease. In fact, it has actually been shown in some cases to halt and even reverse many diseases. It is a way of eating that supports our bodies ability to do its job naturally, without drug intervention. It is better for the animals and better for the planet. I am hopeful the tide is turning and more and more people are waking up, so to speak. I remain mindful that a few years ago, I didn’t know any of this either.  And I am joyful at the prospect that others may follow their own journey because of myself, or countless others like me, that have inspired them to do so.  Being a vegan is one of the greatest gifts this life has given me. 

To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals-Benjamin Franklin

fasting

“In 2016 Yoshinori Ohsumi, won the Nobel Prize in “Physiology or Medicine” for his discoveries around something called autophagy, a fundamental process for degrading and recycling cellular components.”(1)

The word autophagy originates from the Greek words auto-, meaning “self”, and phagein, meaning “to eat”. Thus, autophagy denotes “self eating”. Autophagy is the body’s internal recycling program – scrap cell components are captured and the useful parts are stripped out to generate energy or build new cells. The process is crucial for preventing cancerous growths, warding off infection and, by maintaining a healthy metabolism, it helps protect against conditions like diabetes.

One of the best ways to induce autophagy is through an “Intermittent Fast, or IF.” It takes a lot of energy to digest food and certain foods more than others. Our digestion rate is based on several things like basal metabolic rate and what we’ve eaten. But in general meat and fish can take as long as two days to fully digest. The proteins and fats that meat contain are complex molecules that take longer for your body to pull apart. By contrast, fruits and vegetables, which are high in fiber, move through your system in less than a day. In fact, these high-fiber foods help your digestive track run more efficiently in general.

The breaking down of all food (among other things) creates oxidation and free radicals in the body. Free radicals are toxic byproducts of oxygen metabolism that can cause significant damage to living cells and tissues in a process called “oxidative stress.” The vitamins and minerals the body uses to counteract oxidative stress are called antioxidants.

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According to Functional Medicine Dr. Stephen Cabral, the benefits of intermittent fasting are as follows:

  1. Weight loss. We are talking about a natural weight loss, where your body actually taps into body fat to lose weight.
  2. Lowered blood sugar levels. Lowered blood sugar decreases insulin, which in turns helps to decrease things like cortisol, estrogen, etc. Also decreases midsection fat.
  3. Speeds up metabolism. Who doesn’t want a faster metabolism?
  4. Promotes longevity (10-20% longer life). By allowing for processes of natural detoxification, and reduction of inflammation to occur.
  5. Better control hunger signals (Hunger vs. Cravings). An empty “stomach,” is true hunger (4-5 hours after last meal). A craving is usually a blood sugar issue.
  6. Improves detoxification because the body is now a scavenger for free radical’s and allows time for the liver to cleanse the blood.
  7. Improves brain energy/clarity because extra energy goes to your brain instead of your stomach. Shown to improve conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease.
  8. Improves your overall immune system by killing existing cancer cells, necrotic tissues, and cancer cells just starting out. It kills sick cells, microbes, and also helps prevent premature cell death.
  9. Lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation, because you do not have as many free radicals in your body. Most all diseases are related to inflammation in the body.
  10. Helps clear up skin based issues like acne, psoriasis, and eczema that are caused by dirty blood, yeast overgrowth, and bacteria.

So how do you do an intermittent fast?

I prefer a once a week 24-hour fast, and here’s why. A simple 24-hour fast lasts from dinner-to-dinner, or breakfast-to-breakfast, whatever you like. For example, I eat a light dinner around 6 pm on Sunday evening and then I fast until the next day’s dinner at 6 pm. In this regimen, I do not actually go a full day without eating since I am still taking one meal on that ‘fasting’ day.   I have a plain, “Daily All-in-One Support Shake” for breakfast and another for lunch. I also drink at least 8 glasses of water and several cups of green tea throughout the day to help my body “feel full” and push all of the toxic waste out of my system. I begin every day (and have for years) with a smoothie for breakfast. So every day from dinner to lunch I am doing an 18-hour fast.

If a 24-hour or 18-hour fast is too much, then a simple 12-hour fast can be a great way to start. Essentially, you stop eating after dinner and do not eat again until breakfast the next morning, making sure there is at least 12 hours between meals.   This simple 12-hour fast can help regulate blood sugar, burn fat, and improve mental clarity.

 

 

What You Don’t See Can Hurt You

So the other day my son was eating an apple that still had the sticker on it. He’s eight, it happens.  It probably makes the most sense for me to wash everything as soon as I bring it home, but that doesn’t happen.  However, I do wash everything (including all my organic stuff) before I use it.  I even wash a cantaloupe before I cut into it because I don’t want what’s on the outside to make its way inside.   In 2011 a Listeria outbreak from cantaloupe killed four people and sickened 141 people across 20 states.  (1)  If you add in the salmonella outbreak (cantaloupe again) in 2012, we now have more than 400 people ill and at least 36 individuals who died as a result of these two outbreaks.  While it may sound like that’s a relatively small number compared to the 318 million Americans in this country, remember only 1 in 10 of us eat our fruits and veggies every day

Experts say, all in all, 20 people will touch a tomato before you slice it up for your salad. And that’s in addition to all the animal waste that can mingle with your produce on the long journey from farm to table. (2) At the time of these outbreaks, Michael Landa, the Director at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition revealed, in part, multiple findings of insanitary production, handling conditions, and practices in packinghouses.   That is why, if I eat the outside or have to slice it to eat the inside, I wash it.  But that’s just pathogens, dirt, and debris.  What about the 146 different pesticides that are found on 75% of our produce?

A non-profit organization called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) put together two lists, “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Clean 15,” to help consumers know when they should buy organic and when it is unnecessary. These lists were compiled using data from the United States Department of Agriculture on the amount of pesticide residue found in non-organic fruits and vegetables after they had been washed. Domestic and imported versions of two items – blueberries and snap peas – showed sharply different results, so they ranked those domestic and imported items separately. (The full list can be found here, https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php)

The fruits and vegetables on the EWG’s “The Dirty Dozen” list, when conventionally grown, tested positive for at least 48 different chemicals, with some testing positive for as many as 67. For produce on the “dirty” list, always go organic. “The 2016 Dirty Dozen” list includes:

  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Celery
  • Grapes
  • Cherries
  • Spinach, kale and collard greens
  • Tomatoes, cherry tomatoes
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Hot peppers

All the produce on the EWG’s “Clean 15” 2016 list had little to no traces of pesticides, and is considered safe to consume in non-organic form. This list includes:

  • Onions
  • Avocados
  • Cabbage
  • Pineapples
  • Sweet corn *
  • Frozen sweet peas
  • Honeydew melon
  • Mangos
  • Asparagus
  • Eggplant
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Papayas *
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
* Denotes the majority of these are Genetically Engineered.  Look for organic if you don’t want GE products.

Remember my son’s apple?  Well, we decided to perform a little science experiment.  We filled three glasses, the glass on the far left is regular tap water, the glass in the middle is my fruit and veggie wash, and the third glass is after his apple soaked in the veggie wash after one minute.   In this case, a picture is definitely worth a thousand words.

This is a link to a story NPR featured on America’s Test Kitchen and their recommendation for the best fruit and veggie wash.  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14540742

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This is a great video about the Environmental Working Group.