The Truth about Calcium, Dairy, and Healthy Bones

The Truth About Calcium, Dairy & Healthy Bones

Calcium intake is one of the most common nutritional concerns for women and children in the western world. Women, who have the highest rates of osteoporosis, are living on calcium supplements, and families think of milk and dairy products as essential for their children’s health. Yet dairy is not a common food in much of the world. Think of the several billion people on this earth who have never seen milk. Would you be surprised to hear that they have far less osteoporosis and arthritis than is seen in countries where dairy products are regularly consumed? While hardly heard of in other countries, osteoporosis is very common in North America, Australia and Europe, where dairy consumption is very high.

It is high time we stopped using calcium needs as an excuse for drinking commercial, pasteurised milk and dairy foods, which are highly detrimental to our health!

Natural Calcium Sources and Enemies of Calcium Absorption

The real reasons for bone loss, tooth decay & osteoporosis

So if it’s not a lack of dairy intake, what is causing all these bones and teeth to be so brittle? For starters, the amount of calcium we absorb, and retain, depends greatly on the rest of our diet and lifestyle factors. Extensive laboratory tests have shown that most people today cannot absorb more than half of the calcium from their foods!

Vitamin Deficiencies: In addition to calcium – magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, vitamin D, and countless other vitamins and minerals are also crucial to bone health. Today’s diet of over-processed foods is greatly lacking in vitamins and nutrients which work together to create healthy bones.

Lack of traditional calcium sources: The best sources of usable calcium (easiest to absorb) are raw dairy foods and bone broths. Unfortunately, raw milk is now illegal in many places, and the tradition of regularly drinking and cooking with homemade bone broths has died out (though hopefully lately making a comeback!). Other traditional sources of non-dairy calcium, such as sardines, are not very popular either.

Sugar: Sugar pulls calcium out of the bones and into the blood stream. Sugar in our daily diets produces an overacidic condition in our bodies, then in order to protect the blood from that acidity, huge amounts of calcium is taken from the bones and teeth. This is the real reason sugar causes tooth decay.

Grains: Phytic acid in grains that have not been soaked, sprouted, fermented or naturally leavened block asbsorption of calcium, iron, zinc, copper and magnesium. The modern food pyramid has had western countries eating high amounts of unfermented grains, contributing to high rates of bone loss.

Soy: Like grains, unfermented soy is high in phytic acid, which blocks calcium absorption. This is one reason the soy milk, tofu, and soy beans that are touted as health foods are sadly, quite the opposite. Soy is also commonly fed to factory farm animals, whose meat is then fed to us. 

Soft Drinks: Most soft drinks contain phosphoric acid, which blocks the absorption of calcium and magnesium in the intestines, therefore contributing directly to easily broken bones in children and osteoporosis in adults.

Salt: Modern processed foods are loaded with processed salt. For some people, excessive salt consumption causes calcium to be excreted in the urine.

Coffee: The more coffee you drink, the more calcium goes out in your urine.

Low-fat Foods: Decades of low-fat eating have created a huge lack of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K in our bodies, which are needed for calcium absorption. These vitamins are obtained from traditional foods that are much less popular today, such as eggs, marine oils and seafood (especially shrimp and crab), fermented foods, soaked or sprouted grains, dark leafy vegetables, and liver, organ meats and butterfat from pasture-fed animals. In addition, several nutritional studies have shown that for calcium to be effectively incorporated into the bones, at least 50% of dietary fats should be saturated fat, something we have been sadly avoiding for a long time.

Protein Powder: Isolated powdered proteins from soy, eggs or milk cause a negative calcium balance that can lead to osteoporosis.

Pasteurised Milk: Pasteurisation reduces the availability of the milk’s mineral components, including calcium.

Lack of Sun: Vitamin D3, needed for calcium absorption, is produced from cholesterol in the presence of sunlight, which many people don’t get much of these days, being inside all day or covered in sunblocks.

Stress: Stress pulls calcium from the bones. Our modern are lives are more stressful than ever, with little traditional knowledge passed down about  how to effectively manage stress.

Lack of weight-bearing exercise: To put it simply, our bones are not strong because we are sitting all day. If we want strong bones, we need to strengthen them! Weight-bearing exercise can be as simple as walking, as you are bearing your own weight.

Americans alone consume over 200 pounds of dairy products each year, yet more than 10 million have osteoporosis, another 35 million more have low bone mass, and one-third of the young children suffer from tooth decay. In America, dairy farmers must pay the Dairy Marketing Board 15 cents for every hundred pounds of milk they produce. To meet the calcium-craving needs of the masses, 400-600 million pounds of milk are produced each year, giving the Dairy Marketing Board around $300 million dollars each year to keep marketing milk as the best thing for every family wanting strong bones, nice teeth and healthy children.

How to ensure you get enough calcium

1/ Eat and drink some calcium-rich foods from the picture at the top.

2/ Improve diet and lifestyle factors to better absorb and retain calcium and build strong bones, using the list above as a guide. Stop eating processed grains and sugar, unfermented soy, and soft drinks.

3/ Stop drinking pasteurised dairy for the sake of calcium!

4/ Stop stressing about specific nutrients like calcium, and just get back to Primal foods, sun and movement!

 High rates of osteoporosis despite high dairy consumption

References:

– Nourishing Traditions; Sally Fallon. Washington DC: New Trends Publishing, 1999.
– The Primal Blueprint; Mark Sisson. California: Primal Nutrition, Inc. 2009.
– Nutrition and Physical Degeneration; Weston A. Price. California: Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, 2004.
– Milk The Deadly Poison; Robert Cohen. New Jersey: Argus Publishing, 1998.
– Health Freedom News; James F. Scheer.
– Sugar Blues; William Dufty.
– FAO Statistics Division 2007

Which of the diet and lifestyle factors may be inhibiting your absorption and/or retention of calcium? What can you change, now that you have more awareness?

Eat More to Lose Fat, Increase Muscle Tone and Have More Energy

Eat More, Lose Fat

Have you been exercising and dieting consistently for a while and are not seeing the changes you want in your body?  Are you eating less but still not losing weight? Then it’s time you stopped expecting to get a different result out of the same practices. It’s time to change your approach!

Eat more nutritious food to lose fat

Food is the answer

Exercise is important to attaining a lean, energy filled body, but food is even more important. The majority of experts and non-experts alike are proposing that food alone makes up 70%  of the puzzle for attaining a lean, high-energy body.

If you’ve been dieting, your body is likely starved for nutrients, is storing fat to prepare for famine, and is not functioning properly enough to regulate your weight. The old days of exercising like crazy and eating little food, in order to produce weight loss, are long gone, as this has been proven unsuccessful time and time again as a long term answer to losing stubborn body fat (not weight) and keeping it off.  In most cases it puts fat back on, plus more than when you started!  How many times have you been on diets and seen your weight fluctuate up and down like a yo-yo?  The madness of food restriction (i.e. dieting) doesn’t work.  Stop kicking for a goal that isn’t there.

Instead, eat plenty of nutritious whole plant and animal foods to nourish your body back into a healthy state. Once your body has nutrients and energy, your weight will balance naturally.

Eat every three to four hours

Research from The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition proposes that you should eat 4-6 smaller meals throughout the day rather than 2-3 large meals (1).  The digestive process actually uses energy to breakdown the food you consume.  Depending on the food you eat, a rough estimate of the time this takes is three hours. You will keep your metabolism (the rate of energy your body uses to keep you functioning) burning more by eating again at the 3-4 hour mark (stoke the fire more). If you go without eating for 4-5 hours or more, then your body (being as smart as it is) prepares for starvation, slows down your metabolism and can also store extra fat from your next meal as backup energy, just in case you don’t eat regularly enough again. Eating nutritious food regularly throughout the day will also keep away cravings and ensure you don’t grab a sugary snack when you become too hungry between meals.

Avoid too many high GI foods

The Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale from 0-100 that rates foods on their digestive speed and entry into the blood stream.  0 = low and 100 = high. Every food containing carbohydrate digests faster or slower depending on the amount and type of carbohydrate in the food.  This affects the production of a hormone that your body produces called insulin that will hinder your fat loss goals if you are eating high GI foods. This doesn’t mean, however, that all low GI foods are good for you. It is just one indicator which can help us determine for example, which type of rice or fruit works better for us.

Carbohydrates are no longer classified as ‘complex or simple’.  Studies show that different types of ‘complex carbs’ such as potatoes, pasta, and rice, may have completely different G.I. values, therefore causing different rising and dipping levels of insulin. Visit www.mendosa.com/gilists.htm to get an overview of which foods are high G.I. You don’t have to use this as an exact science, but learning about the different types of carbohydrates will help you avoid the ones that are inhibiting your health and weight loss goals.

Eat more protein

Eating more protein at each meal is proven from both a scientific view and practical view to be very effective at maintaining a leaner body for the majority of people that have been consistent with this eating plan.  Unlike carbohydrate, protein doesn’t cause the body to produce insulin in response to its consumption.  It fills you up for longer and is needed for growth and repair of just about every cell in your body.  Regular weight training and exercise can theoretically cause micro-damage to your muscles during training and needs repair from protein, to make the muscle stronger and bigger, in turn increasing your metabolism and fat burning potential.  Protein also satisfies your appetite for longer, alleviating the need to always munch on high GI sugary foods to get you to your next big meal.

The best sources of protein are free-range or wild poultry, pasture-fed or wild red meats, wild fish, and eggs. There are also smaller amounts of protein in raw dairy foods, legumes and nuts, which are great for adding protein to smaller meals or snacks. It takes a bit more planning and preparation to include protein at every meal, but the way you will look and feel makes it more than worth it.

Eat more natural fats

In products labelled low-fat or no-fat, the fat is usually replaced with something detrimental to your health and weight loss goals.  The replacement is usually refined high GI carbohydrates which elevates your insulin levels and makes you put on more fat! Furthermore, good-quality unprocessed animal and plant fats are needed for numerous functions in the body, including to regulate metabolism and weight!

The best sources of animal fats are the dark meat and skin of free-range or wild poultry, pasture-fed or wild red meats, wild fish, eggs, and raw dairy. Sources of good-quality plant fats are avocadoes, nuts and seeds, coconut (milk, cream, oil), and olive oil.

Eat Balanced for a Balanced Body
Eating less all day leads to binge eating at night.
Eat more food, more often for a balanced body.
(Drawing from The C.H.E.K. Institute)

Abandon old practices if they don’t work

The bottom line is, change requires change.  You can’t expect to see a change in your body if you’ve been doing the same thing over and over and haven’t produced a positive result. In the last century, consumption of low-fat foods and high GI carbohydrates steadily increased, but so did obesity! Doctors, dieticians and nutritionists have been promoting this type of diet for years (starting with the food pyramid in school), yet it is clearly not working as our waistlines continue to expand. Make a change in your diet today and experience some wonderful changes in your body.

Isn’t it great news that in order to lose weight, you don’t have to starve yourself or exercise hard, but actually eat more?! Are you ready to change your approach today?

References:

1/ Verboeket Van De Venne W P H G. Westerterp K (1991). Influence of the feeding frequency on nutrient utilization in man consequences for energy metabolism. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 45 (3). pp.161-170.

 

8 Myths of Skin and Body Care

8 Myths of Skin and Body Care

Learn:
– The causes of acne, eczema, dry/oily skin…
– The top superfoods for healthy, beautiful skin
– Which ingredients to avoid in skin products
– Why you can sleep naked for health

These are my notes from the seminar, Skintervention with Liz Wolfe of Cave Girl Eats, during the Healthy Life Summit. Just for you!

8 Myths of Skin and Body Care:

1/ Oil clogs pores. Truth: the right type of oil can balance oil production on the skin. Known by dermatologists.
2/ Skin problems are from not being clean enough, so we need stronger cleansers. Truth: Need to go gentle, natural and have patience of balancing body from inside and out.
3/ You need antibiotics to stop acne. Truth: It only works for a short time; acne comes back because underlying causes not addressed. Antibiotics kill the good bacteria, along with the bad, which sets up the gut and body for more issues.
4/ You need expensive products to have great skin. Truth: All you need is the trinity – baking soda, apple cider vinegar and coconut oil/jojoba or other good oil. (Note: not everyone tolerates coconut oil on skin at first, as it’s a salicylate)
5/ Sweat causes pit stains and odours. Truth: Sweat is natural and necessary, but doesn’t have to stink and stain. Most deodorants cause stain and poor nutrition/digestive toxicity causes the stink.
6/ Food doesn’t affect skin, hair, nails and teeth. Truth: Food and stress are able to drive hormones, which drives oil production and affects our physiology in many ways.
7/ Doctors knows everything about my skin. Truth: Medical help is a useful tool, but the best tools are our own instinct and innate wisdom of our own bodies.
8/ Doctors know nothing about my skin. Truth: Doctors do have a lot of knowledge and training, and can really help, especially in acute situations (as opposed to chronic/reoccuring situations). We can’t always solve everything ourselves.

Healthy skin comes from the inside out
Healthy skin comes from the inside out

What are the main causes of most skin problems?

Poor nutrition and poor digestive health.

Key components of nutrition greatly lacking today

Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K:

– Vitamin A from grass-fed animal foods. Beta-carotene from vegetables is hard to convert to vitamin A, but pasture-fed animals convert the beta-carotene from the grass for us. Traditional cultures valued organ meats, like liver and cod liver oil, for high nutritional value. Liver does not store toxins, it acts as a filter for them.
– Vitamin D, mainly from the sun. We have become afraid of the sun, yet the right amount of sun is vital for good health. Modern sunscreen blocks only one type of UV ray, which creates an imbalance in the healthful rays we are receiving.
– Vitamin K, found in highest concentration in ruminants (foods from animals feeding on pasture). In today’s factory farms, ruminant animals are not feeding on pasture, thus not obtaining the nutrients to pass onto us. Eat only pasture-fed meat!

Skin Superfoods

– Fermented Cod Liver Oil: Great source of Vitamins A, D, and K, especially if you are not getting enough sun, organ meats and/or raw pasture-fed dairy.
– Butter Oil
– Desiccated Liver
– Seafood (especially mollusks, Sardines, Anchovies)
– Minerals like Zinc (Zinc found in seafoods like oysters, and red meat)

Digestion

– Good digestion gets the nutrients to where they need to go. You can be eating great food, but not absorbing the nutrients.
– Stress, infection and antibiotics can greatly impair digestion in the long term.
– Digestive bitters and stomach acid supplements can repair and improve digestion. Very important to colonise the gut with good bacteria from fermented foods/quality probiotics, and remove dead/processed/sugary foods which encourage the growth of bad bacteria.
– Need to support the liver, as bad bacteria can produce toxins which impair liver function.
– Lifestyle changes: Get enough sleep in a dark room, reduce stress, and don’t over-exercise. ‘Early to bed, early to rise’ ensures we are sleeping in the dark, in tune with our circadian rhythms. Retrain your mind to stop thriving on stress and busyness. Intense exercise only causes more stress to an already stressed body.

Most commercial skin and body care products are a toxic concoction
pic from Health Extremist

Harmful ingredients to avoid in personal care products:

– Gluten (hydrolyzed wheat protein, etc.), mainly if you are gluten sensitive.
– Triclosan antibacterial agent kills ALL bacteria, including the good bacteria needed for healthy digestion. Hot water is enough to kill germs. Can use probiotic hand sanitiser intead of the antibiotic cleansers.
– Benzyl Chromium Chloride is connected with impaired immune function over time, and is an unnecessary alternative to Triclosan./
– Diethanolamine and coconut (DEA): a potentially dangerous isolated chemical left in processing of coconut products.
– Propylene Glycol keeps shampoo texture smooth and is unnecessary industrial product.
– Aluminum, the #1 ingredient in anti-perspirant products. This has been linked to breast cancer, and blocks sweat, which is a natural and necessary bodily process.
– Parabens, or any ingredient ending in paraben, are preservatives linked to hormonal disruption.
– SLS, SLES (Sodium Laurel Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate) hugely strips the skin of moisture, and is of questionable safety to overall health.
– Phthalates are known potential hormone disruptors and are often hidden in products under the guise of words like Fragrance.

Are your body care products making you sick and fat?

 Cellulite

– Different thoughts on what causes cellulite, but Liz’s tips are:
– Work on improving circulation through dry brushing and homemade coffee scrubs (topical coffee).
– Don’t wear underwear at home, and sleep naked. Cellulite is often found in the areas where we wear very restrictive clothing.

 

Liz Wolfe of Cave Girl Eats & SkinterventionLiz Wolfe tells all about the best products for cleansing and nourishing the skin, and how to use them…plus alternatives to conventional makeup, hair dyes and hair care products, and much more in her comprehensive Skintervention Guide. Liz runs the blog and facebook page, Cave Girl Eats, and is:
– A certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner
– Co-host of Balanced Bites Workshops and Podcasts
– A Paleo Magazine Contributor
– Author of the book “Modern Cave Girl”

 

What have you tried to overcome skin problems? What has worked the best?

 

A Difficult Pregnancy & Sick Baby Led Consuelo to Paleo & 4 Healthy Kids

Consuelo Werner Healthy Guts

Growing up in Mexico I took for granted that nutrition was passed down from mother to daughter, and that products like corn and beans were staples of any healthy diet. When I came to the U.S. in 2007, I found myself separated from family and my long time family doctor. My husband on deployment in the middle- east and I was 5 months pregnant with my first child, living with my in-laws (which I had met only once before). This was not exactly my ideal support group for a first pregnancy.

Healthy Guts for Healthy Babies

A difficult and worrying pregnancy

I turned to doctors for guidance in my pregnancy, following the standard prenatal diet of mostly grains, some dairy, lean proteins, and little fat. But I rapidly began to notice problems for myself and the pregnancy. Problems such as constipation, repeated yeast infections, ongoing fatigue, low back problems and swelled joints among others. I was assured by doctors here in the states and by my family doctor back in Mexico that these were all normal symptoms of pregnancy.

At my first ultrasound doctors noticed that my baby was smaller than average for American babies. In Mexico the ideal weight is about 75% of what is called healthy in the U.S.A. Soon enough I had all kinds of expensive equipment wrapped around my belly day and night monitoring my child like some kind of alien experiment. Every possible scenario was put to me for the low weight. Specialists questioned me on everything I was doing. Did I smoke? (which I didn’t ), did I sleep well? (which I did), and all kinds of genetic problems were looked at as possible causes. Not one doctor (or I admit, myself until later) thought to ask what should be the most basic question when concerned with any health problem. WHAT WAS I EATING?

An unsettled, unwell baby

After the birth and our subsequent escape from the hospital, my daughter started having feeding problems. She was having a hard time latching and when she did latch my breast milk acted like a drug that will put her right to sleep within 5 min. She was obviously not eating enough so I started supplementing her with (milk base) formula. While on formula she started having intense projectile vomiting after feedings which, needless to say, lowered her caloric intake even more then when she was just falling asleep. After more tests the Doctors concluded that my daughter was lactose- intolerant and switched her to soy base formula.

The switch in formula didn’t seem to have any effect on her symptoms, but I was following the recommendations of my pediatrician so it had to be getting better… When it came the time to give her food, rice cereals were held up as the best food you can start your baby on. When the switch to cereals still didn’t seem to help my daughter’s retention of food, or her weight, I turned to my Grandma for some Mexican remedies. I was also told by my Grandma to give her something we call Atoles (corn flour mixed with water that results in a pudding like consistency) to help her stomach with heavier foods, and try to put some much needed calories into her system. If this was the path to fixing my daughters growth and development problems, all physical evidence was lacking.

A big scare from the doctors, and rigorous testing

In one of her regular well-child checkups the Doctor in residence was so concerned with my daughters weight and general lack of health (skin, hair, attention) that she told my husband and me that our daughter might have Turner Syndrome a rare but not unheard of genetic condition where the child (almost always a girl) lacks the second X chromosome. The Doctor recommended that have specialized testing. While she seemed to know enough to scare us with a diagnosis to an incurable and untreatable genetic disorder she did not seem to know anything else of the syndrome. When tests came back negative, the Doctor and Specialists all recommended (in a way the Catholic Church might have recommended a conversion in the 12th century to a heretic!!) that we submit our daughter to a battery of genetic testing so that they could find out the reason for her gut problems. After they described some of the testing as Minor Extraction of Organ Tissues, my husband and I drew the line. We felt that the best way to help our daughters gut problems did not start by allowing her guts to be harvested in some kind of witch hunt for a “Problem” which no one could find. The backlash we encountered from the medical community about this decision was severe, and only ended when we threatened legal action against some of the doctors. Well that and our loss of my husband’s Health Care Plan.

Healthy guts means healthy kids

Maybe it has something to do with diet…

After speaking to Dave Werner (of Crossfit North Fame) he recommended that we talk to Robb Wolf. Robb gave us the ground breaking idea that “hey what you feed yourself matters! Is it any different for your kid?!” He proposed that our daughter was not stricken with some lurking syndrome and genetic disorder but was instead chronically misfed. We tried a strict month to month gluten-casein free diet (one of the most overlooked digestive problems.). I rapidly put together a diary and tracked everything she was eating including a weight and height chart every month to see if she was moving in the right direction.

Paleo principles gave my daughter a new life

After 6 months of a Paleo Diet my daughter’s skin color was starting to glow rather than looking jaundice and yellow. She went from weighting 16 pounds and 28 ½ inches at 17 months (less than the 3rd percentile for height and weight) to much healthier looking 23 pounds and 37 ½ inches at 31 months (still 3rd percentile for weight but in the upper 80 percentile for height)! Her hair started looking shinny and she was growing eyelashes, which before had been short and had the tendency to fall out often. This was particularly noticeable since my second daughter’s eyelashes are huge and full. Her motor skills improved surprisingly fast and she quickly reached all the developmental milestones that she had missed. She is now a healthy child who loves doing summer salts, running, interacting with people and her siblings, growling at her grandpa and would choose sautéed liver and onions over a cookie 9 times out of 10….no plan is perfect!

Healthy guts, healthy kids

3 more kids later, things are very different

I never questioned nature’s plan for my gut again. This was a life changing experience that showed me and my family a better and healthier way to live. The Paleo Diet is not just a “diet” in the American sense of the word or a random selection of foods. It is a life style choice and has profound effects for not just the food you eat but helps to open the door to asking “is this the best way, just because it is done this way?” It is the best gift you could ever give to others and yourself. Even though none of my other children have ever shown any pronounced sign of malnutrition as did my eldest, my husband and I have steadfastly fed them all the same, with splendid results. Currently all my kids enjoy the benefits of the Paleo Diet, and have from an early stage (yes! they really eat meat and vegetables by 6 months). They rarely get sick and when I say rarely I mean never except a day of sniffles here and there. What is more, in the pregnancies following the first, I was conscious and attentive to the fact that what I feed myself, I feed my unborn child. And pregnancy far from being chronically painful and a hazard to all your hard earned fitness gains can actually be enjoyed for what it is…. the peace you get before the storm. Your health starts in your gut! So you might as well treat it like your most precious piece of equipment.

 

Consuelo Werner of Healthy GutsConsuelo Werner is mother of 4, freelance interpreter and translator/copy editor, food blogger, paleo philosopher, expert linguist and passionate about cooking! Check out her blog: Healthy Guts.net or follow her on twitter @ConsueloWerner.
Consuelo says, “For busy moms: How to avoid weird chemically processed foods on a budget and experimenting with YOUR CHILD’S taste of food. I will share with you simple techniques I have found to get your kids to eat adult food and the skills to allow even the novice cook to make healthy, hardy and nutritious meals that will help keep you and your family healthy and happy.”

 

Have you struggled through a difficult pregnancy and/or had a very sick baby? Have you ever changed your diet to make your pregnancies and/or kids healthier?

How our Health Obsessions Make Us Unhealthy

I was feeling inspired by a list of great health quotes the other day. As I read down the list however, the attitude started to change from ‘health is the greatest wealth’ to ‘health is the greatest burden’. Instead of affirming my passion for prioritising good health, there were more and more quotes that seemed to ridicule me for wasting my life thinking about my health.

Quit worrying about your health. It’ll go away. – Anonymous

There’s lots of people in this world who spend so much time watching their health that they haven’t the time to enjoy it.  – Josh Billings

As a people, we have become obsessed with Health.  There is something fundamentally, radically unhealthy about all this.  We do not seem to be seeking more exuberance in living as much as staving off failure, putting off dying.  We have lost all confidence in the human body.  – Lewis Thomas, The Medusa and the Snail, 1979

Preserving the health by too strict a regimen is a wearisome malady.  ~François Duc de la Rochefoucauld

At first I dismissed these declarations with disdain, thinking that these people just hadn’t had the opportunity to realise the wonders of a healthy body or how they could have an influence over their own health. But their words stuck with me and as I was reading some books and articles that week about health claims in the media, new diets, dairy debates, and bacteria fears, the light bulb came on in my head and I suddenly understood the true meaning behind these quotes. As with anything in life, moderation and balance is the key. Obsession over maintaining our health can, ironically, take us straight to illness.

Health Obsession #1: Germs

The first thing I thought of as a prime example of health obsession leading to illness is with the germ theory.  Though later on denounced by the creator himself, Louis Pasteur started what would today become an obsession with eradicating germs. What started as an attempt to rid milk of deadly bacteria became a societal obsession with pasteurisation. Today we pasteurise most dairy products, juices, honey, vinegar, wine and beer, water, canned food and egg products. In obsessing over this need to eliminate any potentially harmful bacteria, we are also killing off all the beneficial bacteria, much of the nutrition and all the enzymes. Thus making the food indigestible and nutrient deficient.

Pasteurisation, however, is just the start of this germ obsession, whose associated practices are far more risky than beneficial to our health. Much of our commercial food supply is also exposed to radiation to destroy microorganisms, bacteria or insects that might be present; a process called irradiation. At home we have become more fearful of bacteria and are sterilising ourselves and our environment with bacteria-killing products made of potent chemicals. We are slowly discovering the long-term ill effects these man-made chemicals have on human health and from some viewpoints, it is a potentially much worse effect than the minimal risk of encountering the deadly germs that lie in wait. But the germ fear is deeply embedded in our psyche, so we continue to slather ourselves and our homes in anti-bacterial products. We are so fearful of germs that we keep our children from playing barefoot, and from digging in the dirt and mud where they can connect with nature.

Which is deadlier? Germs or the obsession to get rid of them?

Health Obsession #2: Dieting & Exercise

The other most obvious example of over-concern of health leading to its deterioration is dieting. Technically, trying to be thin is hardly the same as trying to be healthy, but as obesity has become such a hugely publicised symptom of ill-health, we have come to believe that thin equals healthy and that the way to become thin is strict dieting. Every next diet claims to be the best one, and we are becoming confused, stressed, and malnourished as we try one after the next. Strict dieting has deprived us of nutrients, led to eating disorders, and caused emotional stress over willpower, guilt and peer pressure. All which cause the body much more harm than a few extra pounds of body fat.

Running alongside dieting in the quest to become thin, thus healthy, is over-exercising. Gyms are open 24 hours a day so we can punish our bodies endlessly in the quest for being healthy. Clearly a contradiction in terms. The body’s need for rest and repair has been long forgotten in the race to be leaner, faster, fitter, stronger. Over-exercising is one culprit in causing today’s epidemic of adrenal stress, where our adrenal glands are so overworked from constantly producing cortisol hormones. We are in constant ‘fight-or-flight’ mode, slowly breaking our bodies down and creating vulnerability to chronic fatigue and disease.

Over-exercising and dieting is bad for your health

The Silent Killers

Present in all these forms of health obsession are the silent killers: fear, worry, paranoia, and guilt. We are paranoid about lurking viruses, worried about catching disease, and afraid of dying. We feel guilty if we eat sugar, miss a workout, or gain a pound. We stress over deciding which foods are safe, which products are toxic, which vitamins to take, and which doctor’s advice to follow. Our fear makes us vulnerable to unsubstantiated health claims from our peers and the media, and this often leads to unnecessary spending on health remedies and cures, leading to financial stress. Once again, our adrenal glands go into overdrive producing cortisol, this time from negative emotional stress. The body is flooded with catabolic hormones which break the body down.

Consequently, our good intentions to take control of our health can end up destroying it.  I think Benjamin Franklin summed it up when he stated, “Nothing is more fatal to health, than an over care of it.” Taking care of your mental and physical health should be a priority in everyone’s life, but the key is to keep things in perspective and find the right balance, so that your intentions don’t become obsessions.

 

Are you a bit obsessed with some aspect of health? How has this affected your life?