To B or Not to B: Micronutrient Deficiencies and Supplementation

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I was so caught up in the Real Food Summit last week that I hardly had time to post about it.  If you didn’t get a chance to check it out, you can purchase all 27 lectures plus a boatload of bonus materials for what I think is a steal considering the wealth of information that was covered over those nine days.  Anyway, one of the most interesting presentations, in my opinion, was given by Mira & Jayson Calton and was about micronutrient deficiency.  This is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as I’ve had some personal experience with deficiencies despite my real food diet.  It happens…to most of us in fact.  And whether we realize it or not our cells pay the price.  Never forget, we live and die at the cellular level.

Boning up on Calcium


Let me start by saying, I love Sally Field!  I think she’s adorable…can’t look at her without smiling. So if anyone could get me to take a Rx drug it would be her.  Brilliant marketing by Boniva I must say…especially considering that their own website and package insert makes statements such as:

  • It is not known how long BONIVA works for the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis.
  • BONIVA can cause serious side effects including problems with the esophagus, low blood calcium, bone, joint or muscle pain, severe jaw bone problems, and unusual thigh bone fractures.
  • Severe jaw bone problems may happen when you take BONIVA.
  • Severe and occasionally incapacitating bone, joint, and/or muscle pain has been reported in patients taking bisphosphonates that are approved for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.
  • Atypical, low-energy, or low-trauma fractures of the femoral shaft have been reported in
    bisphosphonate-treated patients.

Seriously…Boniva may cause low-trauma, thigh bone fractures!?!  Women are taking Boniva to prevent fractures and meanwhile they could be out walking their dog one day and have their femur snap for no reason whatsoever…WOW!  OK, so I’m being hard on Boniva, I know.  Really I’m talking about any bisphosphonate drug, of which Boniva is only one.  These drugs work on the principle that all minerals must be kept in the bone.  Therefore, they prevent the normal rebuilding & remodeling processes that naturally occurs when injured, damaged or just plain old bone tissue is replaced with new bone tissue.  So in an effort to maintain bone density there is the potential to end up with bones that are especially fragile and painful because they are not being properly maintained and repaired by the body.  That just doesn’t sit well with me. 

Another strategy for bone health is to take a calcium supplement.  Sometimes a doctor might recommend this, but often women just decide on their own to go this route.  I’m not knocking calcium.  It is definitely important for many bodily functions including muscle contractions and nerve impulse transmission. It is also a crucial building block of teeth and bones.  In fact calcium is so essential, that the body regulates calcium concentration in the blood more strictly than anything else…even glucose (blood sugar)!  This means that if the body gets too much of a good thing it has to stash it somewhere else to keep the blood calcium levels constant.  Here’s where we run into trouble with calcium supplements.  The hope is that when the blood calcium gets too high the body will send the calcium to the bones, but this is not always the case.  Sometimes the calcium is sent to blood vessels, joints and organs instead, causing problems such as kidney stones and heart disease (source).  Another issue with calcium supplements is that most contain inexpensive, poorly absorbed forms of the mineral such as calcium dicalcium phosphate.  So you are getting very little bang for your buck.

If you really feel you must take a calcium supplement, look for one in which the only source of calcium is microcrystalline hydroxyapatite concentrate (MCHC). MCHC is a complex crystalline compound composed of calcium (about 24 percent), phosphorous, delicate organic factors, protein matrix and the full spectrum of minerals that naturally comprise healthy bone (source).  Of course (as the American Dairy Association loves to remind us), dairy is an excellent source of calcium as well.  Despite your calcium source; however, the fact is this:  the US already has one of the highest calcium intakes in the world and one of the highest rates of osteoporosis…hmmm???

So at this point I should probably reiterate my usual disclaimer.  I’m not a doctor, this is for informational purposes only… BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.  But here’s my question.  Are doctors telling their patients about the potential (side) effects of bisphosphonate drugs and the potential risks of calcium supplements?   And here’s a better question.  Is anyone telling women and girls that there are ways to improve bone mineral density that don’t threaten your health?  I certainly don’t hear much talk about this.

I recently attended a lecture on calcium and bone health and in addition to some of the information discussed above, I learned some other interesting things about bone health. First of all, calcium is but one player in bone health.  Other nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, vitamins A, D & K, protein and collagen also play important roles.  Without collagen, bones may become too brittle.  Without vitamins A, D & K, calcium can easily become misdirected.  Without magnesium calcium may not be properly absorbed.  This is, of course, the very abridged version of the information presented, but the “take home” was that bone health is a group effort and if there is an imbalance in the building materials it can be bad news for the bones!

So here are my thoughts on the matter.  Everything is fortified with calcium these days but younger and younger women (even kids) are losing bone mineral density.   The rates of osteoporosis have increased dramatically over the past two decades.  So, we need to start thinking about bone health at a much younger age and not just through the calcium lens that we’ve been using but from a whole food/nutrition perspective.  By eating a wide variety of foods that include all of the “players” in bone health, we can begin to build stronger bones at any age.

“Soups and broths made from bone are best because they provide MCHC; followed by whole raw milk & raw milk products, sea vegetables such as kelp, Celtic sea salt, brewer’s yeast, green leafy vegetables and molasses (source).

Antioxidants such as lycopene may also have a special role to play in this area.

“A study was designed in which tomato and other dietary sources of lycopene were removed from the diets of postmenopausal women for a period of 4 weeks, to see what effect lycopene restriction would have on bone health. At the end of 4 weeks, women in the study started to show increased signs of oxidative stress in their bones and unwanted changes in their bone tissue.” (source)

Furthermore, bone density is a matter of gravity!  That’s why astronauts lose bone mass while in space and why thin women are typically the ones with osteoporosis.  If there is less weight on your bones you lose bone mass at a greater rate.  A great way to help build and maintain bone mass is by participating in weight bearing activities.  Children and adolescents that exercise prior to the closing of the epiphyseal (“growth”) plates can actually increase total bone mass prior to the natural reduction that occurs with aging.

Other lifestyle factors that can help include not smoking or drinking cola drinks which have been linked to loss of bone mineral density in adults and children (source).

So when you make your next meal plan think beyond protein and carbohydrates and start trying to include foods that contribute to bone health.  Remember bones are living tissue, and you can gain bone mass with simple diet and lifestyle changes.  What do you have to lose?

Eat Well, Be Well,

Thanks to Amy Berger of TuitNutrition for this excellent information!

This post was shared on Fight Back Friday with Food Renegade

The Skinny on Sugar Part 2: Artificial Sweeteners

One too many times I’ve heard a seemingly health conscious person dismiss something they are eating or drinking as acceptable because it doesn’t have sugar.  It sounds like this, “Oh, it’s OK, it’s diet soda.”  And this, “It only has 100 calories.”  They mean well and they are on the right track because they know that sugar isn’t doing them any favors.  Sadly they’ve bought into yet another nutritional myth; the myth that artificial sweeteners are better for us than sugar.

The FDA has approved several artificial sweeteners which millions of Americans (adults and children) consume on a regular basis:
  • Acesulfame potassium (Sunett)
  • Aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal)
  • D-Tagatose (Sugaree)
  • Neotame
  • Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low)
  • Sucralose (Splenda)
The fact is that these sugar substitutes are: best case, not well tested; worst case, studied and found to be potentially harmful.   Once again the FDA turns a blind eye at all but the subsidized science and grants potentially harmful substances GRAS status giving food processing companies carte blanche to add these chemical (yes chemicals!) to any “foods” they choose.  

This sweetener is not as common as some of the others, but definitely as problematic.  Acesulfame K or Ace K as it is sometimes called has been found to

“produced lung tumors, breast tumors, rare types of tumors of other organs (such as the thymus gland), several forms of leukemia and chronic respiratory disease in several rodent studies, even when less than maximum doses were given. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, it was petitioned on August 29, l988 for a stay of approval by the FDA because of “significant doubt” about its safety.” (source)


Originally made by the Monsanto company, aspartame is better known as NutraSweet or Equal and has been used in processed foods and carbonated beverages since the early 80’s.  The two main ingredients in aspartame are formaldehyde and methanol and these are certainly not chemicals that I would willingly ingest.  Dr. Joseph Mercola reports that,

“Aspartame accounts for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA. Many of these reactions are very serious including seizures and death. A few of the 90 different documented symptoms listed in the report as being caused by aspartame include: Headaches/migraines, dizziness, seizures, nausea, numbness, muscle spasms, weight gain, rashes, depression, fatigue, irritability, tachycardia, insomnia, vision problems, hearing loss, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, loss of taste, tinnitus, vertigo, memory loss, and joint pain

This sweetener doesn’t seem to be able to get it’s feet off the ground.  Although approved by the FDA, I can’t find any foods containing it and very little research exists on Tagatose.  According to PubMed,
“D-Tagatose is a malabsorbed stereoisomer of fructose with potential application as a bulk sweetener. Food intake was measured at lunch offered 4 h after the breakfast meal, during the afternoon with access to abundant snacks, and finally at a supper buffet 9 h after the breakfast. Energy intake at lunch and during the snacking period was similar after ingesting the two sugars, while it was 15% lower after ingesting D-tagatose than with sucrose at supper (P < 0.05). Gastrointestinal factors such as the osmotic effects of unabsorbed D-tagatose causing distension of the gut might have mediated the acute appetite-suppressing effect. The present paper also refers to data from a preceding study in which we observed an increased self-reported energy intake after ingestion of D-tagatose compared with sucrose which, in fact, suggests a relative hyperphagic effect of D-tagatose. However, self-reported food intake may be biased by selective under-reporting and this subsequent study with a more controlled assessment of food intake was therefore conducted. This present study did not support any hyperphagic effect of D-tagatose, but rather suggests that D-tagatose may contribute to a reduced energy intake.
Also known as “superaspartame,” this is one of the more recent sweeteners on the market.  It was approved by the FDA for general use in 2002 and more recently was approved as a flavor enhancer in the European Union.  Like aspartame this product was developed by the Monsanto company, and I don’t have much confidence in their concern for my health.  In 2000, Monsanto sold it’s NeutraSweet division to J.W. Childs Equity Partners II, L.P., a private equity firm that also owns the Sunny Delight Beverage Co. Why they sold it I don’t know, but I wonder if it might be because their “own pre-approval studies of neotame revealed adverse reactions, and there were no independent studies that found neotame to be safe.” (source)  Seriously…not a single double blind study to date…is that insane or is it just me?  Because neotame is basically aspartame on steroids the same health risks would be assossiated.

“But as if aspartame wasn’t bad enough, NutraSweet “improved” the aspartame formula by adding 3,3-dimethylbutyraldehyde, which blocks enzymes that break the peptide bond between aspartic acid and phenylalanine, thereby reducing the availability of phenylalanine. This eliminates the need for a warning on labels directed at people who cannot properly metabolize phenylalanine.” (source)

It should also be noted that neotame is used as a replacement for molasses in cattle feed.  It is known to fatten the cattle because like other artificial sweeteners it causes leptin resistance, often leading to weight gain.

“if your body is exposed to too much leptin, it will become resistant to it, just as your body can become resistant to insulin, and once that happens, your body can no longer “hear” the hormonal messages instructing your body to stop eating, burn fat, and maintain good sensitivity to sweet tastes in your taste buds. So, you remain hungry; you crave sweets, and your body stores more fat… Leptin-resistance also causes an increase in visceral fat, sending you on a vicious cycle of hunger, fat storage and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and more.” (source)


Most commonly known as Splenda, this sweetener hasn’t been around that long so we can’t be sure of its long term health consequences.  What we do know is that sucralose while “made from sugar” is purely chemical.  In fact it’s a chlorinated hydrocarbon.  This is the class of chemicals used in industrial compounds such as DDT (now banned), paint stripper & oven cleaners
“Researchers at Duke University gave mice sucralose over a 12-week period.  They found that it reduced the amount of good bacteria in the intestines by 50 percent, changed the pH balance in the intestines, and made the mice fat.
There are mountains of reports from people who have used Splenda a lot and experienced serious side effects, including bloating, abdominal pain, gas, nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, headaches, migraines, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, depression, anxiety & panic attacks, and joint pain.”  (source)

You know, the stuff in the little pink packets.  Beginning in 1977 it carried a warning label as well– “Use of this product may be hazardous to your health …contains saccharin which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.” This warning was removed in 2001.  The FDA continues to report that this chemical is safe for human consumption.
“Saccharin is the most thoroughly tested of all the non-nutritive sweeteners–more than 2374 studies have been done, with aspartame coming in second at 598. Even the most staunch critics are left to admit that no one has been able to draw a definite link between saccharin consumption (even at high levels) and cancer in humans. It has been shown that saccharin causes bladder cancer in male rats of a certain genetic predisposition, but this appears to be a gender- and species-specific phenomenon. To quote from Dr. Janet Starr Hull: “Saccharin is not genotoxic; the presumed mechanism of toxicity is the binding of saccharin to urinary proteins (not normally found in humans), creating a nidus for the formation of silicate crystals, which are cytotoxic to bladder epithelium (of rats).” However–and this is the important part–while the FDA has chosen to say that it cannot be proven that saccharin’s effect on mice is relevant to humans, one could just as easily say that the studies have failed to prove that there is no link between saccharin and bladder cancer in humans.” (source)
Despite mounting clinical and laboratory evidence pointing to dangerous health consequences, the FDA continues to perpetuate the myth that these chemicals are safe to consume.  Not only are they detrimental to health, but they don’t have the very effect that people count on…weight loss.  According to a Purdue University study artificial sweeteners alter brain chemistry and effect metabolism ultimately causing cravings, over-eating and weight gain.  
The industry-funded science that the FDA reviews will, of course, never show these effects.  I’ll admit it.  Sometimes I feel like a conspiracy theorist, but then I see something like this diagram showing the overlap between Monsanto and the FDA and I know that I’m perfectly rational.  As consumers it is up to us to follow the money and ask ourselves “who benefits?”  The sweetener industry is a billion dollar industry.  So that answers that question!

Eat Well, Be Well,

If you think you have experienced side effects from an artificial sweetener report it to the FDA by going to the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator page, find the phone number listed for your state, and report your adverse reaction.


The Skinny on Sugar: Part 1

Every time I sit down and try to write a definitive post on sugar I end up reading another 5 or 10 studies, get totally off track and bogged down in biochemistry and then I post a quick recipe instead.  But today is the day!  I’m going to post something on sugar or I’m not going to bed!  Actually this is going to be the first of several posts on the subject because it’s more involved than you might think.

In terms of making better food choices for yourself and your family, sugar is a huge issue…maybe the biggest one out there.  Part of the reason it’s such a large issue is because it’s such a large business.  A lot of people spend a lot of time and money trying to convince us that sugar is OK in moderation.   Even the ADA states that

“consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners when consumed in a diet that is guided by current federal nutrition recommendations, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Dietary References Intakes, as well as individual health goals. Dietetics professionals should provide consumers with science-based information about sweeteners and support research on the use of sweeteners to promote eating enjoyment, optimal nutrition and health.”

In my opinion (which is very much based on “science-based information”) that is simply not true.  But even if it is true, what is moderation?  The FDA has no recommendation on daily sugar intake, and the USDA has a pretty vague recommendation (source).  I find this interesting considering that they are usually so eager to tell us what we should and shouldn’t eat.  Meanwhile,  the average American consumes around 22 teaspoons of sugar/day (and for some it’s as high as 46 teaspoons daily!).  This comes out to over 150 lbs of sugar per person, per year according to the US Department of Agriculture.  I don’t know about you, but nothing about that seems moderate to me! 

To put this into context, 22 teaspoons is equivalent to about 80 grams of sugar.  In the early 1900s we consumed about 15 grams of sugar daily.  This number has steadily increased over the last 100 years with the biggest jump occurring in the 1980s when high-fructose corn syrup entered the picture.  At this time most Americans consume 72 – 90 grams per day.  This means we are getting about 12% – 15% of our calories from a completely non-nutritive food source.  Yikes!  No wonder we’re always hungry…we are starving for nutrients.

What are we really talking about?
So far I’ve only used the word sugar in this post.  Which of course brings to mind table sugar or sucrose, but I’m really talking about any concentrated sweetener because the fact is they all have about the same effect on your health and it’s not pretty!  According to research by well respected, independent sources (see below), any form of sugar, in excess, weakens the immune system, causes inflammation in the body, and increases the risk for serious health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  Sugar has also been linked to depression and other mental health and neurological issues (source).

Before I continue, let’s define sugar.  There are many ways that we categorize sweeteners:  refined vs. unrefined, processed vs. unprocessed, natural vs. unnatural, nutritive vs. non-nutritive, real vs. fake.  For the purposes of this post I’m excluding the artificial sweeteners.  They have their own set of problems, but that’s for another post.  As for the “real” sweeteners, they go by many, many names, and most processed/packaged foods contain at least one of them.   Some of the more common names are sugar, cane sugar, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate and high-fructose corn syrup.

    Now over the past few years, the media has put a lot of effort into finding a culprit for the failing health of Americans.  High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has perhaps taken the biggest hit.  There is good reason to blame it.  It’s nasty stuff.  But let’s keep things simple, fructose is really the problem here and most concentrated sweeteners contain some fructose.  For example,

    • table sugar (sucrose): 50% fructose
    • high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS): 55% – 65% fructose
    • honey:  52% fructose
    • agave nectar:  as much as 92% fructose!!!

    You get the idea.  Although HFCS does contain more fructose than table sugar or honey (hence the name),  agave nectar which is often categorized as a “natural” sweetener contains even more.  It doesn’t get much attention because it’s not currently being used to sweeten thousands of packaged foods, but that could change.  Back in the 70’s sugar (sucrose) was villainized for being an anti-nutrient and for causing health problems.  HFCS swooped in and saved the day.  Now studies are showing that it’s worse than the sugar it replaced.  However, we shouldn’t let this cloud the fact that fructose is present in almost all concentrated sweeteners and as a society we are consuming far too much of it in one form or another and the consequences are becoming devastatingly apparent.

    According to Robert Lustig, MD, fructose is poison!  Dr. Lustig is the Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, in the Division of Endocrinology and the Director of the Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health Program as UCSF.   He is a nationally-recognized authority in the field of neuroendocrinology, with a specific emphasis on the regulation of energy balance by the central nervous system.  Believe me when I tell you that he is not using this word lightly, nor is he trying to be dramatic.  He means poison in the true sense of the word.  Fructose is a toxic substance that is metabolized by the liver alone.  Unlike glucose (the sugar that fuels the body) which is metabolized by all organs of the body, fructose is sent directly to the liver,  just like alcohol and other substances that we universally recognize as poisons!

    Back to the idea of moderation.  Can the liver deal with small amounts of fructose like that found in fruit or a glass of wine?  Of course!  That’s it’s job.  The problem is, the quantities and the rate of fructose hitting the liver is often too much for it to handle.  In the case of HFCS, the entire burden falls on the liver so the pancreas continues to secrete insulin which eventually leads to insulin resistance, uncontrollable blood glucose, weight gain (usually around the middle), high blood pressure & cholesterol, and a whole host of other serious health risks known as metabolic syndrome.

    How Did We Get Here?
    Over the last 100 years we have moved further and further away from a whole food diet.  Food processing companies are billion dollar industries and somewhere along the way they figured out that sugar sells more food and HFCS is the cheapest of the sweeteners!  HFCS also increases shelf life. Win-Win!  For them anyway.  Meanwhile our children are getting addicted to sugar as young as 6 months old because fructose, like other drugs, affects brain chemistry.  It tricks the hormones that give hunger and satiation cues and causes you to crave more sugar.  As with other addictive drugs, the body habituates and over time you need more and more to get the same sugar high.  Food processing companies know this and they know exactly what they are doing when they add HFCS and MSG to bread and salad dressing and ketchup.  Sadly, there is no one to stop them.  Once again food politics comes into play.  The FDA and the ADA stand back and watch as our children suffer from conditions that were once reserved for those over 60.  In fact they perpetuate nutritional lies…

    The American Dietetic Association (ADA) [annual conference] is partnered with and sponsored by junk-food industry giants, including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Mars and Kellogg.

    During one of the presentation “titled “A Fresh Look At Processed Foods,”…
    the speakers actually gave the message that processed foods are an important part of the American diet to be consumed along with fresh produce! (source)

    So it’s up to us as sons and daughters, as mothers and fathers, as friends and partners to put a stop to this madness.  I’m going to continue to post about sugar all week and I hope to provide a bit of guidance and a bit of inspiration for those who want to make a change in their own diet.  It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.  “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  It’s never too late!

    Eat Well, Be Well,

    For very interesting accounts of the history, politics and health risks of sugar try these books.

    Related Research

    Fast Food, Central Nervous System Insulin Resistance, and Obesity

    Fructose: Metabolic, Hedonic, and Societal Parallels with Ethanol.

    High Sugar Consumption May Increase Risk Factors for Heart Disease in American Teenagers

    A Sweet Problem: Princeton Researchers Find that High-Fructose Corn Syrup Prompts Considerably More Weight Gain

    Consuming Fructose-Sweetened, Not Glucose-Sweetened, Beverages Increases Visceral Adiposity and Lipids and Decreases Insulin Sensitivity in Overweight/Obese Humans

    Debunking Soy

    Some of the many faces of soy.

    Since the early 1980’s soy has been promoted as a health food in the US.  I personally jumped on the soy bandwagon and for many years used soy as my main source of protein.  I learned the hard way that this supposed “health food” should be handled with care.

    Since the 80’s folks have begun to question the health benefits of soy…and with good reason.  People on high soy diets often end up sick!  This sickness can run the gamut from fatigue and weight gain all the way up to infertility and cancer.  I fell into one of these groups and learning the truth about soy was perhaps my first peek into the world of politically driven nutrition. 

    The Soy Controversy
    Depending on what health expert you ask, you may learn that soy causes or prevents cancer or heart disease.  You may hear that it disrupts endocrine function or that it supports it.  You may be counseled to eat it or to avoid it.  It’s incredibly frustrating!  Hopefully this information will help you to make a more educated decision.

    Here are the facts not in question:

    1. 90% – 95% of soy on the market is GMO (and that’s enough to make me want to stay away from it!)
    2. Soy is the second largest cash crop in the US, worth over $30 billion, so there is a lot of money to be gained (or lost) by convincing us that soy is our friend.
    3. In 2006, the American Heart Association reversed it’s position on soy saying that research does not show that soy decreases cholesterol or prevents heart disease.  However, the FDA holds tight to it’s nutritional claims about soy (subsidized science at work once again!?!).
    4. Soy is in many, many processed foods including bread, soup, tomato sauce, salad dressing.
    5. Soy contains phytic acid which is known to block the absorption of other nutrients.
    6. Other countries have begun to warn against excessive soy intake and require warning labels on soy foods.
    7. Other countries have recommend highly restricted, medically monitored use of soy for babies and for pregnant women.
    8. Soy is known to produce estrogenic isoflavones.
    9. Soy contains goitrogens.

    Here’s what’s in dispute (though there is plenty of research to support these claims):

    1. Goitrogens in soy are inhibitors of thyroid function and cause hypothyroidism which leads to weight gain, fatigue and loss of libido (among other symptoms).
    2. Isoflavones (a class of phytoestrogens) in soy have adverse affects on fertility and increase breast cancer risk because they occupy estrogen receptor sites and therefore interfere with hormone production.
    3. Soybean oil has disproportionate amount of omega 6 fatty acids which may lead to health problems (if out of balance with omega 3 fatty acids).

    Soy and Babies
    Based on current research, countries such as Israel and France advise that babies should be given no soy and that children up to age 18 should consume it no more than 3x/week.  Meanwhile, in the US 20% of formula fed babies are living on soy based formula.  I don’t know how many this equates to, but that’s a lot of babies sucking down “milk” with estrogen levels 20,000 times higher than birth control pills.  The problems with early soy consumption don’t often show up until puberty, with girls entering far too early and boys being significantly delayed and sometimes not beginning puberty at all without endocrine therapy.

    I do know how challenging breast feeding can be and I also know how frustrating it is to have a sensitive baby who is unable to tolerate milk based formula, but there are other options!  If all else fails, consider making your own formula.  There are some wonderful protocols available that provide optimal nutrition for a little one and I promise you that you will take more time and care in making this formula than any formula company.  (Really, it seems that a year doesn’t go by that I don’t hear about a recall for some infant formula.) Consequently, your homemade formula will be safer and more nourishing than anything you can buy.

    Everything in Moderation
    So am I telling you to avoid soy at all costs?  No!  I personally do because I know that I am very sensitive to it and for that reason I rarely give it to my children either, but I’ll be the first to admit that sushi just isn’t the same without a side of edamame.  Fermented soy foods such as soy sauce, miso, and tempeh don’t contain nearly as many nasties as processed soy like tofu, soy milk and soy protein powders (which are the most heavily processed and usually contain hidden MSG as well as heavy metals).  The fermentation process helps to break down some of the goitrogens, isoflavones and phytic acid, so these may be a good options for your family if you can’t live without your soy.

    Bottom line…the research on soy is mixed and inconsistent, so you have to ask yourself if this is a risk you are willing to take for yourself and your family.  Another good question:  Do the benefits outweigh the risks?  While there are organic, whole soy foods available, most Americans’ excessive soy intake comes from highly processed, genetically modified foods, so the answer is most likely “No!”.  These are foods that we can all stand to limit, and the good news is it’s easy!   Although soy may sneak into your diet in unexpected places like soup and bread, soy isn’t sneaky like MSG.  It is a highly allergenic food and must be labeled clearly, so if you chose to avoid it or reduce your intake it should be pretty simple.  Just look for the allergy warning on the package.

    Within the context of a rich and varied diet, a little soy now and then is probably not a bad thing (and maybe even beneficial), but once again ad men and spin doctors have convinced us that something potentially harmful is good for us and we have over indulged.   Take another step toward improving your family’s health…read your labels and keep your soy intake to a minimum.  Your perfectly estrogenized teenagers will thank you for it!

    Eat Well, Be Well,

    Here is a summary of the many dangers of soy from the WAPF website.  Visit their site for additional information and evidence based research.

    • High levels of phytic acid in soy reduce assimilation of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. Phytic acid in soy is not neutralized by ordinary preparation methods such as soaking, sprouting and long, slow cooking. High phytate diets have caused growth problems in children.
    • Trypsin inhibitors in soy interfere with protein digestion and may cause pancreatic disorders. In test animals soy containing trypsin inhibitors caused stunted growth.
    • Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and to promote breast cancer in adult women.
    • Soy phytoestrogens are potent antithyroid agents that cause hypothyroidism and may cause thyroid cancer. In infants, consumption of soy formula has been linked to autoimmune thyroid disease.
    • Vitamin B12 analogs in soy are not absorbed and actually increase the body’s requirement for B12.
    • Soy foods increase the body’s requirement for vitamin D.
    • Fragile proteins are denatured during high temperature processing to make soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein.
    • Processing of soy protein results in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines.
    • Free glutamic acid or MSG, a potent neurotoxin, is formed during soy food processing and additional amounts are added to many soy foods.
    • Soy foods contain high levels of aluminum which is toxic to the nervous system and the kidneys.

    Also check out the book:

    Feed a Cold…Love a Fever!

    As parents, we all know that fevers can be scary. The first time your little one’s temperature rises, your anxiety rises right along with it.  Terms like “febrile seizure” and “permanent brain damage” flood your mind and then the majority of us reach for the Tylenol or Motrin…or rush to the ER where they immediately administer a dose where the sun don’t shine.  Yes, I know this from experience.  When my second child was only four months old (and while we were on vacation) she came down with 104+ fever.  So, like responsible parents, we headed to the closest ER where they probed and prodded and x-rayed and “cathed” and otherwise tortured our little sweetie trying to find the “source of infection.”  We were sent on our way a few hours later when the fever broke and told that it was probably just a virus that had run its course.  They did what they needed to do.  I know that.  And they actually did a remarkable job considering that they were dealing with a tiny, screaming infant and two rather panicked parents.  But if I knew then what I know now, I’m not sure I would have been so quick to take her in the first place.

    Last month I went to a health and nutrition conference in Baltimore, MD.  Dr. Thomas Cowanwas one of the presenters and he gave a lecture called “Treating Acute Quality Health at Home.”  This presentation was about the therapeutic nature of  fever.  Dr. Cowan discussed in great detail the work of William B. Coley, MD, the attending bone surgeon from 1893 – 1936 at Memorial Hospital in New York City (now Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center).  After losing his first patient, Dr. Coley did a record review of 100 patients who had been treated for bone cancer.  He realized pretty quickly that the treatments weren’t working.  Almost everyone was dying either during treatment or shortly after being released.   What Coley discovered was that the only people who were experiencing total remission were those who developed bacterial infections following surgery and subsequently had high fevers over long periods of time (we’re talking over a month here…remember there were no antibiotics at this time to treat infection). 
    After this revelation, Dr. Coley began purposely exposing his patients to streptococcus bacteria to produce erysipelas (a superficial bacterial skin infection characterized by fever, chills, fatigue, anorexia, and vomiting). About 20% of his patients never got the infection (due to prior immunity most likely), but of the 80% of patients who did get erysipelas, 50% were completely cured from the sarcoma.  Unfortunately, the other 50% died from the erysipelas.   Because of this “collateral damage” Dr. Coley developed a more controlled cocktail using  attenuated viruses along with enzymes, proteins, non-pathogenic organisms and other viruses.  This proprietary blend was named “Coley’s Toxin” and it was used to successfully treat cancer in the US for over 40 years.  Different formulations with varying degrees of effectiveness were produced until 1953 by the Parke Davis, Buxton and Tracy Pharmaceutical Company.  (source)
    Up until recently, a handful of doctors in the US were still using Coley’s Toxin to treat cancer patients who either had extremely advanced cancer and were out of options or who had Stage I cancer and were not in a rush to begin traditional treatment.  Unfortunately, Coley’s Toxin is no longer allowed to be brought into the US.  However, this work is still being done outside of the US in Mexico, Guatemala, Germany and China.
    I know that cancer is a serious subject and I would never question anyone’s choices for treatment when faced with this disease.  Nor would I pretend for a moment to know the best course of action, but I do now wonder if we are being told about all of our options.
    “Give me the power to create a fever
    and I will cure any disease.”

    Dr. Cowan also talked a bit about fevers in children and allayed the fears of many members of the audience.  According to him, febrile seizures are fairly common and completely harmless.   The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports that,  “There is no evidence that short febrile seizures cause brain damage. Large studies have found that children with febrile seizures have normal school achievement and perform as well on intellectual tests as their siblings who don’t have seizures.” Dr. Cowan encouraged parents to let their children “sweat it out” telling us that anti-pyretic drugs actually prolong the disease while fever strengthens cell mediated immunity (the immune function necessary to fight cancer!). He finished by emphasizing that doctors should “treat the disease not the therapy,” and reminded us that fever is a therapy (as is pus, inflammation, cough, etc.).
    I realize that this post has nothing to do with food and it is definitely outside of my normal scope.  However, this subject has been on my mind for the past month and I really wanted to share it.  I also realize that until I’m in a high fever situation again I have no idea how I’ll actually respond, but I am fortunate to have a pediatrician that is an advocate of letting the body do it’s job and only medicating when a child is so uncomfortable that he or she can’t rest.  So I hope that in the heat of the moment I’ll be able to keep my cool (pun totally intended) and remember that fevers (scary as they may be) serve an important function in the body’s healing response.

    For more information about Coley’s Toxin check out these sources
    MD Anderson Cancer Center
    MBVax Bioscience
    Eat Well, Be Well,

    Debunking Cholesterol and Heart Disease

    I’ve been trying to do a post on cholesterol and heart disease since I started this blog.  Every time I got rolling on it I would get off track and find myself doing more research on a related topic.  My point is, this is a really involved subject and it’s surrounded by 60 years of politics and damage control.  A friend passed this article on to me earlier today and it’s truly the best written summary of the real cause of our country’s health crisis. This doctor has seen the inside of the human body over 5000 times and he’s on our team.  Here is his account of what really causes heart disease and what we can do to prevent it and undo the damage of a politically correct low fat, high carb diet!
    “The injury and inflammation in our blood vessels is caused by the low fat diet recommended for years by mainstream medicine.” -Dr. Dwight Lundell 

    World Renown Heart Surgeon Speaks
    Out On What Really Causes Heart Disease

    Eat Well, Be Well,


    Debunking GMO

    You’ve probably heard the acronym GMO by now and depending on the context, you might even have gotten the feeling that this is a pretty objectionable thing…or at least a controversial topic.  For those of you new to the concept,  GMO stands for “genetically modified organism.”  “GM foods” refer to foods that contain ingredients that have been genetically modifiedin some way.  This means that genes from one organism are transferred into another organism creating a sort of Franken-seed (in the case of GM crops.) Often these modifications are made so that the seed/crop is resistant to pests or the elements.  “The foreign genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans (source).”  Foods that are often genetically modified include soy, cotton, canola, corn and sugar as well as food additives and dairy products & meat from animals fed GM feed. 
    So what?  Well aside from the fact that corn engineered with hepatitis virus genes is just weird, much independent research exists linking GM foods to diseases and disorders that have been increasing (seemingly exponentially) for the last decade or so.  Have you ever asked yourself  “Why do so many kids have food allergies these day?” or “Why does it seem like so many couples have fertility issues?”  Well then you also need to ask yourself what has changed over the last 20 years.  One big change is GM food!  “First introduced in the mid-90s, GMOs are now present in the vast majority of processed foods in the US. While they are banned as food ingredients in Europe and elsewhere, the FDA does not even require the labeling of GMOs in food ingredient lists.”

    Still saying, “so what?”  Well, in 2009, after over a decade of GM food consumption, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) stated that, “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with genetically modified (GM) food, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM has asked physicians to advise all patients to avoid GM foods.” (source)  

    Even FDA scientists feel that more research is needed, reporting that GM foods “could lead to unpredictable and hard to detect allergens, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems.”(source) So why is the FDA approving GM foods?  The FDA relies on subsidized science from companies that have a vested interest in the outcome of said “science.”   Many of these companies actually have former employees working for the FDA and they are no doubt making large donations to someone!

    On top of health issues involved with GMOs, there are also a host of environmental risks associated with this process including cross pollination, toxicity, and “super weeds” to name a few.  But perhaps the biggest disgrace of this GMO nonsense is that food is not labeled as such.  Occasionally companies will do us the courtesy of labeling their foods “Non-GMO” but there are no requirements for labeling foods that do contain GMOs.  Why?  Because if consumers had that information they might educate themselves and begin to demand food that isn’t contaminated!  Monsanto and the government would lose a lot of money…and we can’t have that now can we?!?

    Farmers and others disgusted by Monsanto’s questionable ethics and business practices have begun to wage a small war against this patent monopolizing bully.  But they are huge and corrupt and have a foot in the door of the FDA…so this is not going to be an easy one.  In a recent court case brought against Monsanto on behalf of organic farmers, seed growers and citizens, the plaintiffs sought legal protection from Monsanto should their crops become contaminated (through cross pollination) by neighboring crops using GMO seeds.  See, Monsanto has a bad reputation of picking on the little guy and they’ve been known to sue farms (to the point of putting them out of business) who don’t use their seeds claiming that these farms essentially infringed their patent.  In actuality, these farms were hijacked by the Franken-seeds!  Sadly, the judge dismissed the case.  Another big victory for Monsanto.  I really hope that this group has the courage (and the money) to appeal.

    If  you want to read more about this case, here’s a great blog post.  When I posted it on my facebook page early today, a friend responded saying, “We’re planting heirloom seeds and growing shrubs and vegetables organically and to think that if my garden was of a reasonable size and per chance CONTAMINATED by chem farm big business I could be sued. This Country needs to grow a set of organic balls and rise up to destroy the Monopolistic entity that brought us DDT and various other known carcinogens. There are plenty of people who have tried to take a stand, but individually failed…time to group together and take em down!”  I couldn’t have said it better myself!

    It’s Fight Back Friday

    Eat Well, Be Well,


    • Here is an amazing GMO brochure that you can use to help educate yourself and others.
    • For a more comprehensive list of health issues associated with GMOs, click here
    • Click here for a more comprehensive list of food and non-food items that are often genetically modified.  Better yet download the free ShopNoGMO app on your iPhone.

    Also check out the following books by Jeffrey Smith:

    Decoding Food Labels II: MSG

    I know almost immediately when I’ve eaten something containing MSG!  After one bite I get the distinct feeling that I could eat the entire bag, box… whatever.  I scan the label and sure enough find monosodium glutamate or hydrolyzed protein or glutamic acid or glutamate or monopotassium glutamate or calcium glutamate or monoammonium glutamate or yeast extract…you get the idea!  It’s a sneaky little ingredient that goes by many names.1  Those listed above are just a few actually.  So why does it need to be so devious?

    MSG was developed in Japan in the early 1900s but came on the market in the US in the 1940s.  In the late 1950s scientists began doing research on the effects of MSG.   Severe intolerance and toxic reactions were reported in humans and far worse effects were found in laboratory animals.  In the 70s the glutamate industry organized and began doing some major damage control.  They formed several nonprofits and funded their own research to “prove” that MSG was safe.  Based on these extremely biased studies, MSG currently has GRAS status by the FDA.  GRAS means “generally recognized as safe.”  I don’t know about you, but this phrase does not fill me with confidence.  The FDA is a government organization, and sadly food (and pharma) lobbies have the cash to influence those who decide what we can and should eat.  In my opinion GRAS status is cop out.  The FDA can’t really be held responsibly because they never actually said it was safe.  Meanwhile trusting Americans are consuming large amounts of a known toxin.

    In 1969, John W. Olney, M.D. published a paper on his MSG research in which he described the “hypothalamic lesions, stunted skeletal development, and obesity in maturing mice which had been given the food ingredient “monosodium glutamate” as neonates. Olney also commented on observed pathological changes found in several brain regions associated with endocrine function in maturing mice.”

    “Since 1969, many scientists have confirmed Dr. Olney’s findings of damage to the hypothalamus from MSG with resulting obesity. Go to the National Library of Medicine website,, and type in “monosodium glutamate, obesity” (without the quotation marks). As of May 13, 2004, you’ll find 151 studies listed in addition to Dr. Olney’s study.”2

    Jack Samuels of reports that “neuroscientists believe that the young and the elderly are most at risk from MSG. In the young, the blood-brain barrier is not fully developed, exposing the brain to increased levels of MSG that has entered the bloodstream.  The elderly are at increased risk because the blood-brain barrier can be damaged by aging, by disease processes, or by injury, including hypertension, diabetes, hypoglycemia, and stroke. Throughout life, the blood-brain barrier is “leaky” at best. MSG has now been implicated in a number of the neurodegenerative diseases, including ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Huntington’s disease.”3

    Buyer Beware:  Not only is MSG present (in some form) in most processed foods, but it can also be found in shampoo, sunblock and insect repellant.  It is sprayed on many crops (including some organic crops) and in this case it will not be listed on any product label.

    My advice…do your best to avoid this ingredient and take another step toward improving your health.  Here is a great printable to fold up and put in your purse or wallet as a shopping guide.

    Eat Well, Be Well,

    For more information on MSG
    1.  Truth In Labeling
    2.  Weston A. Price Foundation
    3.  Weston A. Price Foundation

    Decoding Food Labels Part I: “Natural Flavors”

    Even before I really started thinking about food, I was a label reader.  I didn’t really know what I was reading most of the time, but still I read labels and I had a rule.  I called it the “rule of three.”  If I was reading a food label and there were three ingredients that I didn’t recognize I would put that item back and keep shopping.   In my naivety, I always passed over “natural flavors” assuming that it was lemon juice or cinnamon.  I really thought that it was a safe, natural ingredient.  Boy was I wrong.  The exact definition of natural flavorings and flavors from Title 21, Section 101, part 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations is as follows:

    “The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”

    Strawberry Cereal Bar Label

    Still sort of confusing, I know.  Those optimists among us may still say, “could be lemon juice.”  The fact is you’ll probably never know exactly what it means, because “natural flavor” ingredients are protected as “trade secrets” or “proprietary information.”  Here’s the truth.  There is absolutely nothing natural about natural flavoring.  Unlike lemon juice, you can’t make this at home.  Just like artificial flavors, natural flavors are created in a laboratory by food scientists mixing chemicals, and the flavor industry is a billion dollar industry. 

    According to a Scientific America interview with Gary Reineccius, professor of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota, “When making a flavor, the flavorist always begins by going to the scientific literature and researching what chemicals nature uses to make the desired flavor. He then selects from the list of flavor components found in, say, real apples, generally simplifying nature’s list to eliminate those chemicals that make little contribution to taste or are not permitted owing to toxicity. (Nature has no restrictions on using toxic chemicals, whereas the flavorist does.) The flavorist then either chooses chemicals that are natural (isolated from nature as described above) or synthetic chemicals (made by people) to make the flavor.”   The interview goes on to say, “Artificial flavorings are simpler in composition and potentially safer because only safety-tested components are utilized.”

    While I’m sure that statement was supposed to set our minds at ease, it made me hit the panic button when I read it several years ago.  Here I’d been avoiding artificial flavors for years because I was adequately convinced that they’re toxic, meanwhile I was buying foods filled with natural flavors that might be less safe.  What’s a mom to do?!?

    Well, here’s my opinion.  There seems to be a lot of grey area when it comes to flavors (natural and artificial).  But what we can tell for sure is that any flavoring ingredient is the mark of a highly processed food; a food that needs flavoring because without it, it wouldn’t taste good!  (Keep in mind here that flavors are very different from spices.)  While these flavors are “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the FDA,  they are made from petroleum and one of its byproducts, benzene, a flammable colorless, carcinogenic, sweet-smelling, liquid solvent.  They release gasses when we eat a food and those gasses (through the olfactory sense, not the taste buds) flavor our food. That just doesn’t sit right with me and sometimes you just have to trust your gut!  Whether or not they are harmful I may never know, but one thing I can be certain of…they aren’t helpful!  If I really think about the small number of calories that my little ones consume in a day, why would I knowingly want any of them to come from questionable ingredients?  I can do better than that!

    Eat Well, Be Well,

    Some other books on the subject: