Tuesday, February 18, 2014



8 Most Common Food Allergies and the Foods to Avoid

Posted: 18 Feb 2014 12:43 PM PST

Food allergies are common, especially among children, and they range in severity. So if something feels off, it may be more than a mood swing. Perhaps what you are eating is contributing to your low energy levels, persistent stomach pain or a recurring rash. Here are 8 foods to avoid if you think you may have a food allergy.

Any food can be allergenic, depending on the individual. If your body develops antibodies that cannot process certain elements, usually a type of protein of a certain food, then your immune system will react, causing all sorts of uncomfortable symptoms. Even something as harmless as a piece of fruit could be allergenic.

The US Food and Drug Administration lists these 8 ingredients that contribute to some 90 percent of all food allergies. Try eliminating the following top-8 allergenic foods, one at a time, to weed out the culprit. They are foods to avoid if you feel like something you are eating may be causing your body to adversely react. Minimize or avoid the guilty suspect once you uncover it.

1. Milk

The most common among children and infants, milk allergy, is an immune reaction to the milk protein casein. This is different than lactose intolerance, which is when the inability to digest lactose, which is found in milk. Many people have a milk allergy and don't even realize it, because milk is such a mainstay in most people's diets and we are often conditioned to look at it as a health food.

2. Eggs

Also a very common ailment, egg allergies are more common children. However, it can continue into adulthood. Those with an egg allergy have antibodies that react to one of the four hen egg proteins inherent in the egg white: ovomucoid, ovalbumin, ovotransferrin and lysozyme. Egg yolk allergies are more common among adults. Children often grow out of their allergy. If only allergic to the egg white or egg yolk exclusively, you may be able to opt for the other. Some people are sensitive to egg in all its forms – raw, easy, or over-easy – while others only exhibit an allergic reaction when an egg is in its raw state.

3. Peanuts

Recently, experimental therapy has allowed children with peanut allergies to eat nuts. This highly-controlled study fed children small amounts of peanut flour to the point that they were able to eat a handful of nuts without trouble. While the results are promising, please don't try this at home! Peanut allergies affect 1/50 children around the world, mostly in high-income countries. It is the most common cause of fatality due to an allergic reaction. The exact cause of a peanut allergy is unknown and may be connected to prenatal diet.

4. Tree Nuts

Like peanuts, which is a legume, tree nuts too can also incite allergic reactions. Approximately 9 percent of children with a tree nut allergy will grow out of it. Tree nuts include walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, chestnuts, macadamia nuts and Brazil nuts.

5. Fish

The most common finned fish allergies are salmon, tuna and halibut. The majority of those who are allergic to one kind of fish are often allergic to another one. Some unexpected sources of fish include Caesar salad and dressing, Worcestershire sauce, bouillabaisse, imitation or artificial fish, meatloaf, barbecue sauce, and caponata. More common than a fish allergy, however, is an adverse reaction to fish consumption due to toxins and parasites.

6. Shellfish

Shellfish are often thrown under the "fish" category, but are actually in a realm of their own. The main shellfish allergen is tropomyosin. Ingredients added during processing can also cause adverse reactions. A shellfish allergy can be fatal, so tread carefully.

7. Soy

Soy allergy tends to happen in early childhood. Fifty percent of the time, though, children will outgrow it by age 7. While soy is often painted as a healthy vegan protein, soybeans can be toxic and are heavily processed. They also can cause allergic reactions, especially among children. Sources of soy include edamame, miso, natto, shoyu, soy-based products (yogurt, mock meat, ice cream, milk, sprouts, cheese, and grits), soya, soybean curd, soybean granules, soy sauce, tamari, tempeh, and tofu.

8. Wheat

Also most prevalent among children, wheat allergy often persists into adolescence. Wheat allergy occurs in those who have developed a specific antibody to one or more proteins in wheat, which include albumin, globulin, gliadin, and gluten.

The Truth About Soy and Tofu

Posted: 18 Feb 2014 12:43 PM PST

I cook for a mostly dairy-free family, and when I browse for recipes for creamy dishes without the dairy, I often come across some that rely on soy-based foods such as tofu. They sound tempting, but despite the convenience, I rarely eat unfermented soy.

For the uninitiated, soy falls into two broad categories, fermented and unfermented. Unfermented soy includes soy milk, soy nuts, tofu and soy infant formula; fermented soy includes tamari, miso, natto, tempeh, pickled tofu and various fermented pastes used in a variety of Asian cooking techniques. Knowing the difference will help you navigate recipes — and understand why I avoid the unfermented kind. Here's my rationale:

1. Soy is generally genetically modified.
There are a lot of good reasons to avoid genetically modified foods, and soy is one of the most common crops to be genetically modified. Somewhere upwards of 90 percent of the soybean crop is genetically modified. If you want to avoid GMOs, than you will need to avoid most soy products. (I buy organic soy sauce/tamari and natto, for this reason).

2. Unfermented soy contains high amounts of anti-nutrients
Unfermented soy includes anti-nutrients, such as phytate, which can literally block your body from absorbing nutrients. While soy milk may be high in calcium, the anti-nutrients in it can mean that you don't get the benefits. You can read some of the research I did on the subject of the anti-nutrient, phytic acid.

3. A diet heavy in soy could lead to hormonal imbalances (which could lead to hormonal-driven cancers)

When I first started researching anti-cancer diets years ago, I read a book by a doctor who researched and conducted trials in prevention of breast cancer. One of the chapters in his book presented the sometimes confusing and conflicting research on soy and breast cancer. According to him, too much soy seems to increase your chances of getting breast cancer, and just a little soy in your diet increases it as well. According to him, you had to get the perfect medium in the middle for anti-cancer effects. Good luck on that.

Since then, other research has continued to feed concern regarding soy and cancer. Just one example out of many is a study that showed that women who start to eat soy as adults may derail their cancer treatment. Soy contains isoflavones that mimic estrogen, which some research says is helpful in preventing hormone-driven cancers, while other research shows it can increase your chances of getting cancer. Using soy to prevent cancer is a gamble since there are so many conflicting conclusions from studies.

So what to eat?
I personally follow the Weston A Price Foundation's guidelines for eating soy. I only eat organic soy (to avoid pesticides and GMOs) and fermented soy (to reduce anti-nutrients) in small amounts. I enjoy tamari (gluten-free soy sauce), miso, natto, and every once in awhile, tempeh.

If you're interested in reading more about these topics, check out these resources, which I found helpful:

Farmacology: What Business Can Learn From Sustainable Farming

Posted: 18 Feb 2014 12:42 PM PST

Medical and business communities can take surprising lessons from farming and improve employee well-being and productivity.

Frustrated that conventional medicine had little to offer many of her patients, Daphne Miller, a practicing physician and professor of family medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, decided to take a look at how human health is affected by other natural systems. This led her on a journey of family farms, where she wandered through henhouses, carted produce, and dug in the dirt.

Miller's findings, gathered in her book, transformed her thinking about stress, resilience to disease, and how a systems thinking approach in the medical community could save money and enhance people's health. The lessons she found hold insights for the health of business too. Can companies use the vital signs of farms to measure their own well-being? And how do externalities help drive greater sustainability?

Why should a doctor think like a farmer?

Agriculture has everything to do with medicine. In fact, I've come to see the divisions between the two disciplines as mostly artificial and arbitrary, and am now convinced that a farm internship should be a required part of medical training, and vice versa.

First, there's the direct connection between the farms where our food is grown and our bodies. Many of us are familiar with the headline-catching links between industrial farming and our physical health: superbugs spawned on large-scale dairies and cattle operations that threaten to infect us, or the chemical runoff that contaminates our drinking water. But beyond these issues, we pay little attention to how decisions made on a farm, [for instance] the choice of seed [or] soil management, positively or negatively affect our bodies.

My time spent learning from farmers and researchers has made me think beyond food as medicine to farm as medicine. I've learned how healthy soil can produce a healthy immune system, how microbes on the farm can communicate with our resident microbes – our microbiome – how certain grazing practices can produce food that stress-proofs our nervous system, how the terroir in which an herb is grown can influence its medicinal value, or how inner-city farming delivers unexpected health benefits to the surrounding community.

I also discovered that farming at its best offers a radically new way to think about health and healing. For example, the integrated pest management approach used by a winery in Sonoma gave a group of oncology researchers a more ecological way to understand and treat cancer.

Of two organic egg farms, you say that the one with higher production is the less sustainable. What does this tell us about hidden costs?

The farms taught me how we value short-term productivity at the expense of overall health. The conventional egg farm has higher laying rates and the hens produce larger eggs than the neighboring pasture-based egg farm. But when you take a whole host of factors into account, such as egg taste and quality, market price, fossil fuel inputs, worker health, hen health and environmental health, you realize that pasture-raised is the healthier, more sustainable option.

I often see this thinking applied to human productivity. Many of my patients work for companies where the work ethic is one of intense competition, with 60-80-hour work weeks, all in the name of greater annual profits. They tell me they rarely take vacations and wouldn't dream of exercising during their lunch break, as that would be interpreted as a lack of dedication to their job.

These patients mortgage their health in order to maximize their work performance and their revenue; they pull all-nighters, skip meals, eat food that offers fuel but few nutrients, use caffeine to stay awake and then alcohol to go to sleep, and rarely move their bodies except to hop on a plane or walk from desk to car. This approach is not sustainable and eventually leads to chronic health problems, including high blood pressure and blood sugar, weight gain, depression, anxiety and sleep apnea.

Not surprisingly, newer research is showing that this is as unhealthy for businesses as it is for individuals. Maximally taxing employees translates into lower work performance and, in the long term, less financial success.

You make an analogy between factory farming and factory medicine. What are the implications for managing healthcare costs?

Eighty percent of health expenditures in the US are spent within the four walls of a medical institution, and they are spent treating disease. This is consistent with the factory model: consolidate and streamline your efforts for maximal impact. But farm health and human health are not just a matter or treating disease, just as business health is not just a matter of tackling problems. I would argue that in all these sectors our money is much better spent on nurturing our environment – our air, our soil, our social institutions, our educational resources – than on fixing end-stage problems.

You say your farm odyssey gave you a new understanding of "vital signs". Can you explain?

I was fascinated to learn what farmers consider the "vital signs" of a healthy farm ecology: diversity, synergy, and redundancy.

Diversity means not just variability in crops, but also in the populations of microbes and other life forms on the land. Synergy – the whole being greater than the sum of the parts – is why a given farm's success cannot be predicted simply by looking at its discrete components. Redundancy, or self-sameness, describes the emergence of specific designs within each organism and throughout an entire ecosystem. Recurring patterns are a sign of a system's resilience: in the event of a failure, one part can provide backup.

These vital signs – diversity, synergy, and redundancy – are rarely discussed within medicine, but I now see them as helpful ways to describe a healthy human. My friends in business who've read Farmacology tell me that these same vital signs have given them a useful way to assess the health of their company.

Judith D Schwartz is the author of Cows Save the Planet and Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth. More information on Daphne Miller's book, Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us about Health & Healing, can be found here.

Kale, That Special Someone

Posted: 18 Feb 2014 09:04 AM PST


Finding that special someone is not an easy task. You may try out all different types before you settle on one, if you settle at all! This Valentine's Day treat yourself (and possibly a romantic partner) to your favorite type of kale. There's more than one you ask? Yes, yes my friends, there is more than one type of kale. Each type is exactly how we like 'em – rich, health conscious, and the talk of the town.

Curly Kale: At the top of the popularity chain, it's known for its distinct qualities. A little ruffled around the edges, but easy to chop when fresh. Some like 'em younger, and we can't blame them! The older they get the more bitter to the taste. Yeah, you can say that again.

Lacinato Kale (aka Dinosaur Kale): Don't be turned off by the slightly wrinkly and firm touch. It is sweeter and more delicate than the curly kind, and holds its texture even after a match with the frying pan! These dark blue-green leaves may be the match for you.

Red Russian Kale: It's always blushing, but can you blame it? Its red and purple leaves are often described as sweet, yet mild, with a bit of peppery-ness. Be sure to avoid its stem though. Unless you're looking for a stomach ache – it's hard to swallow!

Redbor Kale: Last but not least, is the most colorful of the bunch. Known for its looks, the deep red and purple leaves make for a great trophy plant! Yes it is edible, but it doesn't hurt to sit and stare at each other before bringing out the cutting board.

Be sure to test out each type before making any hasty decisions. You'll never know what you're missing out on, unless you step out of your comfort zone! KALE UP!
[via WPRawl]

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