Combatting Illness and Disorder with Diet
May 18 2015

Combatting Illness and Disorder with Diet

By: Jhesika Menes

How and what to eat to combat environmental and seasonal triggers, as well as mental disorders brought on by chemical imbalance, has been a long-studied topic. Sadly, no programs exist to support public education on the subject, and as long as the pharmaceutical industry keeps providing kickbacks, patient care will fall by the wayside as doctors prescribe medicines that get them paid rather than cure the sick. According to Forbes.com, “The pharmaceutical industry will reap between 10 and 35 billion dollars thanks to the Affordable Health Care Act.” Now, not every physician is out to get you. In light of health care reform and other changes in protocol, more doctors are going into private practice or changing the way they perform. Today, holistic therapies are to the medical field what vegan cake, bee pollen and coconut milk are to the culinary marketplace, and you’ll be surprised how these healthy alternatives can reduce the amount of pharmies in your medicine cabinet.

Foods that combat illness may be hard to find depending on one’s location. Less dense, underdeveloped areas and rural towns may not have access to the Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s markets we health-conscious city folk are accustomed to. Additionally, the cost of eating clean far exceeds the reach of anyone living on a budget, which includes the unemployed, those on welfare assistance, single-parent families and most inner-city urban populations. Compare an affordable junk food snack, like a bag of chips and a soda, to something nutritional, like a banana, granola bar and orange juice. The more nutritious snack will be significantly more expensive. It’s no surprise that farmer and crop worker wages, production costs, transport and the use of whole ingredients contribute to the higher price. Chips are made with corn or potatoes, both hearty crops subject to genetic modification, and the flavoring is mainly created in a lab. Hydrogenated oils (trans fats) and milk solids can’t be harvested, so they are essentially hard to digest. Sodas are the number one abused junk food item in the United States, and the food science documentary Fed Up suggests that sugar is being forced on us to keep us fat and sick. Individuals who drink one to two sugar-sweetened beverages per day have a 26 percent higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes, a disease that keeps American pharmaceutical companies in business. The filmmakers aren’t waging war on sugar, but rather shining a light on the fact that cutting it out of your diet is going to be extremely difficult. Surprise, it’s in almost everything on the market! Therefore, paying close attention to the labels on foods you purchase—even those stamped sugar free and organic—is suggested. 

Individuals who drink one to two sugar-sweetened beverages per day have a 26 percent higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

I preferred agave syrup over sugar until I read an article by Dr. Oz listing his recent concerns with the plant-derived, vegan-friendly sweetener that he once recommended on his show. He says, “It turns out that although agave doesn’t contain a lot of glucose, it contains more fructose than any other common sweetener, including high-fructose corn syrup. Initially, we thought moderate amounts of fructose weren’t unhealthy, but now we know better. When you eat fructose-rich agave, your body doesn't release nearly as much insulin as it does when you eat regular sugar. This can affect how your body releases a hormone called leptin, which helps control appetite. At the same time, experts believe that fructose is converted into fat more rapidly than glucose is. This can lead to several alarming consequences. The first is that people who eat a lot of agave are at risk for weight gain, especially belly fat. The second is that agave may actually increase insulin resistance for both diabetics and non-diabetics.” Dr. Oz suggests that agave-lovers replace their syrup with honey, due to its similar flavor and consistency, and notes that using local honey will actually help you combat allergies.

Roots and herbs have been used for their medicinal properties for thousands of years. Take maca root, for example. The plant, a close relative of the radish, grows on the high plateaus of the Andes mountains in central Peru. The root is dried and milled and cooked into foods, made into smoothies or placed in gel capsules. Known to help with anemia, fatigue, fertility, memory, athletic performance, stamina and energy, it has also been used to treat osteoporosis, depression and stomach cancer. Kava is another herbal remedy that supplies relief for a variety of ailments. Ashley Daily, owner of Euphorbia Kava Bar on Oak Street, has been hip to herbal remedies since she was a teenager, crediting her family with teaching her that the earth provides us with everything we need to stay healthy. Since most of her experience with modern medicine, including basic aspirin, has been negative, she decided to open Euphorbia in September 2013. “I recommend kava to those with depression, anxiety and sleep disorders, but it is used to help relieve bladder infections, headaches, muscle tension, tremors, PMS and menopause. Early studies made claims to liver damage, but the studies were all done on the wrong part of the plant. The only part of the plant to be consumed is the root, so you’ll notice new studies are removing this claim as they appropriately test the root. I highly encourage people with social disorders to give kava a try. It is a healthier, all-natural option that the earth, not a lab, provides. Because kava cannot be heated, it is best used in juices or smoothies.” Ashley’s menu includes several drinks made with coconut milk or almond milk and honey. The basic kava is served with pineapple slices to cleanse the palate. Also on the menu are raw chocolates made with kava.

For those who take medication or drink alcohol, a liver cleanse juice made with beets, cilantro and lemon or lime is a great detox. Juicing provides necessary vitamins and minerals, and The Pressery on Magazine Street is great for shots of pennywort and wheatgrass or the eosinophil-boosting Immunity Plus juice made with apple, lemon, ginger and cayenne. You are what you eat is quite apropos when looking to reduce the need for chemical medicinal compounds. Always wash produce to reduce the transfer of cancer-causing pesticides. Knowing where your food came from and how it was cared for (not treated with hormones or antibiotics), and reading labels on the foods you purchase will help to ensure you’re on the right track.  

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