Written by Sarah Beesley, MHD (Hons) © Sarah Beesley
In my experience, most people assume that when something goes wrong it is due to “something they are eating” and that a “healthy diet” will fix everything. If a healthy diet was indeed the complete solution, I would not get people with excellent eating habits in my office on a weekly basis puzzled as to why they still feel unwell. What I refer to as the “Toxicity Factor” can be a major component of many health problems and when it is, it is rarely identified and addressed adequately.
The toxicity factor refers to the waste load that the body has to process which includes chemicals, metals, waste from microbes that live in us and the wastes produced by our own body processes, combined with the body’s ability to clear that load. This ability is heavily reliant upon the resources that are available to the body in the way of minerals, amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients. If the load coming in is greater than the resources available, detoxification becomes inefficient. When this becomes so, a range of body systems are called on to compensate where they can. If compensation is possible, the overload will go unnoticed by the owner of the body. Where compensation is inadequate, symptoms of a detox log-jam will occur.
The solution to an overloaded detoxification system calls for more than just “doing a detox” and generally goes outside of most people’s understanding of detoxification. The usual “doing a detox” is in my view, a short assault on the body which often taxes the organs involved and does not provide lasting benefit. True detoxification addresses lifestyle factors and the ongoing need of the body for nutrients to carry out the detoxification work it is designed to do on a daily basis. The body is designed to self-clean all the time, but it can’t do this efficiently unless the gear required to carry out the work is provided on an ongoing basis.
In a lot of cases the workload most people’s systems are having to cope with has increased and this is reflected by the fact that allergies and food intolerance, auto-immune diseases, heart disease, diabetes and cancer have been become increasing common in the Western world over the past 60-70 years. This is in spite of medical advancements. Over this time there have also been significant environmental and lifestyle changes which have happened slowly and which have become the “new normal” in many people’s lives. These changes have affected the food people eat, their stress levels and their degree of toxin exposure. Interestingly, countries which have been slower to adopt Western practices have had a slower rate of occurrence of the same health issues.
So What has Changed?
Since the 1940’s the Western World has seen across-the-board introduction of:
- Chemicals in personal care products and cleaning products.
- Synthetic clothing and synthetic or treated building products.
- Synthetic carpets and synthetic or treated furnishings and furniture.
- Food chemicals to “improve” the look, flavour and shelf life of the food.
- Commonly used medications such as antacids, diuretics, antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and steroids.
- The microwave oven.
- Processed sugary and starchy “convenience” foods.
- Processed and refined fats.
- Increased food portion sizes and food availability.
- Things that disrupt human gut flora such as antibiotics, chlorine, herbicides, pesticides, processed food and food chemicals.
- Stimulants such as caffeine, sugar, chocolate, alcohol and tobacco.
- Electromagnetic radiation – electrical wiring, cell phone and computer use.
- Air pollution.
In addition there have also been:
- Changes in how we eat. To “gobble-and-go” has become the norm in many households.
- Expectations that everything (including people) is on demand all day, every day.
- Increases in the level of noise and visual stimulation that we experience daily.
- Decreases in physical activity and regular physical labour.
- Changes in how food is grown, picked, stored and transported.
Why Diet is Often Not Enough
How much nutrition do you think you gain from the food you eat? How well do you think you digest that food? What are your eating habits? Do you eat fast because you have more pressing matters to attend to?
How many of the nutrients from your food do you expend on cleaning up the chemicals, metals, medications, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol and other toxins that are in your lifestyle?
Did you know that 50 percent of your health is your diet and that the other half is determined by your lifestyle, your gut flora, your ability to digest the food you eat, to remove the waste products created by your digestion and to remove the toxins you ingest, absorb and breathe in everyday?
What most of us think of as a “normal” diet today did not exist before the invention of the supermarket and our lifestyles have become similarly altered. Changes are happening at a faster rate than our body’s ability to adapt to those changes.
The primary focus of the current food production industry is money, not well being. Very few (if any) growers spend money on soil testing to check the health and mineral status of their soil. Food is only as good as the soil it is grown in. When soil becomes depleted, so does the food and everything else that stems from that food. Ideally growers should be testing their soil annually and addressing any micro-flora, pH and trace element or mineral imbalances.
Artificial fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides are commonly used to increase the output per acre with little thought as to health of the person or animal eating that food. Fast growth, higher yields and produce that looks good are the order of the day, not nutritional value. Artificial fertilisers and other agricultural chemicals are not designed to replace the trace nutrients drawn from the soil crop after crop and modern farming practices do little to address the gradual decline of soil health in terms of minerals and microbial levels; two things that ultimately determine the health of the food supply. Organic food is generally a lot better because more is being put back into the soil, but if the compost being used has come from animals and plants grown using already depleted soil, these deficiencies just get reinforced. In addition:
- Food is often picked early to avoid spoilage during transportation.
- The use of artificial fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides to ensure crop output reduces the amount of antioxidant and cancer-fighting compounds such as salvesterols which occur naturally in wild or organically grown plant foods.
- We whiten and refine foods to make them more appealing, removing up to three quarters of their nutrient value in doing so.
- Most of the animals we rely on for food are forced to graze on a restricted range of plants and are artificially supported with drenches and medications leading to a change in the quality of their meats and milks. We pasteurize most of our milk which rearranges the protein structure of the milk, making it something that is harder for the body to use.
- Many of our sea foods are either farmed or come from increasingly polluted waters.
- There have also been a significant changes to the level of chemicals present both in our food supply and in our environment.
The end result of these changes has been a reduction in the nutrient density of our food alongside an increase in the number of toxins we experience on a daily basis. Our bodies rely on nutrients to process and remove toxins, and the level of nutrition needs to match the demand.
Whereas people used to eat primarily vegetables, protein foods, herbs and a small amount of fruits, nuts, seeds, unprocessed grains and almost no sugar, we now eat processed grain foods as our primary food, followed by protein foods, sugar and processed fats such as cheese. We eat significantly less in the way of herbs, vegetables and fruits. Even without the changes to our food production, our eating habits in most cases would set us up for a depleted diet.
Think about it. When our bodies become nutrient deficient, changes occur in our body chemistry and in the way we digest food. Our ability to detoxify chemicals and other substances is also affected. This is because digestion, detoxification and all other body processes rely on nutrients.
Here Are Some Stats For You
These were recorded by a notable science team headed by Dr. Henry Schroeder in the 1970’s. A lot has changed since then with the increased processing of our food, the increased use of flavourings and preservatives and the fact that “organic” produce has become the exception rather than the rule. If the changes below were noted back then, it is likely to be same or worse now.
- “The milling of wheat into refined white flour removes 40% of the chromium, 86% of the manganese, 76% of the iron, 89% of the cobalt, 68% of the copper, 78% of the zinc and 48% of the molybdenum, 60% of the calcium, 71% of the phosphorous, 85% of the magnesium and 77% of the potassium.”
- “Refining of raw cane sugar into white sugar removes most (93%) of the ash, and with it goes the trace elements necessary for the metabolism of sugar. 93% of the chromium, 89% of the manganese, 98% of the cobalt, 83% of the copper, 98% of the zinc and 98% of the magnesium. These essential elements are in the residue molasses which is fed to cattle.”
Similar levels of depletion have been repeatedly noted in commercially grown crops worldwide. In America, the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables have been increased from 5 to 9 by the FDA as an attempt to counteract the level of depletion recognised in the food supply. Few people eat 5, let alone 9 servings of fruit and vegetables daily.
When asked to carry out any job, the body needs nutrients. It makes no difference as to whether that job is processing the last meal, responding to a thought, moving around or removing a chemical that came in via your last breathe or the sandwich you just ate. The more work or detoxification you require of your body, the higher the draw becomes on your nutritional “bank”. Most of us are not that great at depositing more than we withdraw; sometimes through a lack of awareness rather than a lack of effort.
It’s Not Just Food Quality That Affects Our Nutrient “Bank”
The competitive nature between metals and minerals can also affect your nutritional status. Back in the 70’s, Dr. Schroeder made several interesting points when researching mineral and metal levels in food. His research showed that while metal levels in food are generally not a problem if the food is grown in mineral-rich conditions, eating mineral deficient food will result in a higher degree of metal absorption and metals not being cleared efficiently from the body. He cites some interesting cases where cadmium uptake is higher when zinc is deficient in food, and where lead uptake is higher when calcium is deficient. His team showed that this relationship between metals and minerals occurs in plants just as it does in humans and animals, so a plant grown in zinc deficient soil for example will likely carry a higher cadmium level in its tissue if cadmium is present. In other words when minerals are deficient, metals are more likely to be taken up in their place.
Cadmium is a component of most super phosphate fertilisers and this was starting to be an area of concern in the 70’s. It is only recently that the NZ Govt has looked seriously at regulating the super phosphate industry because of the rate of cadmium build up in NZ soils. We are still a way from seeing anything put into practice. (John Campbell Documentary Live TV3 2013.) New Zealand’s soils are often depleted in zinc which serves to exacerbate the amount of cadmium accumulation in the food chain. Crops such as potatoes and wheat have been shown to be particularly prone to cadmium accumulation.
Realise that metals and excess copper can act as anti-nutrients
Anyone with a copper overload will burn more Vitamin C. Copper excess also causes the loss of zinc and molybdenum; two valuable nutrients required for detoxification. Copper toxicity is very common in New Zealand due to the use of copper sprays and copper plumbing.
Mercury can affect the uptake and use of many nutrients. Anyone with mercury leaching from old amalgam fillings is likely to burn Vitamin C, zinc, sulphur and selenium at a faster than usual rate.
Anyone exposed to lead will have issues using calcium. Lead can also affect the boron, manganese and iron status in that person.
Anyone with a low iodine level will be more likely to accumulate chlorine, fluorine and bromine in their tissue, which will further disrupt the use of iodine.
Mineral uptake can be affected by metals because metals can block the ability of a mineral to be taken into the tissue correctly.
Our best protection against the effect of all of the above is to minimise our exposure to pollutants and to supply our bodies with the resources they need to remove the pollutants we can’t control, be they chemical or metal in nature. Mineral deficiencies should ideally be identified correctly and addressed. Some of this is easy to correct, with the right knowledge.
You can assess where your food comes from and make healthier buying choices
Buy food from those who do not spray with chemicals or use artificial fertilisers. Look for locally grown food. If you buy imported food, make sure it is organic as the rules surrounding this are far more stringent than with non-organic food.
Get yourself tested properly for minerals and replenish those that are deficient
This usually requires getting a quality Metal and Mineral Tissue Analysis done. As a result of having done over 500 tissue mineral tests for people in the past 3 years I have seen many people who, in spite of having a good diet, still have mineral depletions present. This shows their need for some minerals is greater than their food can supply. I have also seen test results showing toxic levels of some minerals as a result of taking self-prescribed supplements and results where metal levels have been high, affecting the person’s ability to use minerals correctly.
Make a concerted effort to avoid chemical products in any shape or form
This can significantly reduce the burden your body has to contend with on a daily basis. Do not believe marketing hype. Check the labels and make sure a product labeled as “natural” is indeed just that before you buy. It does not matter whether the chemical is in your food or something else; it is still a chemical. If you eat, breathe or absorb a chemical, it will require detoxification and therefore use up nutrients.
Go back to simple, whole-food focused eating and avoid complicating it
We have become obsessed with what is the right way to eat and what everyone else is apparently doing. Understand that Dr.Google and social media can represent a somewhat warped view of “normal” eating. A diet that has worked for one person will often be sold as “The Answer” to other people even though there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet.
Food used to be simple. People ate because they were hungry. Sugar and refined flour was “rich people’s food” and “treats” were not a daily event and neither were they expected. Ironically, the more depleted your diet is of real nutrients, the more likely you are to want to over eat. Your body associates food with nutrients so when it doesn’t get the nutrition it needs it often sends a signal to look for more food. In a person who feels time pressured, this can result in more processed nutrient deficient food being consumed leading to a vicious cycle.
Take a look at our recipe library for ways to increase the nutrient density of your diet.
For further help and guidance, contact us regarding the Ultimate Health Program and a personal assessment of your nutritional needs.
The Ultimate Health Program © Sarah Beesley