I Want a New Drug!

Yes that’s right, I said it, a new drug! This statement is meant to be an eye-opener for all who don’t believe FOOD is a drug. Just like a drug you take that makes you feel good, bad, sluggish or energetic, food effects on your body can be immediate or take a toll on you 2-3 days later. Your body must have all the necessary components to process everything in the food you ingest. You need powerful enzymes from the mouth to break down carbohydrates, while the stomach produces acid and enzymes to break down proteins. Then there is insulin, glycogen and enzymes from the pancreas that break down fats, carbohydrates and proteins while enzymes from the small intestines are secreted to break down fat and lactose. Not to mention the regulation of alkaline-acid ph by the kidneys, the liver’s role in detoxifying the food you eat as well as producing bile for fat assimilation. The intestines require just the right mix of bacteria to digest and assimilate the by-products of the broken down food. Whew, that’s a lot! And these are just some of the functions needed for a healthy assimilation of foods. Digestion is like a fine tuned orchestra with just the right amount of coordination from the strings and percussion sections!

medicine

Food, like everything in life, is complex and contains many different components. There are literally hundreds of naturally occurring chemicals in just about every type of food you can think of. Natural chemicals exist in food to impart color, flavor, nutrition, and natural toxins for protection from predator attacks or unhealthy microbes.  We all know by now, unfortunately, there are many man-made chemicals in our food but this article will focus on some of the natural chemicals and how they may affect your body function. You might be surprised to know that many of these naturally occurring chemicals if ingested in excess amounts could be considered poisonous!

Many of these natural toxins contribute to symptoms of pain, fatigue, brain fog, and digestive upsets. Most people don’t recognize how much food contributes to how they feel minute-to-minute. Food can make or break your day by dictating what kind of mood you are in and whether you will have body pain today or not.  The best advice I can give you is the next time you have sudden shoulder pain, migraines, knee pain, low back pain, gas, bloating, feeling grouchy, sluggish, angry or anxious, PLEASE look to the meals you ate in the last 24-48 hours as a major culprit. It may be a simple change in diet that changes a chronic symptom you have suffered from for years. Here are some of the chemicals more commonly involved in typical problems that I see.

SOLANINE

Solanine is a non-protein compound containing nitrogen. It is a chemical called a glycoalkaloid. In certain vegetables, it is found in all parts of the plant, including fruit, leaves and tubers. It has pesticide properties and is one of the plants naturally occurring defenses. Solanine blocks the enzyme that allows muscles, tendons, and ligaments to return to rest after activation. It can remove calcium from the bones and deposit it in any genetically weak or injured area of the body, including joint spaces, arteries, kidney and gallbladder. Unfortunately, in many people solanine causes increase in muscle pain and tightness, morning stiffness, joint pain, inflammation, osteoarthritis flare-up, autoimmune dysfunction, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and other neurotoxic properties.

In the medieval times, the majority of nightshades were not considered edible and they were used in witchcraft and shamanism. The Romans gave them the name “nightshades” because it was put in your enemy’s drink and when the person went home that night, the shade came down and they died! Solanines are not water soluble, aren’t destroyed by cooking and cannot be broken down in the body. So think wisely before you make your loved one their next meal!

Solanine is found in all “deadly nightshades”.  Nightshade foods are potatoes including white, red, yellow and blue-skinned (not sweet potatoes or yams), tomatoes, eggplant, paprika and all peppers, excluding black pepper. This brings a new and scary meaning to “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!”  Other foods which are not nightshades but contain solanine are blueberries, apples, cherries, beets, artichoke, gogi berries, okra and ashwagandha.

LECTINS

Lectins are a type of protein found in many plant foods and can interfere with your metabolism, clump red blood cells as well as adhere to your gut epithelial tissue and break down the small intestinal lining creating further leaky gut. Damage to the absorptive intestinal fingerlike microvilli, reduces the small intestines capacity to absorb vital nutrients needed for immunity and repair. Lectins in plants exist for pest and insect protection. They can enter our blood unchanged because they are indigestible to humans. Because we don’t break down and digest lectins, often we create antibodies to them–almost assuring that our bodies are having some kind of harmful immune reaction every time we eat them.

Genetically modified foods can be especially problematic because “splicing lectins” from one plant family to another occurs frequently.  Therefore, if you know you react to a particular plant lectin and that lectin has been genetically transferred to a different plant you may become symptomatic and not even be aware as to the cause. Soaking, sprouting, fermenting and cooking will reduce the amount of lectin content in your foods, so you may consider this as a way to process foods you want to eat without much gastrointestinal distress.

Lectins are found in all dried beans including kidney, soy and peanuts, nuts, seeds, wheat, wheat germ, oats, barley, quinoa, rice, millet, buckwheat, corn, potatoes, dairy and again the “deadly nightshade” family. So beans may be more than just a magical fruit!

 

OXALATES

Oxalates naturally occur in plants to help get rid of additional calcium by binding to it and preventing its absorption. It can be made by the human body from Vitamin C. Which is why kidney stone formers are asked to reduce their Vitamin C intake. When too many oxalates are consumed it can combine with calcium and the body can form painful calcium-oxalate crystals which can lodge in the kidneys as stones or get deposited in any body tissue and cause pain and inflammation as well as free radical damage and depletion of glutathione, a nutrient needed for many detoxification processes.

Oxalates have the ability to bind to the minerals calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and copper in our intestines creating a mineral deficiency. There is a genetic tendency in some people, depending on your D.N.A., as to whether you are able to detoxify the substances that produce extra oxalates in your body. This genetic variable give you the ability to produce an increased level of oxalates even when you are not eating foods high in oxalates. Anyone with kidney or gallbladder disease, certain autoimmune conditions, or gout, should avoid these foods in high doses. My recommendation is to not use spinach or other high oxalate foods everyday in a smoothie or as a meal. Rotate or divide your meal in half with high oxalate and low oxalate foods to avoid any problems with mineral absorption or deficiency.

Oxalates are found in the Amaranthaceae family of spinach, beet tops, swiss chard, amaranth, and sorrel, rhubarb, parsley, okra, berries, kiwis, figs, grapes, cocoa, chocolate, almonds, cashews, peanuts, soy and tea. Oxalates level increase as food matures, so young fresh spinach is likely to have less oxalates. Boiling and steaming reduce the amount of oxalates as well.

Low oxalate greens are lettuce, celery, chickweed, watercress, escarole, asparagus, dandelion, and some of the cruciferous vegetables such as kale, bokchoy, collards, mustard greens, turnip tops, cabbage and arugula.

 

GOITROGENS

Goitrogenic basically means foods that are what I call “nasty pie” for the thyroid. In other words, they slow or block thyroid function by blocking iodine uptake. Iodine is what makes your thyroid metabolism work. Goitrogens can lead to hypothyroidism and goiters. When someone is diagnosed with a “goiter”, it means your thyroid grows more cells and is enlarged. This enlargement may be to compensate for the reduction in thyroid hormone levels. A goiter is usually felt as a soft swelling on one or both sides of the neck that is 2-5 inches in diameter.

Many goitrogenic foods are considered diet foods, so when trying to lose weight you may feel as if you are doing everything right but the pounds aren’t moving. I would suggest eating no more than 3-4 cups of these raw vegetable per week if you feel that this may be creating an issue for you. Cooking these foods at high temperatures inactivates the glucosinolate, the chemical responsible for the goitrogenic effect in foods with the exception of soy which has its own very big issues.  If you do have known thyroid problems, you may want to remove these items from your diet altogether.

Known thyroid goitrogens are cruciferous foods such as bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radish, turnips, as well as, soy, peanuts, and canola oil.

I have said many times, “Patients would rather change their religion than change their diet”. I am writing this article to pass on information not to scare you but make it so that you can be more present, conscious and proactive in taking control of your health. Many times, the answer lies within us and not in a doctor’s office.  Pay attention to what you use to nourish your body, the quality of your life may depend on it!

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