Category Archives: Healthy living

Health and wellness

Sustainable food production

Last summer I met a guy from United Kingdom who was doing some volunteering work in Slovenia and I had a chance to interview him about his views on sustainability, agriculture and food. I knew he was a vegetarian and he talked a lot about his views, so I thought that it would be great to film him and do a video about this subject.

Now I have finally edited the footage from the interview, so you can watch the final video below. First I will just outline a few points he makes in the video:

  • meat and dairy industry is one of the biggest contributors to climate change
  • if you focus on plant-based diet from an environmental perspective, there is no reason to be a complete abolitionist – it is good enough if you reduce your consumption of animal products to a practical minimum
  • eating meat and raising farm animals was important for the development of humanity, but nowadays the environmental impact of farm animals is just too big
  • most people can be perfectly healthy on a vegan diet; some may possibly need some dietary supplements
  • another good source of animal protein that is much better for the environment than meat and dairy are insects (see also the additional video at the end about the booming American edible insect industry)

The interview:

“The Gateway Bug” – documentary film trailer:

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Medicalization vs. lifestyle changes

Medications save lives, no doubt about it. In case of emergency or when nothing else can be done, properly prescribed medicine is a wise choice. However, the predominant belief in our modern society, that there is a pill for every ill, and furthermore, that there is never a better alternative to pharmaceutical drugs, is deeply flawed.

First, most drugs have various side effects, which can vary from minor annoyances to death from medication. And here I am not even talking about the consequences of abuse or overdose. Next, a lot of medications are full of various additives and fillers, including artificial dyes. A lot of these substances can be harmful to health, so it is really ironic that you can find them in the very products that are supposed to help you. Lastly, a lot of drugs prescribed for chronic diseases, don’t really heal you, but are merely treating the symptoms of an illness. You feel better, but the underlying causes are not addressed at all.

For all of these reasons, you should not fool around with any medication. Always take only as much as your doctor prescribed you. And if you are on some long-term medication you should discuss with your doctor if there is any alternative way – a lifestyle change – that could eventually eliminate the need for taking drugs.

You see, a lot of modern day, chronic, degenerative diseases are really a consequence of poor health habits, a bad lifestyle. Unhealthy food choices, smoking, too much alcohol, not enough exercise or sleep – this all adds up to poor health. All of these are obvious and any doctor will tell you so. Here, however, I want to tell you about my own little lifestyle change that solved my own – very little, but very real – health problem.

A few years ago I had a bacterial infection of the ear that got treated with antibiotics. But that was just the beginning. Because of the use of antibiotics, a fungal infection followed, and I was prescribed another, anti-fungal medicine. This drug really screwed up the skin in my ear canals and I developed chronic eczema there. Then I had recurring inflammation/infection of the ear canals for a few months and therefore I was prescribed yet another medication: a prescription ointment containing a corticosteroid and an antibiotic.

This drug worked wonders – finally I had my problem under control. Unfortunately, I became dependent on this drug to control eczema in the ear canals. I had to use it every few months or so, and that went on for several years.

Then my health worsened and I researched on the internet the medication I was taking, because that could be one of the possible culprits. I found out that corticosteroids, especially if used on areas with thinner skin (like in the ear canal), and for long periods of time, can cause a lot of problems to your system. Long-time use of antibiotics can be problematic, too. After learning about these potential complications I stopped using my prescription ointment right away.

However, I knew that I needed to do some lifestyle changes as well: I had to do everything that was in my power to prevent another inflammation of the ear canals to develop. I recalled that my doctor told me that shampoo or shaving cream could sometimes cause irritation, if it got into ear canals. So, I took extra care that no shampoo was coming into my ears when I was washing my hair – I started to use waterproof earplugs. Furthermore, I stopped using cotton swabs for cleaning my ears, because of mechanical irritation they produce. Usage of cotton swabs is not medically recommended method for ear cleaning, anyway. If I had gotten a lot of wax in my ears, I just used a soft paper tissue to clean it. Finally, I started to apply aloe vera, and occasionally jojoba cream, to outer parts of my ear canals to prevent dryness and itching.

Even though I believe now, that my medication was not the sole reason for worsening of my health back then, I am happy that I got off of it. I don’t use earplugs anymore, but I still take care not to shampoo over my ears, I still don’t use cotton swabs, and when necessary, I apply aloe vera or jojoba cream. If I went back to the old ways of doing things, eczema could return one day.

The point I am trying to make is that with a few simple changes I was able to cease using potentially troublesome medication, without my old symptoms coming back. However, the important thing to remember is that permanent results only come from permanent lifestyle changes.

Poll – artificial dyes

Should we ban artificial dyes in drugs and dietary supplements?

  • Yes, they are harmful.
  • Not yet, but more studies are needed on this.
  • No, they are safe.
  • I don’t know / I am undecided.

I invite you to go to my Facebook page (link below) and answer this question. Thank you.

 

Ban artificial dyes in drugs and supplements

Dangers of food additives

I have known for a long time that certain food additives can have a detrimental effect on your health, but until recently I haven’t put much attention on this issue, as I thought that there are more important things to focus on. However, in the past few months I have had some negative experiences that I can attribute to various food additives with great certainty. I don’t think anymore that food additives are only a minor issue.

To be clear, I do believe that sometimes food additives are necessary: for example, preservatives must be added into some food products, to prevent them to spoil, as food poisoning can be lethal. In such cases, it is necessary to consider both benefits and possible risks of a particular food additive and choose the safest additive that will do the job.

However, a lot of additives are totally unnecessary as far as safety is considered, and their only purpose is to make food more appealing in some way, so it sells more. Artificial sweeteners, flavorings and colors can make some junk, which you would otherwise not even consider eating, look and taste good. But, there is a price to pay, as many of these additives can have negative effect on your health. Sure, they are present only in very small quantities, but consuming them year after year, from various foods, their combined effect can be too much for your body, especially if you have other health issues as well.

Which brings me to drugs and dietary supplements. Believe it or not, they can also be jam-packed with various food additives, which makes me furious. People that take drugs and supplements are usually the people who are already sick and the last thing they need is to be gobbling down even more harmful substances!

Personally, I had a bad experience with a red artificial color best known as “Ponceau 4R”, which has a code E124 (“E number”). This is a food color additive that is commonly used in the European Union (EU), but it is not approved in the United States. Ponceau 4R is considered carcinogenic in some countries and has other harmful effects as well. I am very disappointed that EU, where I live, allows this additive in food. I am pretty sure that this artificial food coloring caused me irregular heartbeats on two different occasions: two years ago I was taking dietary supplement in the form of red capsules (dyed with E124). Irregular heartbeats started after a few months of taking the supplement and stopped within a week after I stopped taking it. Three months ago the problem repeated with a different product: I had sore throat and was taking red throat lozenges for a few days and I developed exactly the same symptoms, which also went away soon after I stopped taking the medication. Not surprisingly, the one (and only) substance that both products have in common is red colorant E124.

I also developed eczema a month ago on one of my fingers. The culprit is less obvious, but I suspect it was caused by sodium benzoate (E211), a preservative that was in a juice that I was consuming for about two weeks every day before this happened. Sodium benzoate was present also in my toothpaste.

Since then I became super cautious and I read all labels on food, drugs and dietary supplements, and even on cosmetics. If possible, I choose products that have no artificial sweeteners, flavorings, colorings or preservatives. I changed my multivitamin brand because the old one contained blue artificial colorant indigo carmine (E132), which can also be problematic according to some sources on the internet, and might had contributed to eczema on my finger. I could care less if my vitamin pill has a nice blue color. But I sure want it to be non-toxic!

Avoiding certain food additives is not an answer to every problem related to food, but it is a good start. I think the following link offers a fairly good introduction to the dangers of certain food additives: Your print out guide to the dirty dozen food additives. For more in-depth reading have a look at this link: Chemical Cuisine – Learn about Food Additives.

Do your own research on food additives. However, beware that food can be unhealthy even if it contains no additives whatsoever. It can contain pesticide residues, unhealthy fats, loads of refined sugar and so on. Moreover, food flavorings are generally not regarded as food additives – typically they do not need to be listed on the label by name as they are considered to be a trade secret.

So, the best advice of all is to eat as much unprocessed and organic food as possible.