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Decreasing your toxic chemical exposure

Basic changes to our diets can drastically reduce our exposure to chemicals

Decreasing your toxic chemical exposure

Every year I plant a vegetable garden from seeds.  It is a hobby.  While people post photos of their bountiful harvests, I am happy if I get some greens for dinner.  I have come to accept that I am not as smart as the family of groundhogs in my backyard.   I have had my bout of Lyme disease from harvesting my potatoes.  I am woefully inconsistent in my gardening abilities, year to year.  My garden has taught me to respect our farmers.  Growing enough produce to feed people is definitely not easy.  As the population of the world grows, how we farm will become more and more crucial.

The use of pesticides (chemicals that kill insects) and herbicides (chemicals that kill weeds) has increased steadily since the 1950s.  While their usage has increased the yield per acre of farmland, there is a cost to such efficiency.  Many pesticides work by attacking the nervous systems and/or gut systems of insects. Many herbicides work by promoting the formation of oxygen free radicals that poison the weeds by damaging their DNA. These chemicals can cause the same problems in us.  In the 1950s, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders, asthma, and deadly food allergies were uncommon.  Nowadays, there has been an explosion of these ailments. 

READ MORE: Easy wholesome eating for kids

Toxic chemicals seep into the water system, our lakes, rivers, and oceans.  These chemicals poison animals in the ecosystem and destroy biodiversity in flora and fauna.  Many times these chemicals destroy crucial insects.  Remember the year without bees?  These chemicals drill little holes in our guts, making our guts leaky.  These holes in our guts allow allergens, things that our bodies view as foreign, to enter our bloodstream.  This may be one reason for so many food allergies to foods that humans have been eating for 10,000 years.  Nuts and wheat are healthy when they stay in our guts where they are supposed to be. But when food substances seep into our bloodstream through our leaky guts, our bodies respond to them like an allergen. 

Some of these chemicals destroy crucial gut bugs in our bodies enabling more harmful bugs to take over. A popular diagnosis nowadays is small bowel bacterial overgrowth.  Essentially harmful bugs grow in an area of our intestines where they normally shouldn’t grow.  Some toxic chemicals cause the formation of oxygen free radicals that are cancer causing. Colon cancer rates in young people have risen and one major culprit may be herbicide-induced oxygen free radicals.

spinach from my garden

Almost half of all farmland in the United States is used to grow crops that are used to feed animals for slaughter and dairy.  So a significant reason for the widespread usage of pesticides is to increase the yield of feed crops.  The pesticides in the feed crops get concentrated in the meat and dairy.  Moreover, the pesticides also get into our water systems. While you may be drinking bottled water, animals for slaughter and dairy (even grass fed) are getting water that is loaded with pesticides.  Even wild fish are exposed to pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals like mercury. So as you eat up the food chain, your dose of toxic chemicals increases. By sticking to plant-based foods, you automatically decrease your exposure to pesticides.  

Dr. Padma Garvey studied medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. A working mother of two, she enjoys creating new recipes, making old ones in new ways and showing people how healthy eating and is doable and fun.

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