In regards to one’s health, it’s common to have an understanding of family medical history and whether or not you are living a healthy lifestyle. But how aware are you of the chemical content in the food you ingest day after day?
Weighing in on this topic is Dr. Nancy Klimas, who has advised three Secretaries of Health and Human Services serving the United States. Klimas has received international recognition for her research and clinical work in multi-symptom disorders.
“Anything that drives the immune system or damages the immune system so it can’t be as responsive is bad for patients,” says Dr. Klimas. In her clinic, the goal is to try and take away potential negative triggers. She suggests that patients keep a diary, or encourages skin testing for intolerances. It’s understandable that to effectively treat a patient, a physician would want and need to evaluate the “whole picture.”
Klimas feels that mycotoxins in the environment are a big factor in chronic fatigue syndrome. “There is a lot of evidence of mycotoxins in [my] patients,” Klimas says.
She explains that “mycotoxins are naturally-occurring toxins produced by certain molds (fungi) and can be found in food.”
Mold exposure is one of the leading examples of an environmental intolerance that can lead to health problems.
“Roof leaks and plumbing leaks can lead to mold [being] trapped in our airspace; [it’s] recirculated and concentrated since we close up our homes to air condition or heat,” says Klimas.
“Myriad problems are caused by mycotoxins,” Klimas underscores, saying “these are not allergies; these are poison. The toxins are damaging cell functions.”
“Certain foods have much bigger pesticide and Roundup® content than others,” says Klimas. “Think corn and soy, but also almond, peaches, cherries and citrus.”
Klimas has a chronic fatigue syndrome patient that reflected on his youth and “playing in the mist as he followed the tanker truck for miles and miles that was spraying his father’s corn crop.”
Pesticides are considered neurotoxins, a poison which acts on the nervous system.
The Environmental Working Group identifies the top 12 “dirty dozen™” of non-organic foods: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes. https://www.ewg.org/ It is also noted that hot and sweet bell peppers “can carry residues of neurotoxic chemicals such as the organophosphate insecticides acephate and chlorpyrifos.”
In terms of migraines, “We are living in a very toxic society,” Klimas says.
Many of us strive to find healthy foods that are mindfully grown in a clean environment for human consumption. Klimas emphasizes that chemical pesticides have a negative impact on our food.
The reality is that we all lead lives that expose us to different environmental factors – whether walking in a park, consuming a meal, or filling up our gas tank. “Roundup, for example, is sprayed in playgrounds; it can and does make its way [into] the water we drink,” explains Klimas.
On the positive side, there are individuals and businesses who have a passion for helping others lead a healthier life.
One such example is the Maciel Family Farm, a certified organic farm in Bonsall, CA, owned by Adam and Laura Maciel.
The Maciels are passionate when discussing the value of truly organic produce and the importance of avoiding toxins for better health.
“A lot of people believe that if the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) says chemical pest control won’t hurt them, it really won’t,” Laura says.
“But how do you know that for sure? How do you know what will happen down the road with your health due to those chemicals?” she asks. “It’s like water out of the faucet and how they allow pollutants to be in it.”
Following the stringent certified organic guidelines is something Adam and Laura adhere to without a second thought.
“We’ve had the same customers for years. They become good friends. You never want to break that trust your customers have in you,” Laura underscores. The Maciels have an outstanding reputation in the organic farming industry (since 1987) and provide high-quality produce to customers each week.
As consumers, we associate how produce is handled based on the classification: non-organic, USDA certified organic, or organic from another country. Do you know the variations of standards in these as to what to expect in the produce you are crafting meals with?
Understandably we can only do the best we can, we can’t control everything, and limitations are ever-shifting. The benefits of ingesting clean foods are endless. As consumers, we should be able to identify clean foods and find reasonable access to them.
Under the US Department of Agriculture’s guidelines, for crops to be classified and labeled “100 percent organic” or “organic,” agricultural products, including ingredients, must be produced and handled per their regulations.
Dr. Klimas states that for USDA certified organic farming we “can be pretty confident the plants and soil are randomly tested.” The Maciels reaffirm this, saying, “[The County] comes out periodically and runs tests on the soil and the vegetables and fruit.” Prior to being classified a certified organic farm, “[The County] had to verify that the soil hasn’t been treated with any synthetics [non-organic chemicals] for at least three years,” Laura explains. For fertilization, Adam says he favors good old natural chicken compost.
In following the USDA’s certified organic guidelines, Adam and Laura report that they use “mostly beneficial insects,” for pest control purposes, which have been successful.
“We haven’t had to use the [organic] sprays for quite some time,” they report. The number one beneficial insect the Maciels use are lacewings. Lacewings are known to eliminate aphids, thrips, whitefly, leafhoppers, spider mites, and mealybugs. They are able to tolerate wide temperature ranges and work well in tandem with other beneficial insects.
The fact that the Maciels have found their niche in certified organic farming is evidenced by the number of customers that rely on them week after week for healthy produce.
More and more people are seeing the benefit of food that is free of chemicals, and anyone who hasn’t should take what Dr. Klimas says very seriously.
“We can now measure Roundup in a blood test and we have never found anyone with a negative result,” she states. “Everyone has Roundup in their blood.”
That is a pretty jarring reality.
It all boils down to the need for us to focus even more carefully on what foods we are eating. For many people that are already trying to eat healthy, watch out for foods that are unhealthy in neurotoxins.
Dr. Nancy Klimas holds multiple noteworthy positions including Director, Institute for Neuro-Immune Medicine at Nova Southeastern University; Director, Clinical Immunology Research at Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center; a member of the VA Research Advisory Committee for Gulf War Illness; and the immediate past president of the Internal Association for CFS and ME (IACFS/ME).
Coming next: Learning not to let migraines run your life