Wednesday, January 11, 2012
The Silent Killers, an Introduction
About 14 years ago, I was diagnosed with celiac disease after being misdiagnosed from the age of sixteen. I was comforted, in that, I had finally found a doctor who cared enough to find out what was really wrong with me because I had suffered most of my life. Along with that diagnosis, he recommended a book for me to read called Breaking the Vicious Cycle that explained my condition in more detail. It also gave real accounts of not just adults but children whose conditions were so severe that the symptoms were not so late in surfacing as mine. Frankly, this was all so new to me that my family would not have picked up on it anyway.
We were simple folk; we ate simple food. The fourth of five children, our meals were based on budget. To my mother's credit though, she did her best to always have a protein on the table, two vegetables, potatoes often, and usually some kind of homemade bread, biscuits, or cornbread. By any standard, she did right by her children. We did not have soda or cola in the house; potato chips were a treat for picnics only. As a result, desserts usually molded on the counter. Mom was the one who usually liked the cake and Dad loved pie or cobbler, which I always hated. We were the typical middle class family on a budget.
It was never my mother's choices because she always tried to make a healthy meal despite the occasional beans and cornbread with loads of butter, biscuits, milk gravy, and sausage so common to our region. No, it was what lurked behind the scenes that moms everywhere had no clue about: chemical additives in canned or processed food.
When I share my diet restrictions with folks, they always compartmentalize it by saying to me,
"Wow, that's too bad you can't have that stuff. I love gravy and sauces, McDonald's, and pizza. I'll enjoy some for you!" They laugh it off and just go their way thinking, "It doesn't bother me like that so it is okay for me to eat it."
Well, the longer I have read nutritional labels and studied most of these "ingredients" the more that I have learned that it DOES impact others. While my disease also makes me unable to tolerate things such as wheat (and its derivatives), corn (and its derivatives), and soy of all sizes there is an additional chemical sensitivity that plagues me.
Actually 25% of all children who lived during the 1970s have chemical sensitivities due to the heavy use of MSG during that decade not only in our foods but in our vaccines (as a stabilizer). Yes, it was even in our school vaccinations! The chemicals in our food are lethal but few people are talking about it even though other countries outside the U.S. refuse to put these additives in their foods (and will not import food from the U.S. that contain these deadly substances). Yet, the U.S. continues to produce and provide for mass distribution foods containing additives that cause sterility or reduced fertility, can lead to blindness, can cause psychosis and nerve damage, brain damage and sometimes brain cell death. These chemicals have been linked to obesity since the 1960s and studies from then until now continue to reinforce these truths.
How did this happen? Folks, it happened because we are too many generations removed from the farm as a society. Progress came and folks left the farming life for jobs in the big city. The general store who had a direct relationship with local farmers was replaced by the supermarket who was in partnership with large processed food producers. People learned to rely on the grocery or supermarket for all their food needs. The general store went away. Towns grew. More jobs were created that had nothing to do with farming. Families sold off their land and moved to the city full-time.
In my family's case, I am two generations from the farm really. My great-grandfathers both farmed but my grandfathers did not farm. They only worked on farms and lived a fairly rural life. My father was fortunate to work on his grandfather's farm each summer or any time that his parents would let him visit the farm. My father's family although not farmers had a few chickens, grandma kept a garden, canned every season, fattened a hog for the killing season, etc. The other small family farm down the road from them had a cow. They bartered eggs for fresh milk daily. It was my father's job to milk that cow and bring the pail home each morning. The neighbors came and got eggs as they needed them. No one ever kept a tab; it was a handshake agreement that worked quite well. They only lived on a small acreage outside of town, not on great grandpa's farm, but my father still grew up eating safe, home grown foods, and fresh raw milk.
When my Dad was 14, his father moved from Louisville and left his job as a butcher for a well paying factory job in Cincinnati. The rest is history. No one in my family ever returned to the farming life. I will be the first one to go back in time and try to do things the way my great grandparents did. I'm unsure how much damage has been done from what I have ingested in this life before learning all these things. I only hope that turning around and doing it right will extend the rest of the life that I have and ensure that my nieces and nephews will take note, eat well, and live long happy lives with this information.
My great-grandfather William Clark lived to be 89 years old. He died after slipping on ice on his way to pick up the morning mail. His skull was fractured and he lived just a few days after the fall. Everyone wonders how long he would have lived given his good health despite his years. This man farmed 290 acres of tobacco every day until he was 86. Then, he sold the farm and moved to town to care for his sick brother, Ike, then 83 years old. He ate biscuits, gravy, fried eggs and chicken, had his whiskey every night, and smoked a pipe full of the tobacco that he grew. He did everything that medical professionals today will tell you not to do.
So, I kept thinking, how was he unharmed by his lifestyle? He outlived three wives and was engaged when he died! He would dance an Irish gig for anyone who asked and on special request he would walk around on his hands for the grandchildren. How did he live so long, never sick a day, and full of life until the end? Well, for starters, his food was not processed. Everything that he ate was either raised on pasture right there on the farm or he grew it out of his own soil. He made his own whiskey. He grew his own tobacco, pure, not laced with chemicals like today. His life was pure and unadulterated; his food was the way God intended it to be.
There are a few chemical additives for discussion in the next blog complete with resources for your own research. I hope you enjoy these installments as I share with you why I have worked so hard to get closer to my food (and why it is equally important for everyone to get closer whether they have a condition like celiac, or not). The longevity and the quality of your life depends on it. Really.