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New Therapy to Support Your Gut?

N-acetyl glucosamine (N-AcG): A Possible New Therapy for Supporting Our Gut

N-acetyl glucosamine (N-AcG) comes from the outer shell of shellfish. Studies indicate it might help protect the lining of the stomach and intestines. N-AcG seems to be an energy source for friendly organisms within the microbiota, which may account for its protective benefits to the intestinal tract/gut.

There is early evidence that taking N-AcG by mouth or rectally might decrease symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis, conditions that are known to have deterioration of the gut microbiota. While a holistic practitioner will always focus on reestablishing a healthy microbiota, sometimes we also need therapies and treatments to help with flared symptoms.

Do not confuse N-AcG with the forms of glucosamine that are used in holistic therapies for osteoarthritis; the supplements are very different. For osteoarthritis, glucosamine sulfate is used. N-AcG, since it is derived from shellfish, carries the risk of causing a reaction in individuals who are allergic to shellfish. Also, N-AcG may raise insulin levels, interact with prescription medications, and is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women.

The appropriate dose of N-AcG glucosamine depends on several factors, such as age, health issues, current medications, and many other factors. The appropriateness of N-AcG for any individual needs to be determined by a natural medicine practitioner.

Have you used N-AcG glucosamine in the past? Let us know if you have and what your experience has been by contacting out office at office@drlachman.com.

References

 

Headaches: Getting to the ROOT cause

Headaches are NOT normal.

Did you know that it’s not normal to have headaches or migraines? It seems like so many people have them that it’s almost normal. But, it actually means that there is something going on in the body that is creating headaches or migraines. There is only one time that it would be normal to have a headache, and that would be if you hit your head, or you had a concussion (which could mean you could have hit your head, but you also could have acquired one from other reasons, like a blast, or from falling down).

Headaches, in those cases, would be normal, just like it would be normal to have a bruise if you fall down. Even so, just like homeopathy and natural methods can actually help resolve bruises more quickly, homeopathy and natural methods can also help you if your headache is a result of a concussion or other injury. When you get a cut on your skin, it heals! Your brain can also, when given the right support.

In the Naturopathic healthcare world, you are an individual. When someone with headaches or migraines comes into my clinic, I look at YOUR symptoms. Your headache might start in the back of your head on the right side, and come over your head to settle above your right eye. Perhaps you have nausea with it. Someone else’s headache may start above the left eye and remain there for hours. Sometimes headaches or migraines extend to the teeth. You might want to be in a quiet, dark room, where for another person those things don’t seem to help much.

Everyone’s headache is different and is addressed as such. You are unique, and you will get a headache and migraine plan as unique as you are!

Using Herbs in a Sustainable Way

Growing Your Own Herbs

Sustainable use of herbs means researching how the plants are sourced, harvested and stored and determining what you will use in a reasonable amount of time. Assessing your consumption and making choices based on actual need is essential to being a good steward of Earth’s resources. Choose readily available, easy-to-grow herbs with many uses.

Explore the idea of wildcrafting, a.k.a. foraging, which is the practice of gathering herbs, plants, and fungi from the wild. When done with care and with plants that can sustain the harvest, wildcrafting is an ideal choice for those familiar with their local wild herbs and when to safely pick from what nature provides. Wildcrafting requires a good amount of plant knowledge so don’t go foraging on a whim. Take a class with a local horticulture society, garden club, or one offered by a local college agricultural extension program.

When wildcrafting is not feasible, source herbs from a domestic grower. The majority of herbs sold online can come from as far away as Egypt. With a little research you can find herb farms in the United States and maybe one within reasonable driving distance of your home (See: Sustainable Herbal Farm and Ethical Wildcrafters in the US). If you are fortunate to find a local herb grower, it really is your best source because they harvest herbs in small quantities and sell them immediately. You receive fresh herbs that, when properly prepared or dried and stored, retain potency. In addition, local growers are always happy to provide customer education regarding uses and proper storage.

Dried herbs should not be exposed to light and air. It’s best to store herbs in amber or other dark-colored glass, preferably in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment. Potent, well preserved dried herbs should retain their natural color and have a very strong aroma; roots should remain dry and mold-free.

To ensure herb availability for future generations, try to incorporate as many of these practices in your use of herbs for both medicinal and cooking purposes.

References

Recipe of the Month: Curry!

Garbanzo-Vegetable Green Curry

This dish has both spice and a hint of creamy sweetness from the coconut milk to satisfy all tastes. Green curry does have “kick” though, so if spice is not your style, substitute with the milder red or yellow curry. This recipe makes a great main dish served with a salad or can be a unique pairing to an Asian fish or poultry main course. If you have a nut allergy, the cashews are optional, but they do add crunch and a healthy fat to the dish so be sure to complement the curry with another healthy fat of your choosing (pumpkins seeds, sunflower seeds, or raw bean sprouts sprinkled on top).

Ingredients

  • 3 cups frozen cauliflower
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) garbanzo beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (13.66 ounces) coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup green curry paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1-1/2 cups frozen peas
  • 2 packages (8.8 ounces each) ready-to-serve long grain rice
  • 1/2 cup lightly salted cashews (optional)

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, combine cauliflower, beans, coconut milk, curry paste and salt. Bring to a boil; cook, uncovered, 5-6 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.
  2. Combine cornstarch and water until smooth; gradually stir into the skillet. Stir in peas. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare rice according to package directions. Sprinkle cauliflower mixture with cashews. Serve with rice.

References

Recipe of the Month!

Garlic Roasted Radishes

What is the secret to this recipe? Bring out the sweetness, and maximize the health benefits of radishes, by roasting this jewel-hued veggie in garlic. Roasting draws out a mildly sweet juice that tempers the peppery flavor of rashishes. The garlic and butter (or ghee, if you prefer) blend perfectly with this hidden sweetness, giving the roasted radish a delectable aroma and flavor. Enjoy these over salads, served as a side dish to a roasted or grilled main course, or as a snack.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. radishes, ends trimmed and halved
  • 1 Tbsp. melted ghee or butter (vegan option: use coconut oil or avocado oil)
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2–3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp. dried parsley, dried chives or dried dill

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. In a bowl, combine the radishes, melted ghee or butter, salt and pepper and toss until radishes are evenly coated. Save adding the minced garlic until just before the radishes are done roasting.
  3. Spread radishes out in a large 9×13 inch baking dish. Don’t over crowd.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, tossing every 10 or so minutes.
  5. Add the minced garlic and dried parsley and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until radishes are golden brown and cooked through.

Optional: Serve with a side of ranch dressing for dipping or drizzle on top and garnish with parsley, dill or chives.

References

 

Featured food: Radish!

Radishes

With its peppery, almost spicy flavor, radishes may not be one of the most popular garden vegetables, but they are one of the most nutritious. And they make a striking addition to salads and side dishes. For centuries, radishes have been used in Ayurvedic Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat fever, sore throat, bile disorders, inflammation, and bacterial and fungal conditions.

Radishes are an excellent source of immunity-boosting Vitamin C. Other plant chemicals in rashies act as antioxidants, which are known for reducing risk for cancer, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. Several phytochemicals in radishes contain antibacterial and antifungal properties. One antifungal protein is RsAFP2. In research, RsAFP2 caused cell death in Candida albicans, a common fungus normally found in humans, which, when overgrown may cause vaginal yeast infections, oral yeast infections (thrush), and invasive candidiasis.

Radishes are root vegetables from the Brassica family. Close relatives of the radish include broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and turnips to name a few. Radish bulbs, also called globes, come in many shapes and colors. The most popular variety in the United States resembles an amethyst colored golf ball with a small tail. Other varieties are white, purple, or black. They may be larger and oblong in shape. Lighter-colored varieties, including the winter daikon radish, have a milder taste. Radishes become overly pungent if they are left in the ground too long or not eaten right away. For the best flavor and texture, select smaller globes.

There are many ways to enjoy radishes and boost the nutrient power of your meals and snacks:

  • Add thin radish slices to sandwiches
  • Add grated radishes to coleslaw
  • Add zest and crunch to tuna salad by adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of chopped radishes
  • Top your steak, burger, or veggie burger with grilled radish slices
  • Use radishes as a healthy crudité for dips
  • Roast or grill radishes with garlic, herbs, olive oil or other healthy fat

References

 

Reading – It’s Good for Your Health!

When is the last time you have picked up a book?

We all are familiar with the cozy feeling of being curled up with a good book – be it a thrilling novel or a vicarious adventure through ancient history told with just enough spice to make you forget you’re reading about true events. What you may not know is that reading is more than an escape; it’s also good for your health.

Research shows that reading can:

  • reduce stress and symptoms of depression
  • aid in getting a good night’s sleep
  • enhance neural connections (builds vocabulary, expands worldviews, etc)
  • help prevent cognitive decline and possibly lengthen lifespan

Reading can even be a form of therapy known as bibliotherapy, which can help facilitate transitions in a person’s life and promote well-being. In clinical settings, mental health practitioners have used bibliotherapy to bring about insight for people struggling with emotional-behavioral problems. For people going through significant life changes, bibliotherapy can promote emotional healing.

You can reap the benefits of reading for health simply by choosing a book that truly interests you. It does not have to be a particular genre, length, or meet any other requirements. Be aware that print and digital forms of reading have different benefits and challenges, so choose a form that works best for your situation.

For our health and eco-conscious readers who want to realize the benefits of reading, we offer these titles on sustainable food systems for your reading pleasure:

Nourished Planet: Sustainability in the Global Food System by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition

Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do about It by Anna Lappe

Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems by Philip Ackerman-Leist

Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler

References

Green Peas: Sweet, Sustainable & So Healthy

Who doesn’t love peas?

We often think of green peas as a last-minute addition to stews, rice dishes, and warm salads. So, you may be surprised to hear that the green pea is one of the most sustainable food crops offering many health benefits. This member of the legume family contains essential vitamins and antioxidants, including vitamin K, vitamin C, and folate. It is also rich in fiber, particularly the varieties that have edible pea pods, such as snow pea, sugar snap pea, and garden peas.

The fiber in peas supports digestive health by adding bulk to the stool and promoting regular bowel movements. The tiny pea is also a good source of iron, which is vital to the oxygen-carrying red blood cells. The antioxidant vitamins in peas help support immunity and protect the body’s cells from free radical damage.

As far as the environment is concerned, peas are good for Mother Earth. They are grouped with other vegetables known as “nitrogen fixers.” This means they take inert gases from the environment and convert them to useful ammonium, which nourishes the soil. In the right quantities relative to garden or crop size, peas, along with lentils and peanuts, can significantly reduce the need for fossil fuel fertilizers.

While we always advocate for organic, fresh produce, don’t overlook frozen peas; they retain their texture and nutrient content better than canned peas and can still be bought organic even if frozen. Overall, for adding color, mildly sweet flavor, and high quality nutrients to any meal, you can’t go wrong with green peas.

More shopping and cooking tips for green peas.

References

Natural Medicine for Seasonal Allergies

Springtime = Allergy Season

Ah, Spring! We welcome the pleasant weather, the scent of new blossoms, and open our windows to the rush of fresh air. Along with that, we invite in pollen, grass, mold, and spores. For those who are allergic, our bodies launch a major immune response designed to flush out the offensive agents. This can result in illnesses such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever) which is common for all age groups in the United States. Each year, over 50 million Americans suffer from allergies, the sixth leading cause of chronic illness with an annual cost in excess of $18 billion. This does not include the 24 million Americans who have allergic asthma.

When does Allergy Season Begin?

Depending on how warm the winter months were, seasonal allergy symptoms can start as early as February, but typically arise mid-March to April and last throughout summer. The most common plants to trigger allergies are birch and oak, dandelion, ragweed, and grasses.

Symptoms include:

Sneezing
Stuffy nose
Runny nose
Watery eyes
Itching of the nose, eyes, ears, or roof of the mouth

What Drives an Allergy Response?

Allergies occur as your immune system reacts to foreign invaders, producing antibodies that identify particular allergens (e.g., pollens) as harmful. During an “allergy attack,” the immune system reaction can inflame your skin, sinuses, airways or digestive system (as in food allergies). Mast cells – specialized white blood cells found throughout the body (lungs, skin, intestines, and near blood vessels and lymph nodes) – regulate how the immune system responds. Mast cells contain the histamine released into the bloodstream during an allergic reaction, resulting in symptoms such as itching, redness, and dilated blood vessels. When histamine release is excessive, it can cause a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

Typical allergy treatments aim to relieve symptoms. Prevention of symptoms should begin much sooner than the first sneeze. Early detection and addressing underlying issues can reduce symptoms and sometimes prevent allergies from developing.

  • Be Proactive. Before symptoms appear, undertake spring cleaning of your home and office. Flush out your system with a seasonal detox: eat lots of fresh organic fruits and veggies, sip Moringa and Green Tea; use supplements suggested by your holistic physician such as quercetin, which helps stabilize histamine production in the body.
  • Wash Your Hands Often. Clean hands are essential to protecting your health. If you have been outdoors, don’t touch your eyes, and clean your hands as soon as possible.
  • Change & Wash Clothes and Bedding. Keep pollen and other triggers out of your home. Remove clothing when you come in from outdoors and wash on an allergen cycle, if available on your machine. Shower immediately to remove pollen from your hair and skin. Change bedding at least weekly.
  • Change Air Filters. In your home or workspace, use a high-quality HEPA air filter and change the filters seasonally, perhaps even monthly during peak pollen times.
  • Heal the Gut. Leaky gut has been linked to increased seasonal allergies.

Once symptoms are present, the following steps can help minimize the severity:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Keep home and car windows closed during peak season
  • Avoid being outdoors during peak pollen times in your geographic area (check daily weather reports for what is peaking–type of pollen, mold, etc.
  • Wear a high-rated filter mask when mowing the lawn or working outdoors
  • Consider buying a home air purifier designed to address allergens
  • Periodically wash the nasal cavities using a Neti Pot or saline nasal spray.

For more personalized recommendations for prevention and management of allergy symptoms, consult your natural medicine practitioner.

 

Resources

American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. “Allergies” Retrieved 15 March 2020: https://acaai.org/news/facts-statistics/allergies

Cancer.gov. “Mast Cells.” Posted to NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. Retrieved on 16 March 2020: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/mast-cell

Schoones, A. et al., “Pycnogenol® (extract of French maritime pine bark) for the treatment of chronic disorders.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. (2012) v4:1465-1858. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD008294.pub4/full

Rohdewald, P. “A review of the French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol), a herbal medication with a diverse clinical pharmacology.” Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. (2002) Apr;40(4):158-68.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11996210

RxList.com “Pycnogenol Uses, Benefits, Side Effects.” Retrieved 16 March 2020: https://www.rxlist.com/pycnogenol/supplements.htm

Caprylic Acid and Yeast

Caprylic Acid Supports Healthy Gut, Yeast Balance Throughout the Body

Caprylic Acid is a fatty acid found in tropical oils, such as coconut oil. In natural medicine, its known for supporting a healthy balance of yeast throughout the body and often used to:

  • address digestive tract yeast and Candida overgrowth issues
  • optimize the gut environment for healthy probiotic bacteria
  • support the immune system

Caprylic Acid contains calcium and magnesium caprylates, which act as buffers to allow this acid to survive the digestive processes and reach the intestinal tract. There, it penetrates the intestinal mucosal cells to exert its effects. In addition to promoting a favorable environment for beneficial intestinal flora, Caprylic Acid works by creating an inhospitable environment for opportunistic yeast that has gotten out of balance.

Caprylic Acid supplements work best in combination with other natural remedies. This creates a more powerful, multi-faceted and synergistic approach to killing off excessive candida yeast, as well as reducing the chance for the yeast to adapt to a single agent. Based on your needs, a natural medicine practitioner will likely alternate or rotate Caprylic Acid with other supplements, such as garlic or oregano preparations. Consult with your health practitioner to ensure the appropriate remedy and dose.

References

 

HBOT for your gut?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) to Treat Candida

Hyperbaric Medicine is the fascinating use of barometric pressure to deliver increased oxygen dissolved in plasma to the body. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a form of treatment in which a patient breathes 100% oxygen at higher than normal atmospheric pressure (greater than 1 atmosphere absolute). This therapy is given in the same chamber that has been used primarily to treat decompression sickness in deep sea divers. In the sixties, HBOT went out of practice because of its use without adequate scientific validation. Over the last two decades, animal studies, clinical trials and well-validated clinical experience has shown the utility of HBOT for a variety of medical indications. Although there is still some debate among the experts (some consider HBOT controversial), there is renewed interest in Hyperbaric Medicine in many nations.

How HBOT Works

The basic premise for HBOT is anchored to the role of oxygen in the body and the controlled pressurization of the environment in which the oxygen is delivered. In HBOT, a patient is breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room or tube. The air pressure is increased to three times higher than normal air pressure. Under these conditions, your lungs can gather more oxygen than would be possible breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure. The bloodstream carries this oxygen throughout the body. By delivering oxygen under these conditions, the body more efficiently and effectively can fight bacteria and stimulate the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing.

Conditions treated with HBOT include invasive fungal infections, invasive candida infections, bubbles of air in your blood vessels, and wounds that won’t heal as a result of diabetes or radiation injury. The parameters for HBOT are highly individualized and usually part of an integrative approach, incorporating other therapies, customized to each patient’s needs. Your holistic health provider may be able to assist you in finding qualified practitioners in your area and specific to your needs.

References

 

Step Aside Dairy. We are “Nuts for Nut Milks!”

Ditching Dairy? Try Nut Milk!

With endless varieties of nut milks lining the grocery shelves, you might wonder “Can I make my own nut milk at home?” Yes you can, and it’s not as difficult as you might think. You can enhance this basic recipe, good for nearly any nut, by adding fresh berries, coconut, or blending varieties of nuts (Cashew-Almond Milk, for example). Start simple and when you’re comfortable with the basic recipe, experiment with flavor.

Nut Milk Basics

  • Buy raw unsalted nuts
  • Soak the nuts overnight according to guidelines listed below (also see website listed in Resources)
  • Drain and rinse the soaked nuts
  • Blend the nuts with fresh, clean water (use a high quality blender)
  • Strain the nut milk. For sustainability, use a piece of clean cotton cloth. It can be washed and reused hundreds of times.
  • Sweeten with raw honey, molasses or stevia if desired
  • Chill, drink, enjoy!

Helpful Tips

A blender is the best tool for this job, but a food processor works too. Nut milk from a blender is a bit creamier and sweeter.

After blending, straining the milk provides the best consistency for a drinkable nut milk.

Some folks prefer to leave their nut milk unstrained, especially those with high-powered blenders, but unstrained milk will separate more in the fridge and will need to be mixed again before serving. Unstrained milk is thicker and creamier than strained.

Another option, for those who prefer a thinner milk, is to add clean water to strained or even unstrained milk. Simply add clean water until the milk reaches your preferred consistency.

To make 2 cups of Cashew Nut Milk:

  • 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews, or any raw nuts without skins
  • 2 cups water
  • Soaking water

Soak the nuts: Place the nuts in a medium glass bowl. Cover with water. Cover the bowl with a cloth and let sit overnight at room temperature or up to 2 days in the refrigerator. The nuts will plump as they absorb water and should feel a little squishy if you pinch them. The longer the nuts soak, the creamier the milk will be.

Drain and rinse the nuts: Drain the nuts through a fine-mesh strainer or colander, then rinse them thoroughly under cool running water. Place the nuts in a blender (or food processor) and add the 2 cups of water.

Blend on high speed: Pulse the blender a few times to break up the nuts, then blend continuously on high speed for 3 minutes. If using a food processor, process for 4 minutes total, pausing to scrape down the sides halfway through. The nuts should be broken down into a very fine meal, and the water should be white and opaque.

Strain out the nut meal: Line the fine-mesh strainer or colander with either an opened nut bag, 2 layers of cheesecloth or a piece of cotton and set over a measuring cup or bowl. Pour the nut mixture through the strainer. Gather the nut bag or cheesecloth around the nut meal and twist close. Squeeze and press with clean hands to extract as much nut milk as possible. You should get about 2 cups.

Refrigerate the nut milk: Store the nut milk in sealed containers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. If it separates, just shake to recombine. Save the nut meal for another use such as in vegan lasagna, enchiladas, home-made ice cream, cookies and more!

Nut Soaking Guidelines by Hardness

Long-soak nuts (almonds, pistachios, and hazelnuts) need at least 8 hours.

Medium-soak nuts (pecans, walnuts, and Brazil nuts) are oilier and swell up quickly, so require less soaking time.

Short-soak nuts (cashews, macadamias, and pine nuts) have the highest fat content and require only 2 to 4 hours soaking. Do not soak these nuts for longer than 4 hours. Soaking them for extended periods of time breaks down their health-promoting oils.

References

 

Supplements VS. Whole-Food

Whole-Food and Synthetic Nutritional Supplements: Is one better than the other?

A fresh, whole-foods diet is the optimal way to obtain nutrients. However, environmental conditions and farming practices have depleted the soil of key nutrients we would typically obtain from food, making it impossible to get everything we need from food alone. Nutritional supplements provide a way to support the body’s needs. There are two broad categories of supplements to choose from – whole food-based and synthetic (lab-created). Is one better than the other?

There aren’t many studies comparing whole-food supplements to synthetic varieties. Whole-food supplement manufacturers claim their products are superior, but there is no specific criteria to define “whole food” in the supplement market. Many different practices can be used to claim a supplement is whole-food. Some brands do add concentrated fruits and vegetables to their product. Others simply add yeast and use a fermentation process. Does this make a supplement more available to the body for absorption? Not necessarily.

From the research available, we know that the bioavailability of a nutrient depends on many factors including:

  • a person’s state of health
  • the proper production of stomach acid necessary for vitamin absorption
  • whether or not the supplement is digested in the stomach; pills that pass through the stomach are less bioavailable
  • the supplement manufacturing process

The only way to measure bioavailability for comparison purposes is to do blood tests and there simply is not enough valid and reliable research that makes such comparisons.

Of course, better digestibility and assimilation by the body are important factors for anyone considering nutritional supplements. The bottom line is that either type of supplement may be better than the other depending on the reason it’s being taken (for general health or a specific medical need) along with the factors mentioned above. In some cases a truly food-based supplement could be the better choice; but not always. The best way to ascertain your need for supplements is to consult with a natural medicine physician who understands the manufacturing practices for nutritional supplements, as well the physiology of how different types of nutrients work in the body.

References

A Sustainable Food System?

A Sustainable Food System: It’s Everyone’s Job and It’s Easier than You Think

Across the globe, health and environmentally-conscious individuals and groups are advocating for a sustainable food system; this includes farming practices, seed to harvest to distribution practices, and waste management. Every action we take – and every inaction – affects the food we eat; our choices impact taste, appearance, variety available, and nutrient quality and has an impact on our health and the sustainability of the planet. Each of us can make a difference, as there are many “pro-sustainability choices” and most are easier than you might think.

Why Sustainable Choices Matter: Planetary Health and Human Health

The relationship between the environment and human health is complex and intricately linked to nine key “planetary boundaries” that scientists use to measure changes in the planet’s air, land, and water systems. When these boundaries are breached, there are rapid, irreversible environmental threats that impact our health and food supply and the very conditions under which humanity can thrive on Earth.

To date, four of the nine planetary boundaries have been crossed: climate change, biosphere integrity, land-system change, and the global nitrogen cycle. The evidence for these breaches is seen in a number of scientific observations:

  • loss of biodiversity
  • soil, air and water pollution
  • polar ice-cap melting
  • rising sea levels and ocean acidification
  • species endangerment and alterations in habitats
  • inadequate development of water and land resources to meet food and energy needs

These changes have unalterable effects on planetary and human health, including increased:

  • disease carried by wildlife (e.g., Lyme, West Nile, Ebola)
  • novel viruses transmitted by wildlife
  • food and waterborne disease (e.g., bacterial illness)
  • malnutrition in both industrialized and non-industrialized countries
  • cancer, heart disease, respiratory illness, diabetes, and other chronic diseases

Farms & Feed, Gardens & Groceries

A major contributor to environmental rifts and the degradation of health is our reliance on factory farms (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs). In the U.S., most meat, poultry, egg and dairy come from CAFOs. Whether in the U.S. or around the globe, acquiring the land needed for such farming often means deforestation, a practice associated with habitat destruction, changes in ecosystems and biodiversity, and climate change.

Mounting evidence from the past two decades shows deforestation is also associated with rising rates of infectious disease in animals and humans. When wildlife lose their natural habitat to deforestation, they are forced to migrate into a new ecosystem where they are biologically ill-equipped to fend off bacteria or viruses that exist in the new ecosystem. When animals and humans intermingle within ecosystems that have been typically foreign to one another, this sets up a pathway for pathogen transmission from wildlife to humans.

CAFO farmed livestock are fed hormones and antibiotics to prevent disease and promote faster growth. It has been well established that antibiotics in animal feed is a primary factor in human antibiotic resistance, a serious public health problem. Farms that promote “grass-fed” beef are more humane for animals and the meat produced is better for humans, but we must keep in mind that aspects of all farming practices can damage delicate ecosystems. We have to feed billions of people, many of whom consume too much of any kind of meat. As part of the solution, we can each commit to consuming less meat and more vegetables and make good, sustainable choices.

Simple Sustainable Choices You can Make

Grow Your Food. Growing food saves money and reduces the environmental cost of factory farming. Start a garden or even an organic container garden. Remember: if you use commercial, chemically-laden soil, fertilizer or feed, you are not only damaging your personal ecosystem, you are also diminishing the quality of nutrients and vitality of the food you are growing. Use organic soil, native plants, natural fertilizer and pest control, and compost. Practice conservation-friendly watering to help your garden grow.

Be a Conscious Consumer. When you can’t grow your own foods, buy organic, in-season foods from a local farm market or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture or crop-share) in your area.

Veg-out More Often. Even just one day a week, replace meat-based recipes with savory vegetarian options.

Expiration Date Knowledge. “Sell-by” and “use-by” dates are manufacturer suggestions for peak quality. The dates are not federally regulated to indicate safety, except on certain baby foods. Not sure if you should keep a food or toss it? Refer to a shelf life guide.

Net-Zero Your Fridge. Before you grocery shop to restock, try to make use of all perishable food: Leftover meat and vegetables can be turned into a casserole, stew or broth. Fruit can be frozen. Learn what food can be canned or preserved for later use. Your biggest impact will come from what you do with your groceries (or garden harvest) so that as little food as possible goes to waste, ending-up in an environmentally destructive landfill.

Be Freezer Friendly. Freeze leftovers (ideally in reusable containers) if you won’t have the chance to eat them before they go bad. Refer to this chart for freezer-life of common foods.

These choices aren’t complicated; they only require that you pay attention to what you choose to buy or grow and how you go about doing it. Start with one or two of these approaches and try others over time. Your health and your planet will thank you.

References