We can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by studying and learning about the effects of food on our health. Common sense tells us that healthy food helps our bodies to be healthier. Is it possible that the food we eat is causing some of the diseases that are popping up? I think it is possible.
I have always tried to prepare healthy foods for my family and always included the proper food groups in all their meals. The four food groups were changed to a pyramid; then the pyramid was changed enough times that I no longer know what is recommended. When my husband was diagnosed with diabetes several years ago, we changed our diet drastically to cut the number of carbohydrates. Then he contracted an auto-immune disease, and I began looking for ways to change his diet even further.
I heard about the new “fad” of juicing but did not pay much attention to it – even when members of my family began juicing. In fact, I did not consider juicing at all until several different people mentioned it to me during a period of just a few days. Several of them recommended some videos about juicing and eating whole foods, and I watched the videos. I began to wonder if juicing might solve some of my husband’s health issues and help me lose some weight.
I spent several months researching juicers and watched family members use their users. I knew that juicing had to be easy or I would not do it for very long. I also knew that I would not deal well with a mess or excessive clean up time. I finally made my decision and purchased a juicer about ten days ago. I started making juice for myself and am now drinking it twice a day. At first, my husband refused to have anything to do with it. After a few days I gave him a small amount to taste. He drank it but complained about its look and taste. He has never liked vegetables – calling them “rabbit food,” but I continue to feed them to him as many times each day as possible. I put vegetables in his breakfast omelet as well as a salad for dinner. He did not like the idea of drinking more of them. One day he told me not to make any juice for him – so I did not. When I poured the drink into my cup, he wanted to some.
My husband has not yet mentioned anything good happening to his body since we started drinking juice. I have noticed that the juice fills me up more than the foods I ate previously. I have also noticed a great decrease in my desire for bread.
Since I am so very interested in healthy food, I paid particular attention when I heard a doctor explain how a change in diet helped her manage her daughter’s autism. I quickly wrote down the web site – Unblindmymind.org - http://unblindmymind.org/ for Dr. Katherine Reid, Ph.D. so I could learn more. From her web site I linked to an article by Maria Grusauskas where I found the following information.
Dr. Reid is a biochemist. When Brooke, her three-year-old daughter, was diagnosed with “moderate” autism, she began researching everything she could about the developmental disorder. Some of the characteristics of the disorder are “communication and social impairments, seizure-like behavior, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound” – all of which Brooke suffered from.
According to Dr. Reid, “Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder, which means that there are so many different areas of the brain that it hits, and how it manifests itself in each child is different.”
Dr. Reid said, “It was difficult to integrate her into any mainstream setting. Even like going to a park, because you just didn’t know if this seizure-like behavior was going to flare up and it was really hard to explain.” Three years later, Brooke is doing well in mainstream kindergarten.
What made the difference? Dr. Reid credits diet with the change. Knowing that the food we eat has “profound effects on our brains,” Dr. Reid analyzed the food she was giving to Brooke and eventually removed all monosodium glutamate (MSG) from her diet.
The changes began by adding nutritional supplements such as magnesium, Vitamin D3, Omega 3 fish oil, and B-Complex vitamins. With these additions, Dr. Reid “observed eye contact coming back, and minor improvements, but still autistic, still special needs, not functioning very well in the mainstream environment.”
The next step was to follow a practice among parents of autistic children: remove all gluten and casein, a milk protein added to many foods. Again there were slight improvements.
Dr. Reid read in a blog that she needed to be careful with MSG and found it in many foods. “I was shocked. It’s all over the place in our foods, and it’s not being labeled as monosodium glutamate; it’s being labeled as almost healthy things, as natural flavors, for instance. So you can have a food labeled 100% organic, all natural, no MSG added and still, that food item contains a significant amount of MSG.”
Ms. Grusauskas explained that it is “the `free glutamate’ in MSG, produced when gluten, casein and other proteins are processed, that are slipping into almost every processed food out there, including juices, flavored teas, and even toothpaste. It appears in `natural foods’ as protein powders, yeast extract, hydrolyzed proteins, extracted proteins and other forms, and it’s added not as a preservative, says Reid, but to make us think that food tastes better.”
Dr. Reid stated, “It actually doesn’t have any taste in and of itself, but it’s a chemical that’s causing a brain reaction that’s making us think it tastes good. It’s binding to the glutamate receptor, and it’s exciting our neurons.”
Since the autistic brain is “already hyper-stimulated,” the MSG wreaks “havoc”. “Once we became aware of the marketing gimmick going on here and the disguise, and removing it really ended up removing a lot of processed foods, she was a new kid.”
Dr. Reid feeds Brooke a diet “made up of primarily fruits, vegetables, organic meats, and raw nuts and seeds.” The change in Brooke’s diet “reduced the noise, the light was no longer an issue, any room sound hat was going on didn’t bother her, and she was able to absorb like a sponge.”
Ms. Grusauskas finds it “interesting” that “pharmaceutical drugs currently in clinical trial for treating autism and other brain disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease, block the glutamate receptors in the brain.”
My nephew has a son who is autistic so I know a little of the stress in such families. John is now an adult and living in a group home. I do not know if he is considered “moderate” or “severe,” but knowing him and his struggles has made me acutely aware of autism. Since he was diagnosed approximately twenty years ago, I have wondered much about autism. One of the things I have questioned is why so many more children seem to get it now. Dr. Reid’s experience presents other questions, such as can we help John by changing his diet even though he is now an adult?
Statistics about the prevalence of autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control are as follow: 1) About 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD); 2) ASD is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups; 3) ASD is almost 5 times more common among boy (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189); 4) Studies in Asia, Europe, and Nor America have identified individuals with ASD with an average prevalence of about 1%. A study in South Korea reported a prevalence of 2.6%; 5) About 1 in 6 children in the United States had a developmental disability in 2006-2008, ranging from mild disabilities such as speech and language impairments to serious developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism.
News articles today report that Dr. Reid’s research and experience may answer one or more of my questions: The prevalence of autism could be caused by what we are feeding ourselves and our children. Now I wonder how many other diseases are being caused by the food we eat. It is so much easier – and usually cheaper - to buy processed foods than to purchase fresh produce and prepare our own food. We must lessen or stop the use of processed foods and feed our families more healthy food – fruits, vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, organic meat, etc. I know that all of us can be healthier and thus stronger by eating healthy food; when we are healthy and strong, we can strengthen our families, communities, and nations.