Food Toxins That Steal Vitality
Updated: Feb 4
We are coming up on the first quarter of the new year already, and spring is upon us! One great way to get ready for this beautiful season, is to start with a clean eating regimen. You may have heard about the importance of gut health, and specifically its impact on the combined well-being of both body and mind. That has been a well-understood aspect of modern naturopathic medicine for decades, and a typical first line of action that naturopathic physicians take with most conditions. There is no doubt about it: what we eat, and how much we eat, has a direct impact on our physical health. Food can act as medicine, have a neutral effect, or it can be a poison to the body and mind.
When food acts as poison, it creates inflammation, which alters the body’s balance of nutrients, hormones, and neurotransmitters. This directly affects your body’s ability to manage and heal from stress or illness. Unhealthy and poor-quality food, quite literally can steal from your vital force.
The vital force of the body is known by many different names from around the world, including qi, chi, prana, ki, and others that are not as widely known. The strength of our vital force is what makes or breaks our healing response to acute and chronic disease conditions. The more freely this flows throughout our bodies, the greater our vitality and ability to heal. Disease is a disturbance of this force, leading to an imbalance of our physiological and biochemical equilibrium. Foods, medication, and other methods of treatment can have either a positive or negative effect on the body depending on the vitality of the person. Lowered vitality can result in certain organs becoming “sluggish”, and lead to an accumulation of waste material, toxins, and pathogens, which in turn can lead to decreased absorption of nutrients.
In naturopathic medicine, doctors follow what is known as the Therapeutic Order while helping patients increase their vital force, and thus, return to health. Our foundational tenet of the therapeutic order is “Remove Obstacles to Health”. One way we can start to remove obstacles to health this spring, is to start removing some common food toxins. When ill, removing the following four from our foods can often lead to dramatic healing results.
Four Obstacles to Cure in our Foods
Caffeine: The most socially accepted psychoactive substance in the world, caffeine is used to boost alertness, enhance performance, and even treat apnea in premature infants. Caffeine is frequently added to other foods, so be mindful of total consumption. Too much caffeine (500-600 mg daily) interferes with sleep quality, which affects energy, concentration, and memory. Caffeine can aggravate other health conditions, cause digestive disturbances, and worsen menstrual symptoms and anxiety. Typical sources of caffeine are coffee, tea, certain soda-pop beverages, and cocoa products. Sources that are not typical are usually when caffeine has been directly added to a packaged product. It is always a good idea to double check labels of packaged foods.
Food Dye: Those brightly colored, processed and packaged foods come with a rainbow of health risks. Listed on ingredient labels as “Blue 2,” or “Citrus Red”, food dye has been documented to contain cancer-causing agents (e.g., benzidine). They’re also associated with allergic reactions and hyperactivity in children. Dyes are sometimes used to enhance skin color of fruits and veggies, and in this respect, it is best to know your farmer/grocer and choose organic as much as possible. A number of dyes have been banned from use in foods and cosmetics around the world.
Sugars: Increased sugar consumption (as much as 30% over the last three decades for American adults), is linked to decreased intake of essential nutrients and associated with obesity, diabetes, inflammatory disease, joint pain and even schizophrenia. Too much dietary sugar can result in blood sugar fluctuations, causing mood swings, anxiety, irritability, headaches, and increased depression. Sugars that can act as poison include High Fructose Corn Syrup, table sugar, artificial and “natural” sweeteners.
MSG: Monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer common in packaged and prepared foods. Although the FDA considers MSG “generally safe,” some individuals experience a complex of physical and mental symptoms after eating MSG-containing foods. Symptoms vary but can include headache, sweating, nausea, chest pain, heart palpitations, and overstimulation of the central nervous system which can lead to alterations in sleep, mood, and immunity. A list of aliases MSG goes by can be found here.
It can be easy when caught up in the fast pace of life these days to resort to foods that really won’t give us sustained nourishment. When avoiding any added food toxins, it is best to go with whole, fresh, foods, water, and some herbal teas during that time. Always check labels of packaged foods, and follow these three simple keys when choosing packaged foods:
Choose foods with ingredient names you can pronounce.
Choose foods with a short ingredient list of 3-5
Think of what ingredients you would use in a recipe when looking at packaged foods, and choose products with ingredients as close as possible to that recipe. For example, you wouldn’t normally put multiple preservatives in a whole food, homecooked meal.
Becoming aware of your food choices, why you make them, and how you feel mentally and physically after consuming them is an important first step in understanding your personal body-mind-food connection. Remove the obstacles to cure, and raise that vitality through delicious whole foods as much as possible each day. Find the support you need with your naturopathic physician, and make your dream of health a reality for life!