Dr. Katie Weststrate, MScCH, RYT, ND
For most of us, food, and the act of eating, serves many roles. Foremost, we rely on food to nourish our physical bodies, to provide the essentials for growth and function. Increasingly I see patients who have become distanced from this awareness. We take food for granted, eating solely for social or emotional purpose, for convenience, or ,we have an antagonistic relationship with food and all of the ‘shoulds’ we have constructed around eating; fighting an unending numbers game with ‘calories’ or the latest diet fad.
Historically, people ate for necessity, from the foods that grew naturally in their local, relatively unpolluted environment. These foods were consumed in their original or minimally processed state, when they were still fresh and full of nutrients.
As civilization has grown and industrialization boomed, so too has our access to foods from across the globe. Foods we were never able to consume as hunter-gatherers are now commonplace and taken for granted. Processing and preservation has moved in leaps and bounds, to enable us to have food that can remain on a shelf, or in refrigeration, for weeks, months or years longer than it would naturally. Unfortunately, with this ease of convenience, frequently comes a totally altered ‘food’ product, stripped of much of its original nutritional value and filled with additives of all kinds. Many reduced-calorie candies, jellos, coffee creamers and other ‘foods’ are now made entirely of chemicals!
Many of the chemicals we’re exposed to in our environment can have serious health repercussions, be this reproductive/hormonal, neurological, immunological or otherwise. There is no way to totally avoid contamination with some of the most ubiquitous toxins present in foods, air, water, cosmetics, cleaners, paints, furnishings, clothing, industrial by-products, etc. In fact, studies suggest many toxins are present before we’re even born, with an average of 200 industrial chemicals found in the umbilical cord blood of newborn infants. However, it is possible to make small changes to minimize continued exposure while supporting our body to function optimally despite this environmental load!
What can you do?
- Minimize processed/packaged and convenience ‘foods’.
- Read labels – avoid products that list multiple chemicals and additives like dyes and artificial flavours. If you don’t see recognizable foods listed as the main (first) ingredients, DON’T eat it!
- Eat nutrient dense REAL food! Plants (vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, whole grains and legumes) and animal (poultry, grass-fed red meat, wild game, eggs, fish, etc.). Make your own soups, stews, etc. when you can.
- Choose local, non-GMO, organic and/or grass-fed, free-range options when possible.
- Make informed choices – consumer guides produced by the Environmental Working Group can guide in a selection of least toxic produce, fish, home cleaners, cosmetics and skin care products- www.EWG.org. You can also grow or make your own! Several small scale local producers also offer environmentally (and body) friendly options.
If you suspect you have a food or chemical sensitivity, or other related health concern (auto-immunity, hormonal dysregulation, ADHD/attention/focus related issue, fibromyalgia etc), speak to your primary health care provider or naturopathic doctor about your options.
Dr. Katie Weststrate, MScCH, RYT, ND operates a Ahimsa Naturopathic, a clinic Merrickville that brings naturopathic medicine and complementary care options to the residents of Merrickville and the surrounding communities in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark Counties. www.ahimsanaturopathic.com