Celebrate Organics with Black Creek Community Farm

Organic food is gradually becoming more popular.  Our Black Creek Community Farm is a great example of growing support for organic farming and a wonderful asset in our neighborhood.

Organic is a scientific word but does not always mean the same thing.  For a chemist, petroleum is organic, but that is the opposite of what we mean when we talk about food.  For a farmer, organic fruits and vegetables are grown with no petroleum derived fertilizers or insecticides, without using genetically modified seeds and nourished in clean, rich soils.  Organic meats come from animals nourished with organic grass and grains.  The animals are not treated with antibiotics and hormones; they enjoy freedom of movement in a clean, natural environment.

Organic food does not need to cost more than factory food, especially when you take advantage of buying right from the farm as we can with the farms near Pioneer Village and in Downsview Park.   

I recommend organic food.  You avoid toxins. Insecticides and fertilizers used for vegetables leave residues, contaminating our food.  So do hormones and antibiotics used to raise meat. How much residue and how much toxicity this adds up to remains a controversial and politically loaded issue with complex and contradictory scientific claims on both sides.  I am particularly alarmed by reports on herbicidal residues that genetically modified plants have been designed to tolerate.  I don’t think safety testing is currently adequate.  A standard test is to feed laboratory animals the food continuously over three or more generations.  With laboratory mice, this means one or two years, but the U.S. Food and Drug administration, from what I have seen, only tests for six weeks.   

The top dozen most contaminated foods to avoid according to David Suzuki are: apples, celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumber, blueberries and potatoes.  Buy those organic when you can.

Organic farming has benefits for soil health and water purity, and bio-diversity.  It burns less carbon and it is more labor intensive.  The buzz word is “productivity” but I prefer more jobs to productivity.

Dr. Terry Wahls’ spectacular example of organic food at work does not apply directly to many of us, but it may be an example of things to come.  Dr. Terry Wahls, M.D., of the School of Medicine at Iowa University reversed her own multiple sclerosis with a diet high in organic green vegetables and omega oils.  She went from wheel chair back to bicycle.  She is now funded to research her method with other patients.  Her approach uses such a high quantity of green leafy vegetables that she would have considered the diet toxic and dangerous if the food had been produced by the usual factory methods.  We are learning a lot, bit by bit.

When you get your food at our Black Creek community farm you support your health and our earth and build a vibrant community.

Opinions or questions? Write to Nicole@IndividualCare.com.   Nicole Constant is a registered Doctor of Naturopathy.  www.IndividualCare.CA

Fixing Inflammation

Happy Fathers’ Day, Dr Jeffrey Bland, PhD!  Jeffrey Bland, now in his 70’s, is not yet retired—working on it.  Not really my father, not old enough for that, but I and many colleagues (medical doctors and naturopathic doctors and others) honor him as the Father of Functional Medicine.  We all should.

Have you noticed the last few years, frequent ads in the TTC and the papers for preventing type II Diabetes by diet?  It works.  If anyone you know uses that program, they are benefitting from his work, his first crusade, many decades ago.  It takes a long time for big establishments to get on board.  People used to think diabetes was all hereditary.  Early in his career as a chemist and nutritional researcher, the Chinese government invited Jeffery Bland to speak.  They praised his research but said they could not apply it because China didn’t have a diabetes problem.  Well, that changed.  The Chinese diet became more similar to the North American diet, and so did their diabetes numbers.  They invited him back.  As his reputation and authority became established, he was invited as an expert witness by the US Senate during a brief time when they studied alternative medicine.

Further developments now include new ways to prevent or manage chronic diseases—circulatory problems (blood pressure), many auto-immune conditions (like arthritis), digestive issues (Crohn’s, colitis, and others).  You can’t exchange your genes by diet; however, in some cases, diet can turn one gene’s activity on and off or supply a nutritional bypass.  (Technically, that’s epigenetics.)

Change is slow.  The companies Dr. Bland has worked with have never had budgets like big corporations that push blood pressure pills—budgets for advertizing, lobbying, legal proceedings and sponsored clinical trials.  If ads in alternative medicine are a bit over-enthusiastic, they get jumped on fast.  Also, sad to say, many health practitioners think their education is finished when they earn their degree.  How many of us fully understand that real science means real controversy?

Functional medicine assumes that symptoms are signals, often signals of silent inflammation.  They should call attention to functional systems that need support: the digestive system, the immune systems, the nervous system, the hormones, and so on.  Soothing the symptom may be like turning off the fire alarm before you put out the flame.  Or in FM terms, before you reduce causes of in-FLAM-ma-tion, a core objective of FM therapy.

Salt and Satisfaction

Many people who read this column will have been asked by their doctor to cut back on salt for their blood pressure.  For lots of us, that is frustrating.

The circle of “salt tolerance” is vicious.   We get used to a certain amount of salt, and after a while, we don’t taste it.  To compensate, we eat more salt to bring the taste back.  Therefore, we get used to even more.   The cycle is reversible, but there is a catch in the body chemistry.  Getting used to more salt is quick.   Getting used to less salt is slow.  You might be on the way to mastering your preference, and one salty meal could set you back. You will experience no loss of satisfaction if you reduce the craving, but it takes time.  You are winning when celery and Swiss chard taste salty on their own.  Mother Nature has put a good amount of salt in them.

Because raising your tolerance is faster than lowering it, you will sabotage your effort by dining in restaurants or eating canned and prepared foods from the supermarket.  Their salt content is way too high.

Another obstacle is emotional. Many cultures treasure salty foods as a special treat.  I will never lose my taste for the salt cod I grew up with.  Some of these cultural inheritances go way back to a more balanced nutrition where salt was an expensive luxury.

Table salt, which dominates in prepared food, is a sodium salt without the balancing minerals (especially potassium and magnesium) to make a healthful salt.  Several researchers claim that natural unrefined salts (available in health food stores) solve the blood pressure problem.  From what I have seen with my own clients, I know there is some truth in this, but maybe not 100%.  It may, to some extent, depend on the individual’s chemistry.   Also, please be aware that “sea salt” in packaged food is not normally unrefined; so far as I know, is likely to be a high sodium, processed salt.

Is it worth struggling against salt temptations?  Absolutely!  I saw a calculation some time ago that we could eliminate high blood pressure in one million Canadians and save the health-care system hundreds of millions of dollars a year if we could cut sodium intake by half.   Those are big numbers.    The difference in life expectancy would be significant.

Here is one method that may help you.  Don’t salt food before it is cooked.  (Well, maybe half a teaspoon for a pot of rice or beans.)  You get more effect with less salt if you add it at the table just before you eat.


Questions and comments welcome to  nicole@IndividualCare.CA.   Nicole Constant is a registered Doctor of Naturopathy active for many years in the Jane-Finch neighborhood and Greater Toronto.   Her website is:  www.IndividualCare.CA