Illnesses affecting families today.

2016 header slim white
Talk: Why are we getting sicker, younger?
A Sustainable Backyards event.

When: 7.30pm Thursday, 24th March 2016
Where: Tauranga Boys College Graham Young Youth Theatre
Cost: $10 (please bring cash)

Do I need to book?: No bookings required, please just arrive at 7.20 for a 7.30 prompt start. If there are too many people we will repeat the talk – we live locally.

Illness takes many forms, from a diagnosed illness (or three) to lots of little problems – be they disturbed childhoods, where sleeping is a constant challenge and kids can’t settle; developmental disorders; or perhaps diarrhoea or reflux is a persistent nightmare; maybe fatigue, depression; a painful body and a constant mind-fog haunts you, or it affects the people you love. Is this the way we have to live? Is this how your future will play out?

This interesting and fact filled discussion will explore the critical links between food, your gut & modern day illnesses and challenges. Is it really “all in the genes?”
Why are health challenges different for this generation – why are we, as the World Health Organisation has confirmed – getting sicker – younger?

In this talk designed to appeal to both parents and teenagers, researcher and writer Jodie Bruning and nutritionist Rose Riley will attempt to unpick this complex story that science and modern research is still unravelling.

Boys and girls are affected in different ways by our environment and diets, boys may end up with higher likelihood of autism connected challenges, girls through hormonal and tummy problems. However frequently the 3 factors that tip all of us into most of the illness we see around us, are the same – gut health, nutrition and stress.

Topics this evening will attempt to address:

But it’s my genes? Recent understanding of how our genes are turned off or on by environmental triggers influences new understanding of health. Frequently, we don’t get sick until ‘something’ influences our genes. This new knowledge changes how we perceive many of the common inflammatory and immune related chronic diseases surrounding us today. Sickness is not necessarily ‘pre-destined’.

The new science around the microbiome, nutrition and stress. How the health of our gut wall and microbiome is associated with a surprisingly wide range of chronic (long term) inflammatory illnesses. Many illnesses not considered to be inflammatory and connected to gut health by scientists a decade ago are now considered to be part of this story. The science today linking this knowledge together is extremely fast moving and exciting.

Ingredients & chemicals – what’s up with numbers? Many health based practitioners are steering people away from convenience food and ingredients we have commonly assumed are safe. But are the ingredients really so bad? They’re safely assessed by our food regulators… right?

Now for the good news. Our bodies are created to heal. The connections science – and mothers – are making to regain health.

Habits and the psychology of change.
This is the hard bit – no matter what we hear, many of the foods we consume too much of, are highly addictive. Furthermore eating a shared meal or snack with the friends we love is a special part of many relationships. What happens when we change our dietary habits and they don’t? How do we manage this and move forward?

Media – bought and sold – or sceptically healthy? Here we discuss the media types that are selling you health. Information can vary dramatically, depending on the bottom line. Here we discuss how it’s best to be sceptical, how media can be your friend or foe. There is a wealth of information out there and well informed social media can effectively help you in your journey.

The talk will finish with recommendations and references and is part of New Zealand’s 2016 Bay of Plenty Sustainable Backyards programme.

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Tipping point – what’s with organic?

George Novak -photographer

George Novak -photographer

I can’t afford it. It’s too hard. Supermarket’s good enough for me.

What makes people change? For most people it is not an easy process. Going to the supermarket, whizzing around, piling up the car, now that’s convenient. So why would you go to all the bother? There’s got to be a tipping point. And it has to be for a variety of reasons, not just one. Change is always hard.

Here are my reasons:
1. Organic food is higher in nutrition

Why this is important.
Many illnesses are connected to lower nutrition – our grandparents got their nutrition from the soil, that’s always how humans did it. Effectively, I would prefer my kids to get more nutrition from a slightly more expensive natural food source that is better for them than from a capsule…and they digest it better.

2. Organic food is lower in chemicals.

Why this is important
Chemicals in your gut disrupt it. They work in different ways, mainly around reducing good bacteria (which then makes bad bacteria take over) and damaging – degrading your gut wall. Gut wall breakdown (permeablility, IBD etc) is the number one way you descend into ‘immune mediated illness’- which is connected to a whole range of illnesses we are seeing around us. Our grandparents had our genes – they just didn’t have our toxins. As a parent, you can choose to act preventatively, or you can try to make an already unwell family better. You’ll notice a lot of pharmaceutical organisations are investing money in developing medicine for the gut wall and talk is of medicine and probiotics to improve our microbiome. They know this is happening. Unfortunately there is not much talk about removing the toxins that lead to gut dysbiosis in the first place – so it’s a nice medical model if you have constant gut degradation. My point is – let’s stop the degradation in the first place. I could also discuss toxins as carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, but gut dysbiosis is often the first step.

3. Don’t we only have to worry about the ‘dirty dozen’ – fruit and vegetables with the worst pesticides?

We wish it were so. Unfortunately science is finding out that the full formulation of pesticides (on our cereals, in dairy products, in corn and soy, on fruit and vegetables) are way more toxic than the ‘active ingredient’. If the full mix of a fungicide which is sprayed on wheat is 1000x more toxic to your cells (than the single ingredient our governments investigate) – then it means we should be investigating this. But this doesn’t happen. It’s a broken system that is very convenient for pesticides corporations.

4. But the government does toxicity testing to make sure our pesticides are safe?

Nup. Here are the facts:

The corporation that produces the pesticides or the genetically engineered food sends the NZ EPA the studies they select to prove safety of their own product. Therefore usually the studies are
a. Directly paid for by the company that made the product
b. Carefully selected by the company that made the product
c. Not available as a publicly released study to scientists and researchers for criticism and discussion

But at this stage, our NZ EPA doesn’t have enough funding/inclination/power to demand independent research, to look at the publicly released research and examine the facts. And as I said before, when it comes to pesticides (like Roundup), our NZ EPA never considers the full formulation, they only look at one part of the mix (eg. glyphosate). Can you imagine the cigarette industry only testing one ingredient in a cigarette and then providing you with the studies that say cigarettes are safe? It’s a broken system.

5. Realising that I can’t trust government assessments of the chemicals that go on my food is a bit weird.

Yup. Here’s another fact for you just to hammer it in. Permitted levels of Roundup on your cereals, wheat, oats and barley were increased 600% in 2006 internationally by Codex. NZ subscribes to Codex levels for imported food. However, also, traditionally NZ grown cereals have been higher in fungicides/insecticides/herbicides due to our slightly wetter growing climate. So we are in a bind. But the NZ government, in its Total Diet Survey, never tests Roundup in food including cereals. And many of the products sprayed on our cereals are ignored in the survey. It’s realising that this problem is across the food we eat. If you really want to get picky, the Codex levels aren’t really safe – they are worked out from old industry studies that say high levels on our food is just fine. For example, the ADI for Roundup (glyphosate) in the EU, Australia and NZ is .3mg/kg, but today scientists reckon it should be .025mg/kg, twelve times lower. Our governments aren’t looking at new science. And believe me, it is all about the science.

6. Seriously, this is doing my head in. I can’t afford it. Organic is expensive.

Maybe your family is as fit as a fiddle. No worries. But, if you find yourself at the doctor on a monthly basis, your children are sick on a monthly basis, you are on medication, you are home from work sick on a monthly basis, you are exhausted and fatigued, your kids are struggling with behaviour, toileting, they’re grizzly and can’t sleep or can’t concentrate, perhaps you could consider the set of costs you are dealing with right now. Medical procedures like ear infections and stents are expensive and related to degraded immune systems, intolerances and allergies are related directly to gut health. Translation – a sick gut equals a low immune system and less health. Our neurological functioning is also directly impacted by gut health, a whole new area of science that is just starting to be explored. The question becomes – what is too hard?

7. Yes but it’s overwhelming to even think like this?

a. Do not change all at once. Acknowledge that most people (like me) can’t afford a 100% organic diet. So for example, I still buy normal tomato sauce, spices, icing sugar, mayonnaise (but not canola based), dark chocolate. For a long time I still bought conventional dried fruit, nuts, tinned tomato.

b. Stop buying crap. Just stop. Crap is: anything that can has lots of ingredients on the label. Especially corn and soy (Check out the Food Babe for inspiration). Kids do not need chippies every day for lunch. Did you have them? Chips are party food. Sadly, the oils in chips have the highest Roundup pesticides levels in the world permitted, and if it is canola oil it is probably GM (unless it comes from Europe). Kids get used to it. They know you are caring for them. They feel better. And parties are more special. One day you’ll find yourself realising that instead of feeling guilty that you are denying your kids these ‘treats’ – you will realise that you are protecting them. Simple as that.

c. Breakfast cereal/carbohydrates. Gut health prevention. Buy a breadmaker for your partner (doesn’t he love tools?) – or get your friends or inlaws to chip in for your birthday. Takes 5 minutes to stick in the mixer. Each organic loaf costs under $2.
Cereals are relatively cheap so are easier to move onto. For example organic rice bubbles or cornflakes are roughly conventional price plus the cost of a coffee. What is a bit more healthy is eating meusli – organic oats cost between $3.60 – $5.50 a kilo. Hint – kids eat healthy beautiful muesli if you slip a few small dark chocolate chips through it. Wicked? Yes but look at the increased nutrition in their breakfast compared to rice puffs, weetbix or cornflakes.

d.Understand which food is vulnerable to higher residues. We need to understand that our farmers are feeding Roundup soaked pasture, forage and silage to livestock, that our government doesn’t discern the difference (as in check, test, manage or monitor) between imported soy/corn/lucerne/ddgs that is not GMO Vs GMO – farmers don’t have the choice because their feed inputs are not properly managed and labeled. 99% of GMO feed will be higher in Roundup and or a Bt toxin (page 219) that has been found to damage the gut wall and microbiome. Buy organic or know where your meat and milk is coming from. Which vegetables have Roundup or other chemicals sprayed on them to desiccate (dry out and get rid of) leafy matter?

e. Policy: One carbohydrate meal a day. It’s not just the gluten. It’s the stuff we can’t see. Think about a small kid having pasta for dinner. How much vegetables they actually put in their mouth. Then think about the vegie load if they eat a 100% NZ grown (grass fed) mince patty plus 3 veggies. There’s a massive difference in nutrition right there.
For breakfast, think about muesli, half a piece of fruit and a fried egg. No gluten, protein. Health.
Go for it with sandwiches for lunch, knowing they have nutrition on either side.

8.It’s how your grandparents did it – just 21st century style.

Grandparent fact no.1. : Grandparents spent a lot more of their weekly budget on food. We think we can buy cheap food and get away with it. Sickness levels tell us something is broken.
Grandparent fact no.2. : Grandparents grew a lot more food. Green veggies cost more – yet spinach, silverbeet, parsley and lettuce are easy to grow and don’t mind living in a normal flower bed. They won’t be offended I promise.
Grandparent fact no.3. : Grandparents had to eat preventatively – there was less medication back then acting like a safety net to help them. But what we are finding with today’s medication, is that we might end up on one thing, go onto another thing, and before we know it we have the same medication level as someone in their 80s and still feel like rubbish. Prevention is the best medicine.
Grandparent fact no.4. : There was simply not the same gut related illness levels in childhood and adulthood back them. We have the same genes as our grandparents but more stuff is going wrong. This is largely due to the environmental toxins & chemicals we are exposed to – that they weren’t.

9. Yes but we can’t get rid of all the toxins, that’s impossible!

We can reduce our load – our exposure – enormously. Researchers have tracked people going onto an organic diet and indicators of health have improved quickly and dramatically. By reducing our kids exposure they become more robust and can deal with the little things.

10. Wow – so many levels – cultural, ethical, environmental, and political.

Yes it’s a game shifter. You can’t do this and not think and reflect.

Our family culture does more to impact on what we eat than anything else. Our family culture therefore has more to do with health than anything else. We all have genes for illness, but we descend into a huge proportion of the illness presented to doctors today when we don’t have enough nutrition, and we have too many toxins in our diet. It’s as simple as that. Or put it like this, our genes contribute maybe 20% to our illness.

The ethical element is such a nice thing to reflect on. You start to meditate on the fact that you are treating yourself better. As a friend said to me after starting to eat organic, in a kind of shocked way ‘I feel more nourished’, she wasn’t used to thinking like that. Her vet partner has simply suggested the family go on an organic diet. But once you know you are treating yourself better, you understand that by paying true value for food, you are gentler on the earth, you are helping farmers nourish their soil (eg. Supermarket profits have increased 4% a year over the last decade while supplier profits have flatlined) and organic buyers have less power than supermarkets.

Environmental. Pesticides sprayed on our soil kills the microbiome. Like our own guts, the soil has a living microbiome that helps the soil nourish plants through lots of complex interactions that scientists are still finding out about. This is why organic products are higher in nutrients. Furthermore, there is less impact on waterways and drinking water sources.

Political. This is all about acknowledging that conventional food is not safe because our governments are not assessing and regulating genetically modified organisms or pesticides safely – because they are not independently looking at the public, independent studies. They have a big protective wall around them and the big agribusiness organisations. I am happy to talk with anyone that queries this. So by default, you become a political animal.

That is why it is so hard to change. But so important. Unfortunately it is the staple foods that have the highest residues.

It’s simple – like every generation before us we just have to proportionately spend a little more of our household budget on food than we previously did.

We will pay for our health one way or the other – either on toxin free, nutritious food, or in the pharmacy or at the doctors.

Spread the word.

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Zen Honeycutt & GMO food in New Zealand

Zen HoneycuttWay before I heard Zen Honeycutt was coming to New Zealand (Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga) I had read about her. She’s one chick that has really put it out there. Speaking up takes courage. You risk criticism, derision, and today in the world of social media – horrible internet trolls. And Zen is, well, incomparable. She has held rallies, walked into Monsanto shareholder meetings, met up with the US EPA, tested food and even breastmilk for pesticides and safety – all while bringing up 3 boys and staying married. I reckon she’s awesome. She’s done it with a team of other mums, who have also experienced the same stuff – sick kids that get better, they’ve posted testimonials, slowly and at times explosively built up a formidable information source

What happened to Zen to change her life? Sick kids. Simple as that. Here’s an extract from Zen’s story:

‘It was Thanksgiving and my five year old son sat across from me at the festive table. Though surrounded by eighteen cousins and jovial family members, he looked completely miserable. With a mouthful of savory stuffing, he should have been happy. Instead, within seconds his entire body was puffed up like a raspberry; red, and inflamed. His eyes glazed over and he drooped like a rag doll. We discovered that there were pecans in the stuffing. My son was on the verge of death. I scrambled to find the Epi Pen and my husband jabbed it into my son’s leg. I yanked it out and blood spurted from his leg. We rushed him to the hospital, both of us crying as my son moaned in the back seat. As he was hooked up to steroids and monitors, we prayed to God for his life.

I did not lose my son that day, but this happened more than once over the past five years, and happens thousands of times a year to American families. Our children could die from food. We did not have allergies like this when we were children. Something has changed and it’s not genetics. Neither my husband or I had food allergies.

My son went on to develop more allergies, including one to Carageenan, a seaweed food thickener, which can cause a slow growth of ulcers and stomach cancer. This was the last straw for me. No longer would I “put up” with allergies to food. When my son wished that his allergies would “go away”, instead of being resigned and doubtful, I wondered, “What if they could? What can we do about this?”

Just this week my son accidentally ate a walnut in some granola. Instead of puffing up, being stabbed with an EpiPen and nearly dying, he said “Mom, my tongue itches.” His stomach felt a little queasy. I called the doctor, gave him Benadryl and some Chinese herbs and he went to school two hours later. His allergy had been reduced from life threatening to mild. In addition, his allergic reactions to Carageenan are completely gone. What made the difference?

We found out about GMOs. We ate organic for the past year. He chose to drink an organic green drink every morning to heal his stomach. His gut and therefore his immune system, is growing stronger and his allergies are disappearing. His walnut allergy has gone from a 19 down to a .2. This is not a scientific study, this is our family’s reality. His healing is a triumph over toxic food and resignation. It is a triumph of the human spirit.’ (Original here.)

This is just one family’s story, but it becomes compelling when you hear the testimonials posted by mums that have other kids with different illnesses.

However, Like Pandora’s Box, this led Zen to inquiry into other stuff. Intimately tied to the 99% of GMOs authorised for human food (US and NZ) are the associated pesticides used with them (more on that below). Therefore, it is the overall toxicity of these products that concerns mothers like Zen.

What’s this got to do with New Zealand? We don’t have GMOs in our food here?

Think about contents of processed food and how much you see the words ‘corn’ or ‘soy.’ You might see the word ‘soy isolate.’ Then think about whether it is GM or not. If you are in a supermarket you will rarely find the words ‘contains genetically modified product.’ Does that mean we don’t have GMOs in our Kiwi food? We simply don’t know.

In New Zealand, food doesn’t have to be labelled genetically modified if
1. The GMO content is less than 1% or
2. The GMO DNA is stripped out of it
3. If there are no novel proteins. – so GMOs can’t harm us because the ‘bad’ stuff is gone. Right?

This means the food should be so processed that there is no GMO DNA in it. But no-one ever tests. Ever. Furthermore 99% of GMOs are higher in pesticides, as over 80% are ‘Roundup Ready’ and a Roundup application before harvest is the norm. But nowhere in the New Zealand government or EPA do they test for Roundup levels. Ever.

Let me repeat: There is simply no government testing of food in NZ to identify whether there is GM content in it or not. At all. It appears to be ‘self regulated’ by industry. An outlet only has to require labelling of products if it knows it has GM in it. If you don’t ask, don’t test, you don’t know. Perhaps there is no monitoring because if they find levels over 1% they will have to label. And that’s not good for PR. Nowhere in the world have people demanded, or wanted, GM product in their diet.

This is the three monkeys approach to regulatory safety of GMOs in New Zealand. Hear/speak/see no GMOs. And of course, unknown GMOs cannot be legally present at any level in our food. But there is never any testing for ‘unknown’ GMOs, whatever they may be…..

Why might we think New Zealand may have GM in its food? Increased incidence in inflammatory/immune related health are following US patterns

inflammatory pathogenesisWe know that New Zealand is seeing similar illness spikes in (now common) illnesses to the USA – that commonly begin with gut dysbiosis, or a permeable gut (where the gut wall has broken down). These illness levels have increased beyond traditional genetic tendency (consider how frequently our grandparents had allergies or celiac disease, for example).

Illness levels are increasing because because of external factors, known as environmental triggers.

Intestinal permeability &/or gut dysbiosis are correlated with (now) common disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and leaky gut, Crohn’s disease and coeliac disease. But there are many more non-communicable illnesses with a co-factor of a ‘sick gut’ that aren’t commonly realised: allergies (including hay fever), bronchial asthma, autism spectrum, ADD/ADHD, type 1 diabetes, obesity rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, CFS & ME, atopic eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis, some cancers, metabolic and cardiovascular disturbances. It’s kind of, well, massive.

To clarify – for the above listed illnesses (not a complete list) you need three things:
1. Genetic predisposition
2. Environmental triggers (external factors like toxins)
3. Then the gut wall to break down – intestinal permeability

Zen started her research and work on GMOs. She didn’t know before this journey about intestinal permeability. She didn’t know about glyphosate’s effect on the digestive system. Or how GMOs could be harmful to the gut wall. She certainly didn’t dream Roundup would be in breastmilk. She just knew her kids got better toxin free and that GMOs were a part of it.

Zen’s kids health were her bottom line. Call that unscientific if you will. But it’s my bottom line too.

Question: Are GMOs safe?
Answer: No-one agrees (except people with industry connections)- but most people on the cautionary side believe there is absolutely not enough safe, transparent, publicly available long term research. (This is where, as a parent, logic and common sense may tempt you to agree).

Moms Across America (MAA) was established and started campaigning for labelling of GMOs. Testimonials were posted. Data was collected.

The big problems worldwide are conflicts of interest in the regulatory bodies, lack of transparency and funding for independent trials. But of course, Zen didn’t know this when she started her work. She was just thinking ‘sick kids get better on organic’. The labelling GMO debate has been a hugely controversial in the USA. This was where Zen and MAA initially focussed a significant proportion of their work. Unless you’ve been asleep for the past five years, the US has had attempt after attempt of citizens to implement labelling of GMO’s in various states. It’s been huge. The spend by the grocery manufacturers union, industry, and FMCG producers to stop labelling has been huge. $$Millions$$. Because somehow all those corporations have decided that the cost of labelling foods as ‘contains GMOs’ would be too expensive for the average American. Europe seems to have done it easily.

But it’s more than GMOs. Consider that wheat today is routinely sprayed with insecticides, fungicides and herbicides. Then consider that not one single regulatory agency in the world tests the full formulation of these products. Scientists have found that just the fungicide formulation along can be 1000x more toxic than the weaker active ingredient, the only part of the ‘mix’ they test. Then consider that the full formulation of all pesticides worldwide are never tested for toxicity, including Roundup. And then think of your kids gut (BTW they never make allowances for smaller kids size and vulnerability when they assess safety of pesticides). It’s not just the gluten, folks. It’s corruption.

Zen Honeycutt and the mothers of MAA are mothers who have watched the health of their children improve when purchasing organic food. This may seem too simple, and too good to be true (which is why you have to come and listen to her speak in person). But for these mums, the evidence is in front of them. Food matters.

Why is organic food is making a difference to family health?:
1. Reduced toxin levels – primary toxins in our children’s food today are GMOs and synthetic pesticides. There are also food colourings, preservatives, flavour enhancers and so on. These products are rarely in organic produced foods.
2. Organic food also has a scientifically proven higher nutritional content. These children are eating food that is similar to what their grandparents ate. It’s as simple as that.

Is organic food expensive? Not when you start visiting the doctor and pharmacy less, and start sleeping through the night. It’s a different set of costs. Many of these mothers don’t eat a 100% organic diet – many find an 80% diet works.

These mothers are reducing 2 of the 3 factors that scientists are starting to understand are needed to cause so many of these illnesses. They are taking out the environmental trigger, and they are restoring their children’s gut wall with healthy nutritional food that enables the gut wall to rebuild itself.

You can give a formal term to what Zen and Moms Across America are doing – they are providing in-field, epidemiological evidence. They’re compensating for the fact that after 14 years+ no diagnostic tools for any health professional to find out if GMO content in diet has a relationship to their illness. So we are kind of stuck – the only way we can ensure safety is by elimination.

GMO’s – Further Reading: It’s not just altered genes we need to be worried about – it’s gut-harming toxin/pesticide residue levels

Roundup is routinely sprayed on over 80% of GMOs. So most GM products will have higher levels of Roundup. If you are a practical Kiwi you will tell me, ‘Roundup is fine, you can drink it.’ What you may be interested in, if you are thinking of your kids health, is of how mainstream media is ignoring the barrage of publicly released science that is saying Roundup is unsafe. But don’t worry, the NZ EPA only uses science that the pesticide industry provides to prove safety of Roundup. And our EPA hasn’t looked at any new science since 2009 to understand the overwhelming picture that scientists (who are not paid by the pesticide industry) are pulling together of the toxic effects Roundup produces in our endocrine, gastroeintestinal and neurological systems. Massive data gaps.

Unfortunately, it’s not just GMO’s that can have Roundup sprayed on it. Therefore reading about Roundup will only be of interest to you if you eat wheat, oats, vegetable oil, potatoes, sugar, lupins and drink beer (barley). All these foods are approved to have Roundup sprayed on them up to 7 days before harvesting in to human food. Oh, also if you eat pork and chicken as these animals are primarily fed GM protein meal, of which the significant proportion is sprayed with Roundup. Our food is fundamentally different in its toxin load than the food our grandparents ate.

And those GMOs that don’t have Roundup sprayed on them? (Excepting the 1% of other stuff.) They contain a ‘Bt’ insecticide bacteria toxin. Naysayers will say the organic industry uses this in it’s pest management systems so it is totally fine. What the naysayers don’t mention is that a spray on our food is totally different from a bacterium injected into our food. That explodes insects guts. Nice. Today many GMOs have the Bt toxin inside them and also have Roundup sprayed on them. GMO’s have been crossed, or stacked. So today a GMO corn for example, is approved to go in New Zealand food and feed that can have Roundup and 2,4-D sprayed on it. What is pretty insane, is that our approval authority FSANZ approved this corn before they even knew the levels of 2,4-D that were going to be sprayed on it (2,4-D is neurotoxic amongst other things). FSANZ approved of 2,4-D tolerant corn years before America approved of it. We have varieties of potatoes, sugar beet, corn, cotton, rice canola and soybean that are approved to go in our food in New Zealand.

You can find all the GMO approvals for New Zealand here.

Another problem. Confrontingly, when new releases come through of a new GM product, they are released based on ‘available science’ – science is not specific to that product at time its approved. Scientists can wait years to determine whether decisions are correct. Meanwhile the product has been approved for release in that time. Furthermore the studies accompanying these new releases are almost always provided by the product developer rather than an independent third party. The product is under the developers proprietary control and unavailable for independent testing. So, in all likelihood there are zero scientific studies provided in the literature that is provided for assessment.

Another problem. There is also a new generation of GMOs moving through the system. Known as GM2.0, industry is busy attempting to make them resolutely ‘non-GMO’ so that they can avoid all that pesky regulation that has been such a nuisance for industry for the first generation. (And believe me, by declaring GMO’s as GRAS and as ‘substantially equivalent’ and avoiding having to submit any publicly released transparent long term feeding trials, industry actually did avoid a lot of hassle with the current crop. Non-industry scientist have spent the last 2 decades trying to unravel that nasty mess, and internationally there is still no consensus that GMOs are even safe, no matter what industry funded blogs tell you).

What do mums want? They want the same quality of food – high in nutrition – low in toxins – for their children that their grandparents ate.

Zen, we can’t wait to hear your story, and to hear how you are working with other mums to make American food safety agencies more transparent, helping people understand this story, and how you are making your own world and the people around you – healthier.

We have a new generation of activists that are campaigning for healthy kids. And they come from the most conservative backgrounds you can imagine.

How outrageous.

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When it comes to kids with gut related illness – Make changes, but lose that guilt.

Michelle PerroOne of the most important things paediatrician Dr Michelle Perro can say to mums is ‘We didn’t know’. But we do know now.

This article is an abbreviated extract of an engaging and enlightening youtube interview with Molly Arthur. As Ms Arthur says, Dr Perro is a ‘clarion clear voice for issues around health.’

What changes have you seen in the last thirty years in children?

‘Molly it’s been an interesting journey and the unfortunate part is I’ve seen a decline in children’s health with a profound increase in very alarming health issues, and they encompass all types of health issues – be they respiratory, endocrine disorders such as diabetes, allergy; or involve premature puberty – big problem in children kids going into puberty at 8 or 10 for girls, 12 for boys – you can imagine what is happening in middle schools, it’s a disaster; and health issues around neurodevelopment regarding ADHD disorder, as well as autistic spectrum, and on and on. It’s a profound change in what paediatricians are treating now in children.

‘My practice has evolved. I was a paediatric emergency physician, and over the years I have changed what I do to embrace what I am seeing now… My practice involves integrative health – paediatric medicine, functional medicine, homeopathic medicine – because what I have learned is the previous methods of healing children no longer apply now.’

Because children are sicker today, different types of health issues are challenging professionals, which is the reason why Dr Perro has changed the way she treats her patients. She suggests major factors in the reason health is declining – ‘our food and increased food toxicity, environmental toxins and the influence of drugs on children’s systems and how we practice health and give healthcare’.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMost of what we are seeing is toxic-related. I spend a lot of time talking about nutrition in my practice. Sometimes I feel all I do is talk about food.’
Dr Perro believes that good food, rich in nutrition – which has always been the cornerstone for children’s health – is compromised today.
‘There is no doubt in my mind that children should only be eating non-processed, organic food because here is no amount of pesticides in food that is safe for children. There is a lot of good research on that.’

This is despite, and here Dr Perro sighs, ‘an EPA report on pesticides, I was scanning 250 pages and they talk about the state of our kids health. They had one small paragraph in there about glyphosate. In a class of pesticides called aromatase inhibitor, there is a lot of toxicity, not just for children. Just one paragraph did say there was a link with glyphosate and reproduction… It’s clear, glyphosate has been widely published in European studies of the health risks on animals. This particular pesticides. But there are lots of pesticide. This is just one…’

For example in the Central Valley in California, a big growing area, lots of organophosphates and clear studies linking organophosphates and increased rates of ADHD in children. They’ve studied why is this happening? What types of enzymes these kids lack? Why are the children unable to break down the pesticides?

So you think this ties into the increase in illness and quantity and depth of illness our children have now? ‘I do.’

You see a direct correlation with the environmental toxins? ‘I do…. We’ve had to become toxicologists as paediatricians…. Kids are more exposed, no doubt. ’

‘There are no studies on the multi effects of children showing how multiple chemical exposures, the cumulative effect of the toxins in our diets, effect children. What happens when you have plastic, heavy metals, mercury and lead… what happens when they are together, with genetically modified foods?

These are some of the things we are trying to untangle. We see sick children and parents are coming to us saying help us – what do we do?’

When asked by Ms Arthur to cite an example, Dr Perro works with patients, Dr Perro described this scenario.:
‘You take a child with severe school disruption. The child is unable to focus in class, child’s disruptive in class, the mother’s getting called into school. The child is impulsive, aggressive, disruptive. Just ADHD issues. They often have gut issues as well, these kids. Many of them also have sleep issues. They come home and can’t get to sleep. They’re wired. So mothers are getting calls from constantly from school, they need all sorts of special school support, the kids are aggressive, often impulsive, you can imagine what that’s like, they can’t sleep so half the family is up all night, then you have a sleep deprived family, and many of these kids have secondary health issues. They have asthma, allergies, and you have a mum like that who is managing 1, 2 or 3 kids and I have families with three children or more and each child has a health issue.If kids don’t have healthy guts The rest goes to pot…

So how do you clinically diagnose?

There are things now that are in my toolbag that I didn’t even have ten years ago. I wish I had these things, I have just been learning it as I have gone along. It depends on the child – but I look a lot at the gut. The gut is the largest immune organ – 70-90% of our immune system comes from the gut. If kids don’t have healthy guts? The rest goes to pot.

You need healthy flora many children have had multiple courses of antibiotics for recurrent ear infections. It alters their biome, and that causes disruptions in their immune system. The other thing I see a lot, is for example, leaky gut. Children who leak these different proteins, and develop secondary immune responses, and have food allergies.
How do you diagnose a leaky gut?

I can remove certain food group offenders and see how kids do. An elimination diet. That’s the easy way. I can test and look for food antibodies. These are not the typical antibodies, they’re not the typical tests some allergists may use, … but I have had fabulous results. Finding kids who have these lower grade, food antibodies and food issues. I adjust their diets and right there they get better without having to do anything else.

Do you have to get off gluten?

Getting kids off gluten is a big part of my practice. A lot of kids have gluten sensitivities. Gluten has a lot of deleterious effects on children…
Ms Perro believes that GMO food contributes to abnormal architecture in leaky gut, (she postulates, following results from animals studies). ‘Large gluten proteins are getting across the gut wall, which is supposed to have tight junctions, the immune system is on the other side picking it up, seeing it as a foreign invader, and making an immune response. I wonder what other toxins get across easily because that normal architecture is not intact.

But I do believe leaky gut can be fixed and kids get better.

What I do is organic, organic, organic, non-GMO diet. I say that all day. But critically, for this to work: ‘Somebody has to get into the kitchen. Cooking’s cool!’. This involves no processed food, only organic, no processed food, no chemicals in the food, non-GMO, healthy soil, farmers market when possible, no fast food.’

A lifestyle change.

Are we aware of the risks of GMOs? …

I don’t believe people realise how pervasive it is, and the health impact. I don’t think that’s understood. Because they are not hearing from their paediatrician, it’s not in the literature, it’s not in our newspapers. So when you improve kids health this is where we have to start.

But I have some families who say, ‘I do all that and my kids still have these issues, what’s going on?’ Kids are still sick, what’s happening? I say, look at the school, what chemicals are used there? For example a child had profound headaches – it ended up being new glue in the school carpet. It’s a big conversation. As mums, as families, there is so much toxic stuff around schools, cleaning products, pesticides, dust, glues and art supplies etc.

Children are closer to the ground, they put more in their mouth, metabolise and breathe faster. Children take up more toxic chemicals. …. I worry about heavy metals in seafood.

Can we heal our children?

And it’s very hard to get people to make change. Particularly around habits. I put food in the same category as addictive habits. Trying to come off gluten, it’s not so easy. Off sugar, off carbs – top addictions. When children get better, parents will make the change. Who does the cooking?trying to come off gluten

If you’re the cook, you’re in charge. You do it as a family. You can’t hide junk food in the closet like my husband did.

Eat real food. (Look at) personal care products. You don’t want to overwhelm a family – start with a small list. Sometimes I have mums take pictures of their pantries – let’s see, what have you got in there?!! Home economics isn’t there to educate people anymore. We need to help people…. We think locally, we change home. We model behaviour – to help unruly teenage sons to change as well. It’s not how we started – I’ve come along way.

I tell mums: Lose that guilt – we didn’t know. You have to leave that guilt behind. No self-flagellating! Kids can heal, with testing, with integrative health therapies to help them heal.

For me – what I tell my mums – every change they make – one change is a significant change. You don’t need to change everything in a day. Begin small so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
Take baby steps. Some families are ready to do it. They’re there.

1. Use up your existing content in your cupboard.
2. Buy bulk organic – it’s affordable. Buy bulk, and make it.
3. Don’t buy processed foods, you’ll save on your budget.
4. Don’t cave to the kids. Have the snacks ready. Eg. Almonds, raisins and dark chocolate, a special treat.

I wouldn’t be sitting having this conversation with you if I didn’t think women could do this. Dads are involved too, but women have a special calling to keep their kids healthy.
I see them sick, and they get healthy. There’s a fierceness about mothers wanting to improve the world for their children.

If I piss off enough mums they get with the program.
They get it.

Molly Arthur: We can speak up, we can make a difference. We can speak up and have something strong to say. Thank you Dr Perro for being here with us today – for giving us advice for being the Dr Mom that is living the reality – we know we will make it better for our children
Abbreviated. Interview with Dr Perro for Healing from the Ground Up. Published Nov 5, 2014. Community Media Centre of Marin.

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Are the benefits of solar being presented accurately in the NZ media?

We are hearing the message that solar panels don’t save money and are not worth on the EECA web site. They refer to this consumer report: Sunny Money – Are grid-tied solar
photovoltaic systems a good investment?

If you’re considering solar you may want to mull over this piece that was emailed to me :

I know of at least one person who has been put off from installing solar PV because of this article. But you can’t blame politicians if they are quoting Consumer magazine.

I haven’t calculated our solar PV economics recently. Our system has been in place for over 2 years. Initially (first year) we were on a zero sum costing (1 for 1 payback, and we generated a cash surplus). But then Meridian changed the rules to the version described in the consumer article. As a result we have very slowly gone backwards for the last 1.5 years – i.e. our average monthly cost is slightly higher than our average production, but we have not yet worked off the credit that we built up with Meridian. So we have not yet paid any cash for electricity since the system was turned on. With an optimised use strategy in place (i.e. turn things on when generation is at max – usually middle of day) and an energy efficient retrofit of a house, solar PV should be operable at break even. That means the only cost is either cost of borrowing, or opportunity cost of alternative uses for the money spent. Consumer got its story wrong, because it did not take into account how people optimise their house efficiency and use of electricity when they install solar PV. However, it was right to point out that electricity companies can change the rules without consulting, and that affects the payback and value calculations.

Batteries are becoming much cheaper and the technology more reliable. As power companies change the rules to protect their cash flows, people with solar PV will be incentivised to instal batteries and withdraw from the power grid. The argument that installing solar PV on a micro scale simply shifts generation capacity – because solar PV installers still need electricity at night – is political hype. The main grid battery is water in the dams, and solar PV allows more of that water to be held back, reducing demand for the last-ditch requirement to turn on a gas generator. With enough installed solar capacity, the need for the gas generator will fade to zero. In fact, we already have much of that capacity available at Manapouri – suggesting that the best place to instal solar PV is Northland and AUckland. It is pretty much accepted that the alumium smelter is going to die, despite the taxpayer covering ever more of the costs of keeping it running.

Line charges, gst, etc all remain the same in our power bill, although all are charged on a kwh basis so are linked to the production vs use tradeoff. Our system has covered all of these costs succesfully, at an installation cost of $9500. The system is guaranteed, so there are no maintenance costs (I am not sure how long that deal lasts – we have had one minor breakdown that was almost certainly caused by power supply issues from the grid – it was not a fault with our system).

We have no swimming pool, spa pool, electric car or large freezer. These are big electricity users, and if we acquired any of them, we would have to up the size of our solar array to maintain our break-even status. They are a key cause of the average household use normally reported and on which Consumer based its calculations, of about 8000 kwh per year. The use by our big old house with 4 people is 3800 kwh per year (we use a wood fire for heating, and wood costs us about $240/year).

Dr Ian G. McLean

Thanks for the article Ian – it is food for thought.

Might just spark something in you.

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Sometimes you need to hear it to believe it. So here I am.

food victim

Our world view is connected to the people that surround us and the media we are exposed to.  I grew up in a conventional right wing farming family. Politics was never discussed, you simply voted right. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to vote any other way.

But then stuff happened to change me. I learn’t about illness, I learn’t about the story that our government and media aren’t being honest about. 

Did I move left or did the world around me move right? Did seeing suffering, and suffering myself, wake me up?

I watched two parents die of cancer before they got to see their grandchildren. I saw how illness and sadness can disable a family.

Then, in my twenties I escaped into pasta and sweet food. This grew to a common sugar addiction. You’re addicted if you experience constant cravings (every 15-30 minutes).  This can include basic sugars and simple carbohydrates like pasta. I thought of eating all the time. No energy, a bit of depression, a type of empty nothingness. At that stage I never connected my feelings and my health to the food I ate.

After my son was born in my early thirties I was exhausted, in a brain fog, needed 10 hours of sleep a night and was still exhausted. I was sick. I couldn’t remember a thing. I could barely function. My husband was amazing – but he was scared that this would define the rest of our lives. Me useless.

I had developed an autoimmune disease – hypothyroidism. The thrilled doctor worked out my ailment and provided me with pills and told me it was wonderful, I had an illness modern medicine could fix.

But – I was still exhausted, in a brain fog. The bags under my eyes stared back at me in every photo. Living with constant ladies problems.  I should have carried a bottle brush around with me….  Taking loads of anti-fungals that never worked.  I was only in my mid-thirties. How could I feel this bad?

How could I keep taking medicine that never seemed to work?

My friend sent me to a herbalist. 90% of the herbs she put me on are for digestion – to help my kidneys, pancreas, to help my digestive enzymes and gut bacteria work to pull the goodness out of the food I eat. She got my gut working rather than selling me a stack of vitamin pills. Common sense. Honestly, for the first 5 years I didn’t really realise this.  I just realised that I had gone from 70 years old back to now 39 years old. I started to examine the food I was eating. I still had raging candida and brain fog.

Most doctors don’t often acknowledge the fact that hypothyroidism is usually only partially helped by pharmaceutical drugs. My doctor never talked about my diet. Why not?  Why is food no longer medicine? Today I go to the doctors once a year – to get another thyroxine prescription. But to function as a 40 something I also spend over $800 on herbs – mainly for my digestive system. When I stop taking them because I don’t want to spend the money I get sick.

Most people can’t afford to spend this money. I am extremely lucky. But it makes me an activist as I want other people to not get sick.

I look around today – I know too many people on depression tablets, too many people with allergies, too many people with autoimmune disease, too many children and adults with cancer. There is so much talk about our genetic predisposition to illness and not enough talk about how we can avoid illness. We have rabidly more illness than we had 20 years ago. The significant difference is stress and what we put in our mouths.

This is not normal.  This illness load. This should not be the new normal.

Only patented drugs are available at a discount through Phamac. Most disease originates in the gut. Herbs and healthy eating can prevent and repair many of these diseases. But we only send a message out through our health care system to put a plaster on the illness. We don’t examine the ability of natural medicine and food to be as effective (and without the side effects) of pharmaceutical medicine. We need both. But this is ignored. This is a pharmaceutical model not a healthcare model. We could be smarter.

Prevention is cheaper.

I was in the doctors with my pre-diabetic grandmother the other day. I had asked her if the doctor (whom I like very much) had talked to her about her breakfast Weetbix, her toast and cheese for dinner – as being foods that essentially contained simple sugars that would have contributed to her now diabetic status. He had never discussed it with her. He said she was too old to change. Really? Porridge and vegetable soup would be damaging?

A dietary guideline for a healthy diet can never evolve to a cultural (kiwi) habit until our doctors are able to tell us that eating three wheat meals a day is a recipe for disease. That we need to eat to protect the gut. That there are simple herbs and minerals that Pharmac can provide cheaply that act as preventative medicine and can be better long term than pharmaceutical medicines.

Mainstream government doesn’t want to know about it.

I changed my life.  I increased the green vegetables our family eats at night 3 fold and are deaf to complaints. My kids eat bulk bought muesli, plain yoghurt and buttery cheesy omelettes before school. I eat wonderful grass fed meat with fat on it (but not all the time). Hardly any wheat and a tiny bit of sugar. I do everything I can to keep their sugar load down so they don’t develop and addiction to think about food all the time. go down my path of illness. On my watch I will protect them. Guard them.  I want to yell it to the world.  Defend your kids.  We all deserve more.

The French word for food is ‘nourriture’ – nourishment. The English speaking west calls what we put in our mouths food – fuel.

I don’t have cravings now. Only for something that will nourish me. I might sound like a wanker – but I don’t want to live the other way anymore.

But until you get there, you can’t believe you can.  I feel ten years younger than I felt ten years ago. I know sick people who will look at me blankly, not believing they could get better.

My herbalist tells me I am susceptible to diabetes, depression, cancer, osteoporosis… the list goes on.  Every one of us has genetic predisposition to particular illnesses.

We can’t blindly march into illness. Not knowing how deep we are in it until our life is screwed.

That’s why I am speaking up.  Risking criticism. Looking like an idiot.

I slowly started becoming political because it was so, well, unfair. Wrong. Women look after sick kids, women are more susceptible to autoimmune disease.  Women bear the load.

There is room in our media for reporting. But little room today for honest, transparent passionate debate. So we can’t question.  We simply listen. That’s why you never see media reports in the BOP about people affected by pesticide spray.  It affects more people than car crashes but it’s not ‘newsworthy’.

Our national illness forecast is more similar to the US than Europe. NZ needs to be able to fund the sick. Or privatise. Or make waiting lists longer.

Which is what we are doing.  It’s a numbers game. Cutbacks. Less services, keeping our healthcare bill at 11% of GDP the same. But with more people suffering.

America’s healthcare bill as a percentage of GDP is heading towards 20%. Europe’s is around 11%. Europe is making very different decisions from the USA because most of Europe’s health care is socially funded through taxation.

I have to speak up. And I blog because the papers won’t touch this content.

I know my life has changed dramatically. I am desperate for our government to implement policies that protect people from illness so we have less drag on the system.

It’s always about the money. If you take one or two weeks off a year because you are sick.  How much does that cost? Changing your diet radically alters your immunity and predisposition to disease. How much does that cost when you eat less because you are nourished? Seriously, you do.

I bet that even sounds like a joke to many reading this.

There is so much we need to talk about. Can we discuss how the food pyramid is broken? That cereals doused in pesticides take up too much space on our plate? Discuss how we need to support farmers so they can nourish the soil in order to feed us nourishing food? Discuss quality of food not quantity – all our government wants to do is increase production. How can we look sideways to premium markets that want grass fed milk?

Why won’t our government tell our families that cereal for breakfast, bread for lunch and pasta for dinner will lead to sick people?  Why won’t our government tax soft drinks? Why won’t our government limit junk food businesses near schools?

The science is starting to illustrate that real food can be as, or more healing than pharmaceuticals. Can we discuss that pushing more people into private insurance because we have burgeoning medical costs that our tax base simply can’t handle is a reactive response to a growing illness load. That’s a US policy and it’s failing. So, just rich people deserve good health care?

These questions should never be a left wing issue. This should be a mainstream discussion. 

But it’s marginalised.

We will never agree with every policy of any political party. Just like we won’t agree with every decision the people we are closest to will make over their lives.

Europe is so much further down the path than we are. Preventative health as policy. Environmental caution as policy. Is it because they have lived there longer?  They realise that once their world is stuffed, it truly is stuffed?

Why does a significant proportion of Western Europe abolish fracking, refuse GMO’s, have higher taxes for the rich, recycle over 90% of waste, establish taxes for junk food, have systems in place to feed kids vegetables and fruit at lunchtime, embrace green technology and green energy?

Start asking questions and you realise Europe is looking at the science. Science based decisions made by non-corporate scientists. And Europe is more transparent.

Of course Europe will never be perfect. But at this stage is NZ simply following the USA? More non-communicable illness than anywhere else in the world. What a legacy to pass on to us.

It’s very had to live a meaningful and fulfilling life when every day, you feel like shit.

I am desperate for brave decisions and policy discussion. Not sidelining.

I want my kids on a journey that doesn’t involve a constant struggle for good health.

And I have too many questions that aren’t being addressed.

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Must be a bad writer.

A couple of months ago I spent a while trying to get this piece into mainstream media. I tried New Zealand’s National Radio, Listener, Stuff, NZ Herald.

I guess a) no one’s interested in this topic and b) I am a rubbish writer. And yes – of course there is competition for content. But look at the content…. and look at people affected by gut related illness. Fair proportion of the population I would guess.

PRESS RELEASE:  Kiwis have a gut-full of illness.

Increasing medical costs related to leaky gut unsustainable.     July 3, 2014.

TAURANGA NZ:  Mother and researcher, Jodie Bruning, believes the NZ health system needs a sharper focus on research regarding diseases and disorders connected to a permeable bowel (intestinal permeability), known commonly as leaky gut and IBS.

‘This is an election year, it’s time to focus on a really important area of illness that affects a huge amount of Kiwi families.

‘Among the top twenty medicines on our Pharmac list are many medicines for illness or disorders with a common factor. This is a weakened or damaged gut wall and an inability to process nutrients effectively.  Allergies, autoimmune disease, diabetes and asthma – even depression – has this common element which should be investigated, and considered a potential cause.   We’re talking about a huge proportion of the New Zealand population.’

‘Our biggest single drug expense is for an autoimmune drug. Humira (adalimumab) outstrips everything else on the Pharmac list. New Zealand doesn’t even keep an autoimmune register to track the exploding range of autoimmune related illness – and the subsequent cost to our taxpayer load.  But we pay these exploding bills’.

Autoimmunity results from an immune dysfunction and is often an ‘unseen’ illness.  We are all susceptible to immune stress, which can lay dormant for many years. However, autoimmune disease, encompassing more than 80 illnesses globally, is almost always triggered by external influences and it can be life threatening. The disease affects women disproportionally.

Pharmac cost gut permeability Top 20 Medicines ex manufacturer cost 2010-2013Bruning believes the growth in taxpayer cost for these medicines is unsustainable, and that by not researching the environmental triggers, the NZ government is failing in its duty of care.

‘We have always had a base level of these particular illnesses in the New Zealand population – but today the figures are increasing at an astounding rate. We need to ask ‘why’ these diseases weren’t so prevalent 25 years ago, and question why so many of these diseases have gut disorder as a common theme. It’s not just better diagnostics’.

Whilst funding has been directed towards genetic traits and behaviours, there has been little focus on our diets and our physical environment, and how dramatically this has changed in the last 20-30 years.

‘We blame the death of a relative for bringing on, for example, Crohn’s disease, where in previous generations the experience would have been stressful, but not resulted in autoimmune disorder.  When you have a weakened gut wall it doesn’t take much to descend into an exhausting and debilitating lifetime illness or allergy. ‘ In most cases, increased permeability precedes disease’. [1]  It’s time to ‘see the forest for the trees.’

‘We need a responsible, wide ranging conversation and investigation about this from an independent source. Most health practitioners are focussed on one area of health and can’t stretch easily into other illness sectors.  We need dedicated inquiry into the environmental triggers that tip our digestive system and then our bodies into illness. Funding that will put the health of Kiwi’s first.’

Hippocrates advised us 2400 years ago that ‘all disease begins in the gut’, it’s time to take some old fashioned medical advice.

[1] ‘In most cases, increased permeability precedes disease’.

 Intracellular tight junctions:    Zonulin and Its Regulation of Intestinal Barrier Function: The Biological Door to Inflammation, Autoimmunity, and Cancer.  IV. INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY AND DISEASE.  A. Fasano. Physiological ReviewsPublished 1 January 2011Vol. 91no. 151-175 DOI: 10.1152/ physrev. 00003.2008.

Hippocrates 400BC :  Hippocrates, the father of medicine, is quoted as saying, “bad digestion is at the root of all evil” and “death sits in the bowels.”

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Why do we all have sick guts? NZ health policy needs to digest some facts.

It’s an election year and there is one health policy I want to see that none of the parties are publicly considering.road to health paved good intestines

It is a policy I believe nearly every Kiwi would support. Especially women, whom this issue disproportionately affects.  A common sense policy to help us maintain our commitment to a health expenditure as a proportion of GDP at under 11%.

It’s a research funding commitment. Not to develop some new flash drug, some silver bullet, or a ‘sure fix’. It’s not a sexy issue, quite the opposite in fact. It’s down and dirty and rather, errr, fecal.

We need to understand what makes our gut lining and digestive system – degrade. Breakdown.

What are the environmental triggers that lead to a permeable bowel? What are the main dietary and environmental factors that result in a reduced gut microbiota – reduced bugs and bacteria in our gut?

We really don’t know.

What illnesses are related to permeable (leaky) bowel? Many cancers, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, coeliac disease, irritable bowel, CFS & ME, allergies, asthma, autism, ADHD & ADD, depression and ankylosing spondylitis, skin conditions including psoriasis, eczema, and atopic dermatitis to name a few. Yes, this list covers a lot of illness. I find it stunning, myself.

A huge part of our immune system depends on a healthy digestive tract. Vitamin C is only part of it. We need a heck of a lot of other nutrients to be absorbed by our bodies – using a healthy digestive system. Without this nutrient conversion and healthy absorbtion our systems break down.  In different ways often, depending on our genetic disposition.

Furthermore, when your family is presenting with ongoing immune related maladies, coughs, colds, the flu etc, it can be pretty surprising to understand the gut connection is a enormous part of getting better. (Therefore don’t eat junk food when you’re sick – get aggressive, get militant, feed your gut and slice and dice that garlic and onion and build up your own forces to repel that invading army. Don’t just spend $40 on medicine.)

There is a reason, 2,400 years ago, Hippocrates considered that all disease began in the gut.

Why is the gut so important? Because a permeable gut wall is usually present before onset of illness. Let me repeat: Before.  So when you descend into illness after a traumatic event, losing a parent for instance, in most cases your gut was already sick. It’s this massive omnipresent cofactor across all these illnesses. Your body didn’t have enough ‘ooomph’ to get you through unscathed. Your gut wasn’t working properly, you couldn’t extract enough nutrients to boost your immune system in a time of stress. Then you got sick. And we all get sick in different ways as we have different genetic predispositions, according to the environmental challenges our ancestors faced.

We have over three times the bacterial cells in our bodies than human cells. Our immune systems and body bacteria are interdependent. Our bodies have evolved to need and use these bacteria every day. We evolved from bacterial sea dwelling slime, we are them and they are us. We get rid of our evolutionary partner and we get sick.

Increased city based populations have resulted in us living in a cleaner, more hygienic environment, reducing our early exposure to germs and dirt. But it’s more than that. Our illnesses are accelerating faster than they ever did before.

What are the environmental triggers that create the pathway into allergy and autoimmune disease? We might have the genetic disposition, but nothing happens until the environmental triggers create the gut dysbiosis.

When we walk into the doctors, the symptoms doctors see are the tip of your own private iceberg. The gut is not often considered, it is hidden away.

Doctors are time poor and this is a relatively new field. Is there a corresponding relationship between New Zealand’s extremely high rate of antibiotic use and it’s correspondingly stunning rate of asthma? How do pesticides sprayed on our food affect our digestive system?  Herbicides, insecticides and fungicides kill plant based bacteria, bugs and fungus, after all. Is it no surprise that a little town of Te Puke in New Zealand with its population of 7,500, it’s orchards and sprays just happens to have an arthritis support group? Why do I know a mum with 2 autistic kids who spent their early years surrounded by 3 different orchards with three different spray regimes?

Why are people starting to believe there is a correlation between the pesticides including Roundup that is sprayed on our wheat, soy, vegetable oils and other cereals, and on the GE/GM feed that our intensively farmed animals (particularly pork and poultry) eat, which together comprise a huge part of our staple food groups – and growing illness rates.

Why doesn’t our government look at the independent publicly released scientific research that indicates pesticides like Roundup and genetically modified organisms are damaging to gut health? You find this newly released research on the NZ EPA site. I can’t.

Please understand there is not a single published study held with the NZ EPA, US EPA, WHO or EU as part of their toxicity assessments investigating the effects of pesticides on the gut microbiome and gut wall and their contribution as  environmental triggers to illness.  At all.

We can talk about the essential role fibre plays in our digestive system, and that antibiotics certainly contribute, as this great Catalyst program illustrates. But the situation is more complex than that.

medicine war between invadingThere’s more… you could say I am generalising or you could say we need to commit the cash for the research.

The pharmaceutical industry is embracing the big new field of ‘prebiotics’ and even ‘fecal transplant medicine’ to help us rebuild our digestive systems. These guys know something is wrong.  My call is that we need to practice prevention.

Practically speaking, researching environmental triggers for gut breakdown isn’t a money maker, which is why the commercial sector aren’t here already. This needs to be publicly funded.

In a country where the medicine is taxpayer funded, the only logical situation is to reduce illness in the first place.

There is no point having a poo transplant to improve your gut bacterial profile, going home and eating a big lunch of bread that has been desiccated (pesticides sprayed on our wheat to dry it out and get rid of weeds) with Roundup (a patented antibiotic, I kid you not).

What a …waste…  I reckon we can be smarter.

Because the NZ tax system isn’t a money pit.

Can we afford to hop on a ridiculous taxpayer funded bandaid roundabout?  That’s why this call for research funding is simple Kiwi common sense.  This is an exciting and relatively new focus of science which could change the way we view medicine – for the better.

Let’s get to the bottom of this problem. Digest some facts.

Doctors are often between a rock and hard place. Distressed parents demanding antibiotics to fix baby Sam’s illness walk into their clinic every day. But I don’t know a single doctor who wouldn’t appreciate independent research (with no ties to the pharmaceutical industry) to get to the guts of the matter.

This initiative covers an incredibly broad spectrum of the non-communicable illnesses whose costs to our healthcare system are spiralling. We have blockbuster drugs on our pharmaceutical scheme the likes of which we have never seen before, tied of course, to problems related to a permeable gut.

happiness digestion Rousseau

The gut is sick before the descent into illness. Without the sick gut would we get sick? Probably not. We need to understand this. We need to do more than apply expensive pharmaceutical bandaids.

A needle in a haystack? Perhaps. But while our governments continue to ignore this pressing need to understand the toxins in our diets, the situation will only get more expensive. (I could say distressing but we are talking policy here). It’s the twenty first century. We have the technology and the scientists.

Does it make sense that we should direct a significant funding commitment to researching gut health? Support groups for people with the above-listed illnesses may agree.  And many sufferers have more than one problem, which can often include mental health disorders – both relating back to the digestive system. Articles here and here and here.  The gut and brain are intricately interconnected through our immune and endocrine systems, among other things, inextricably tied to gut health.

Primarily this is about reducing onset of disease and being cautious. A no-brainer.  It’s tied to a healthy diet (of which lunches in lower decile (‘less fortunate’) schools could only aid), reduced dietary toxins and perhaps altering antibiotic regimes (with independent science based recommendations) to understand what our bodies can actually cope with.

paradigm shift in medical treatmentWe need to ensure our kid’s food is safe (perhaps follow European policy with their no pesticides in baby food mandate) and if necessary, legislate in practical ways to protect our kids physical and psychological futures. Keep toxins out of their bodies as long as we can.

On the plus side, where there is tragedy there’s opportunity. Mass illness?  Mass niche based opportunities!  The science could boost small start-ups in New Zealand. Like suppliers of natural prebiotics. Let’s not let all those big overseas pharmaceutical corporations make all the money. We are the land of raw milk and raw honey, after all.  Develop home grown organic baby foods. There is international market demand for these products.

Let’s reduce the barriers to small food based businesses and let our foodies develop the stuff they know will sell. Let our producers diversify with smart incentives.

These problems aren’t going away quickly. Let’s make some cash while we fix the situation.

I know an entrepreneur or two that may be able to help out….

Call my bluff, tell me I’m generalising, but I urge you to demand that your political parties think strongly about this research.

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The kindness of strangers

Many moons ago I posted a piece hoping that someone out there could fix my ancient 1964 Sunbeam Toastermatic.  I just put it out there.

It was my dads, and it’s special. So I put it in a suitably special place and hoped my wireless plea would reach someone.

This year a very kind person from Melbourne contacted me. Mr. Toastermatic Specialist. Like me, he loves these beautiful old machines. These toasters are so clever, that all you have to do is drop a piece of toast in and it pops up when it is cooked – this is 50 to 60 year old technology.

Look at your mobile phone and ask it if it can last 50 years.  Well then.

I digress – this gentleman and scholar whom I knew from a bar of soap – asked me to send the Toastermatic (and it’s sacrificial brother I had betoasteren keeping for exactly this reason) to Melbourne and he would see what he could do.  He told me to pay particular care to the side wings – when someone asks you to do that, you know he knows what he is talking about.

There’s care there.

So I trusted him. And he fixed my beautiful machine.

I did pay for the cost of fixing it – but the postage cost way more.

He polished her up so she shone like the sun and she glowed like glory, and mailed it back to me.

She is an old lady, so I have to be gentle with her. She only likes going one round on the golf course, so if we are doing a few more rounds we use the griller.

That suits us.

PS:  You companies out there producing long use goods with your planned obsolescence, your breakdown design with your cheap inputs designed to fail after x uses – especially if there is no ease for recycling engineered into your product – you are unethical and shameful.  People will always pay for a good basic product. If the extra inputs making long term quality gives people an extra ten years – they will pay for it.

The poor will pay the extra amount for a product designed for long term use as often it is a small component cost before markup, and the rich will too as long as there is some elite wanky thing showing how extra special their version is.

No-one wants a product designed to breakdown anywhere between 2 and 7 years of use. It’s rubbish.

You should be legislated against. You buggers.

And Mr Melbourne – you are an angel and doubtless extremely good looking. Tell your family to keep you. You’re definitely ‘worth the trouble’.

My family thanks you, stranger. As does my little old antique machine.

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How parents fail.

Our parents don’t fail us when they can’t make it to sports games, don’t bake the perfect birthday cake, aren’t there to watch us get a certificate. When they make a decision once or twice that they later regret. They don’t fail us when they are poor and the electricity sometimes gets shut off.

Our parents fail us when they are unable to love us and provide us with a secure safe environment to grow and flourish in.  They fail us when they systemically act in a way that makes us feel worthless, year after year.  We are monkeys – we’re pretty simple – it’s about love and security.


Our parents fail us when they can’t consistently see beyond their own needs and wants, or their own failures in life – and they are unable to shift into a gear that involves simply doing what is best for the growing child.  And ‘doing best’ is not fulfilling the little darlings every wish and want. It never was.

Our parents fail us when they don’t see us.  When we are hidden to them. When they can’t take that sometimes gargantuan step into ‘small child needs’. When they leave us alone because we are just ‘too hard’ and when they don’t care what time we come home when we are still kids. When they don’t touch us in a loving empathetic way. Because they don’t know how to – or they don’t want to.

Children don’t have to fulfil parent’s expectations in order to be loved, just like a parent will never completely fulfil a child’s expectations.

Guess what – we are allowed to be the ‘difficult child’. The challenging child. The different child. Most families have one – usually because there are similarities to one of the parents. We’ve grabbed their genes, after all. No-one is perfect.

Parents can be tested. That is almost the very definition of being a parent.

These parents usually know they are failing. Somewhere deep inside.

No matter how ‘wonderful’ they are to the outside world.

For kids – it’s not about how many after school activities you are ferried to. It’s not about being worshipped. And it’s definitely not about being told how much they love you. That can be nice – but I know just as many people who grew up with the silent loving parents as the daily ‘I love you’ parents – who are just as secure in their parents love.

It’s about love and comfort.

It’s about being nurtured and supported.  ‘I can’t be at the sports games but I’ll make sure you get there. I will be interested in who you are as a person. I will be there for you for the rest of my life.’

To create a solid foundation for a child to flourish into a confident adult.

Because if you are not loved, flourishing is really hard. Because everything that is said, and, more often than not, unsaid, in the family home, is understood by that child. Negativity seeps into your bones and weighs you down, decade after decade.

Are you worthwhile?  Or are you not?

It can be a massive head-shift to understand that when your parents fail it is not necessarily about you. It can simply be their failure to look beyond their own problems and screw-ups. Sometimes it’s about their state of mental health.

Their inability to ‘grow’.

And the hardest thing for an adult that grew up in a world where they were ‘lesser’ – is to understand, it is not about us. When we are kids lack of truly meaningful love seeps into our subconscious and becomes an indelible part of us. We become defined by an absence of love.

It takes grim determination to kick that one off.

The most important thing a person can do is shift their own gears away from that person who, every time they see that person, makes them shrink inside themselves.  Because ongoing constant (and often subtle) rejection of us as a person – which can be how we interpret all this – makes you feel sick and sad and empty.

I’m not talking about bad times, hard moments, fracturing and difficulty in your teen years – I am talking about decades of knowing your parent/s can’t/won’t love you.

You can’t ever expect to change them. Especially by just sitting around waiting for them to change.  You’ve probably been trying for years to get them to ‘see’ you. Lifetime habits don’t change easily.

Stop wishing.

Create your own soil to flourish in.

Reframe yourself.  If you, in your own life, live in a home that you are happy to come home to (mansions always come at a cost), are with a kind and thoughtful partner &/or friends, and have parented children (if you got there) in a way that is never perfect – but is always defined by your trying to do the right thing for them, with boundaries and care – and so you can see that your world and your kids are happy and confident in a way you could never imagine,…..

If you are watching your children thrive and grow with wings you knew you never had.

You are a success.

So little by little, let go of these people that taught you about suffering. Accept them for who they are. Know that you have learnt much from them.

Give yourself permission to walk away. Because they’ve stuffed up. Failed. You can’t change them. It’s not about you.

Leave them to their own lives.

They’ve taught you enough.

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