Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The state of food and medicine and mind

This isn't a food blog. It will be more or less a stream of consciousness blog - whatever is on my mind at a given time. I figure, however, since the biggest change in my life has been my family and health, why not start there?

. . .

A lot of my family has been hit hard by cancer and other ailments in recent years. Regretfully, due to health concerns, I've had to say goodbye to a lot of good people in my life.

On my mom's side, cancer took my grandmother, while heart disease took my grandfather while I was still a young lad. Cholesterol is an issue on my mom's side of the family.

On my dad's side, the impact is much more severe. My dad's father died due to emphysema. Again, this happened when I was very young. I lost one of my aunts due to cancer, as well as her daughter (my cousin). Last year, one of my other uncles was diagnosed with cancer, but he continues to fight the battle and is doing much better.

Another of my uncles found out he had terminal cancer early in 2011. He did his best to get his affairs in order, but in May, doctors let us know that things were not going well. I told the folks at work that I would need to take some time off soon. Then, the next day, I was called back home while driving in to work.

My dad died unexpectedly.

I lost my dad in May 2011 due to complications from pneumonia. At the time, we did not know that his health was at risk, so it was quite a blow. He also suffered from agoraphobia for years, which caused him to essentially shut himself out from his family for the last of years. Even though my family and I moved back to our hometown, my son only saw his grandfather, my dad, once. And that was it. And that's still heartbreaking to me, but there is nothing I can do about it other than to continue to be the best dad I can.

He died in the early morning hours. About sixteen hours later, my uncle died. Two deaths in a twenty four hour span is enough to jar anyone.

. . .

Since then, I've become obsessed with my health, convinced that I am doomed. I went in for a checkup this fall. I laid out all of the health issues in my family, what I eat and drink too much of, my tobacco habits, etc... The doctor gave me a cursory once-over and said "lose some weight, pal, but you're all right!" That didn't ease my concerns. I went in for blood work at the start of the year.

Three days later, the doctor called and said everything looked fine, save for my cholesterol and triglycerides were out of whack. "I am putting you on some medication. And change your diet."

That was it. High cholesterol, high trigs - take pills. Oh, and change your diet.

Not WHAT to change in my diet to fix things, but just "change your diet."

I did research on the pills he prescribed. Side effects included potential muscle wasting conditions, liver dysfunction, kidney dysfunction, increased fatigue, etc... What in the hell? I'm concerned about my health and he gave me something that could cause more damage?

We've been watching more documentaries on the food industry lately, as well as medicine. Food Nation, Food Matters, Food, Inc., Supersize Me, etc... - there are a ton of informative programs out there. Of course, each has their own agenda and should be not be taken for gospel, but rather to serve as fodder for some critical thinking and for us to draw our own conclusions.

One thing stuck out in my mind from this more than most any: cancer and obesity were not nearly the threat they are today as recently as 50 years ago. Which, coincidentally, is when pesticides, insecticides, growth hormones, mass farming, etc... took hold in the US.

You think there's not some sort of link?

The second most important thing that stood out is that there is a pill for EVERYTHING. And, as they mentioned in Food Matters, most of these magic pills aren't designed for limited use, but rather a lifetime commitment. Rather than change our diets and be conscious of what we do to our bodies (and put in them), we're to take pills on an ongoing basis, further feeding profits of companies who don't care about health, but rather how to keep us alive for longer "annuity" payments, in many cases, payments that continue in perpetuity.

Cancer isn't a very big threat in Asian countries (seafood, high veggies, more natural), in many African countries, and most South American countries. They happen most in "industrialized" countries. Cuz when I think food, I sure like to think of heavy machinery and oil and exhaust and metal. Yummy!

So in 2012, I'm going much more organic. Almost all of my vegetables and fruits come from the local coop, as well as my grains. Downside is the cost, naturally, and the selection, lacking.

Introduced a lot of new foods, too, like kale, quinoa, no enriched flour products, granolas, and so on. Cut out fries and most sweets. Cut out, mostly, meat unless certified organic.

I feel healthier, but haven't gone back in to check my new levels. That's for second quarter.

Here's to a healthy 2012, provided the Mayans aren't right.

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