Chemicals in Our Food and Environment Cause Diseases

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“Even our natural produce, the fruits and vegetables, are exposed to these chemicals. Oranges are dipped in dyes to keep their “orange-ness.” Chickens may be treated with yellow dyes to keep their skin looking “healthy.” Sprays are used on produce to prevent insects and microorganisms from moving in or consuming them before the consumer. Bananas are gassed, many fruits and vegetables are sprayed with fungicides, and breads have added mold inhibitors. What increases the selling power of many items, in the eyes of consumers, may not benefit other parts of the body.”

Our societies’ leaders and developers would like us to believe that exposure to tiny amounts of toxic materials poses little or no risk. This is not true! Chemicals are tested for their effect on small laboratory animals in small doses and larger than “safe” or usual doses. We must believe that a chemical or drug may be dangerous to humans if it causes problems for rats or mice, but we must also consider that a substance could cause serious problems in humans even if it seems safe for these laboratory animals. The hidden danger is in the repeated small exposures over time with regular use. Partly because many chemicals do not break down (and therefore accumulate), their presence in the body can cause repeated insults or lead to chronic diseases. Nature does not provide enzymes necessary to break down all of these synthetic chemicals, nor can our body readily metabolize and excrete them.

Industrial chemicals both contaminate and interact with life. Some can even destroy life when they become concentrated enough. Many pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and preservative chemicals can cause liver disease, cancer, and death. Radioactive fallout and air pollution also affects us. But our focus here is on food, both processing additives and the contaminants that get into our food.

Food and water are the main vehicles whereby we receive the chemicals that get into our body. Air pollution and car exhaust, for example, are a real concern but less so nutritionally in comparison to food and water pollution, though some air contamination may settle onto our food. Industrial and agricultural chemicals that contaminate our soil, our water, and our food are our greatest concerns. Local areas may have an emphasis on a particular type of pollution, such as Los Angeles or Gary, Indiana, with air pollution, New Orleans with water contamination, or active agricultural areas with chemical sprays. Ironically, the government agencies charged with insuring the health of the nation and the safety of our air, food, and water refer to these unsafe industrial and agricultural chemicals as “economic poisons.”

There are two levels whereby chemicals cause disease, particularly cancer. The first is by direct irritation, causing change at the cellular and DNA level. A chemical that is a potential carcinogen [cancer causing agent] may actually bind to the DNA in the cell nucleus and/or in the mitochondria, thereby altering its structure and potential for normal duplication. It may also make the DNA more vulnerable to the same or other carcinogens. Further generations of the cell with damaged or transmuted DNA may either metaplastic or malignant. Our bodies have remarkable capabilities when it comes to the repair and even elimination of any abnormal DNA and malignant cells; however, when our immune system is weakened, or there are just too many chemical insults for our body to handle, in a mass of rapidly dividing, undifferentiated cells that takes the body’s energy without using it creatively.

The condition of the host’s immune system is another important aspect in regard to potential carcinogenesis, and indeed, is a contributing factor in a wide variety of diseases. Chemical damage is largely due to the generation of free radicals, unstable molecules that can cause irritation and breakdown of tissues unless they are countered by antioxidants in our body. This oxidation of natural biochemical molecules in the cells and tissues may be a process of degeneration of the body leading to inflammatory problems, allergies, and cardiovascular disease. Stress of all kinds, including aerobic exercise, increases free-radical formation in the body. It is also likely that some environment chemicals and food additives cause increased free-radical generation. Potentially, these are the same kinds of problems caused by radiation, including tissue damage, abnormal effects on cell division most noticeable in the rapidly dividing cells of the skin, mucous membranes, and gastrointestinal tract), and the production of mutated cells. The antioxidant system is a series of enzymes and essential nutrients within the body that protects us from these chemically-induced free radicals, just as a fine-mesh screen protects us and our home from the shooting sparks generated by burning wood in the fireplace.

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