We are what we eat. And that’s a pretty big deal considering how ridiculously sensitive our human bodies actually are. Optimal nutrition is a complicated, messy art that confounds even the most knowledgeable health experts. A diet that’s a little out of balance can lead to a slew of acute problems like decreased energy and constipation. And a diet that’s a lot off balance? Well, that’s a recipe for some serious, even life-threatening issues. Diet-related illnesses are at the core of our nation’s health problems. Do you suffer from any of these most common food-related illnesses?
PMS: Experts suggest that at least 85 percent of women experience at least one PMS symptom during their monthly menstrual cycle. Excessive salt, sugar, caffeine and alcohol can drastically affect your cycle, causing mood swings, bloating and depression. Try reducing the culprits and make sure you’re adding fresh fruits and vegetables loaded with vitamins and minerals like calcium and magnesium, which can help to reduce PMS symptoms.
Food poisoning: Nearly 80 million people are affected by food poisoning every year. What we call the stomach-flu is often e coli, salmonella, listeria, campylobacter or other food-borne pathogens that can lead to the mild flu-like symptoms, and in some cases, to severe illnesses that can cause neurological disorders, organ failure and death. Wash and cook your food thoroughly (particularly meat), and always opt for organic when possible to reduce the risk of contamination.
Headaches: Nearly 20 percent of us will experience a migraine headache in our lives, and millions more of us regularly experience the more common tension headaches, which result from a number of food causes including sulfites in wine, artificial flavors and preservatives like MSG, too much sodium and caffeine, and dehydration. If you’re prone to headaches, eliminate the common culprits, increase your water consumption and try adding in herbs like feverfew, mint, ginko and passionflower.
Obesity: The CDC states that more than 1/3 of American adults are clinically obese. Processed foods including high fructose corn syrup, trans fats and even chemical food additives have all been linked to obesity. Radical diet changes are necessary to combat obesity, as is a regular exercise routine. Working with a professional nutritionist can help you to find a diet program that’s safe and effective for weight loss that stays off.
Cardiovascular Disease: More Americans die of cardiovascular disease than any other cause (more than 40 percent!). High cholesterol levels and clogged arteries often arise from too much stress and saturated fat, and not enough fiber, Omega-fats or exercise. And women are especially at risk for heart attacks after menopause. Routine physical exams can detect early warning signs, and opting for fiber-rich, low-sodium, trans-fat free foods are key to a healthy heart.
Cancer: There are increasing bodies of research connecting diet to many types of cancer. From nitrites in processed meat to artificial colors, sweeteners and preservatives, to the pesticides used on non-organic crops, what we eat can intensify our cancer risks, plain and simple. Stick with organic, preservative and artificial-anything free foods, and make sure to include a diet rich in antioxidants (found in fresh fruits, vegetables and superfoods like green tea, raw chocolate and hemp seeds).
Diabetes: Almost 9 percent of the nation is now suffering from diabetes. Type II Diabetes—the most common form—is largely related to consuming too much sugar, especially processed and refined versions like high fructose corn syrup and refined flours, and not enough fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Skip the snacking, especially on anything processed or refined. Opt instead for fresh, whole foods and make sure to get plenty of exercise.
Osteoporosis: Calcium is integral for healthy bones, but a deficiency, especially in older women, can lead to osteoporosis. As many as half of all women over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis! Highly refined foods like fast food, junk food and sodas can deplete the body of vital minerals including calcium, which leads to osteoporosis. And dairy may not actually be the best choice in boosting your calcium levels, either. Foods rich in absorbable calcium such as almonds and kale should be included in your diet if you’re at risk for osteoporosis.
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