Imagine a world where diabetes, heart disease, autoimmunity, and other modern diseases are rare or nonexistent at all; we are naturally slim and fit; we are fertile during our fertile years; we sleep soundly and quietly; we age gracefully without degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis. That would be possible if we didn’t live in a world full of toxins.
A modern lifestyle full of toxins
While this may seem like pure fantasy today, anthropological evidence suggests that this is exactly how human beings lived for the vast majority of our evolutionary history.
Humans evolved approximately 2.5 million years ago, and for approximately 84,000 generations we were naturally free from the modern diseases that kill millions of people each year and make many others miserable. In fact, the world we imagine above in this article, may seem absurd and unattainable today, it was the natural human state of our entire history on this planet until a couple of hundred years ago.
Who was responsible for the change? What transformed us from naturally healthy and vital people free from degenerative diseases to a world of sick, fat, infertile and unhappy people?
In one word? The modern lifestyle. And while there are several aspects of our current lifestyle that contribute to illness, the widespread consumption of food toxins is by far the biggest offender. Specifically, the following four dietary toxins are to blame for our failure to achieve proper health today:
- Cereal grains (especially refined flour).
- Omega-6 industrial seed oils (corn, cottonseed, safflower, soy, etc.).
- Sugar (especially high fructose corn syrup).
- Processed soy (soy milk, soy protein, soy flour, etc.).
But what is a toxin?
At the simplest level, a toxin is something capable of causing disease or damaging tissue when it enters the body. When most people hear the word “toxin,” they think of chemicals like pesticides, heavy metals, or other industrial pollutants. But even beneficial nutrients like water, which are necessary to sustain life, are toxic in high doses.
Most of us don’t get sick from eating a small amount of sugar, grains, soy, and industrial seed oil. But if we eat those nutrients (or rather anti-nutrients) in excessive amounts, our risk of developing modern diseases increases significantly.
4 toxins you eat every day that cause chronic diseases
Let’s look at each of these food toxins in more detail.
Cereal grains are some of the toxins you eat for breakfast
Most animals, including our closest relative (the chimpanzee), are not adapted to eating cereals and do not eat them in large quantities. And humans have only been eating them for the last 10,000 years (a small flash of time on the scale of evolution). Why?
Because plants like cereals always compete against predators (like us) for survival. Unlike animals, plants cannot run away from us when we decide to eat them. They had to develop other mechanisms to protect themselves. These include:
Produce toxins that damage the lining of the intestine;
Produce toxins that bind to essential minerals, making them inaccessible to the body; and,
Produce toxins that inhibit the digestion and absorption of other essential nutrients, including protein.
One of these toxic compounds is the protein gluten, which is present in wheat and many of the other most commonly consumed grains.
The celiac disease (CD), a condition of severe gluten intolerance’s, is well known for decades. Celiacs have a dramatic and, in some cases, potentially fatal immune response to even the smallest amounts of gluten.
But celiac disease is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to intolerance to wheat and other grains that contain gluten. Celiac disease is characterized by antibodies against two components of the gluten compound: alpha-gliadin and transglutaminase. But now we know that people can and do react to various other components of wheat and gluten.
Research over the past decades has revealed that gluten intolerance can affect almost every other tissue and system in the body, including:
Stomach and liver.
Just to name a few.
This explains why CD and gluten intolerance are associated with several different diseases, including type 1 diabetes, thyroid disorders, osteoporosis, neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and dementia, psychiatric diseases, ADHD, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine, obesity and more.
Industrial seed oils
Throughout 4-5 million years of hominin evolution, diets were abundant in shellfish and other sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), but relatively low in omega-6 seed oils.
The research anthropological suggests that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed omega-6 and omega-3 in a ratio of about 1: 1. Tambiénindica both foragers ancient and modern were free of modern inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, which are the leading causes of death and morbidity today.
Industrial seed oils (corn, cottonseed, soybeans, safflower, sunflower, etc.) have not been part of the human diet until relatively recently, when groups began promoting them as “heart-healthy” alternatives.
High intake of these oils is associated with an increase in virtually all diseases. The list includes:
Type 2 diabetes.
syndrome Irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.
The relationship between these oils and cardiovascular mortality is particularly striking.
And those are just the conditions for which we have the strongest evidence. Increased consumption of these oils is likely to have played an equally significant role in the rise of nearly all inflammatory diseases. Since inflammation is now known to be involved in almost every disease, including obesity and metabolic syndrome, it is difficult to overstate the negative effects of too much omega-6 fat.
About 20 years ago, Nancy Appleton, PhD, began researching all the ways that sugar destroys our health. Over the years, the list has continually expanded and now includes 141 points. Here’s just a small sample (the full list can be found on his blog).
Sugar feeds cancer cells and has been linked to the development of cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, lung, gallbladder, and stomach. It is one of the most corrosive toxins for our body since it causes, in addition to the above:
- It increases fasting glucose levels and can cause reactive hypoglycemia.
- It can cause many problems in the gastrointestinal tract, including an acidic digestive tract, indigestion, malabsorption in patients with functional bowel disease, increased risk of Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
- It interferes with the absorption of proteins.
- Sugar can cause food allergies.
- Contributes to obesity.
One of the worst toxins for human consumption: soy
Like cereals, soy is another toxin that is often promoted as a health food. It is now ubiquitous in the modern diet, present in almost all packaged and processed foods in the form of soy protein isolate, soy flour, soy lecithin, and soy oil.
How does soy affect our health? The following is only a partial list:
- Soy contains trypsin inhibitors that inhibit protein digestion and affect pancreatic function.
- Contains phytic acid, which reduces the absorption of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc.
- Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and promote breast cancer in adult women.
- The vitamin B12 analogues in soy are not absorbed and actually increase the body’s requirement for B12.
- Processing of soy protein results in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines.
- Free glutamic acid or MSG, a potent neurotoxin, is formed during the processing of soy foods and additional amounts are added to many soy foods to mask the unpleasant taste of soy.
- Soy can stimulate the growth of estrogen-dependent tumors and cause thyroid problems, especially in women.
Perhaps most alarming, a 2008 study found that men who consumed the equivalent of one cup of soy milk a day had 50% lower sperm counts than men who did not consume. Soy.
In 1992, women who consume the equivalent of two cups of soy milk per day provide the estrogenic equivalent of a contraceptive pill.
That means that women who eat cereal with soy milk and drink a coffee with soy milk every day effectively get the same estrogen effect as if they were taking a birth control pill.
This effect is even more dramatic in babies fed soy formula. Babies fed soy-based formula have 13,000 to 22,000 times more estrogen compounds in their blood than babies fed milk-based formula.
Infants exclusively fed soy formula receive the estrogenic equivalent (based on body weight) of at least five birth control pills per day.