Clear up Food Contaminates, and Flu

We were having a glass of French wine over dinner one night, when a light bulb went on in my head. That was it!  The unusual taste and smell fruits and vegetables had taken on in recent months – it was Sulfur. Could it be why almost everyone we know has had a respiratory infection two or three times since January, not to mention the more recent Mexican flu pandemic? We check everything we buy, eat mostly certified organic, and do pHx™ daily, so I haven’t been sick. Still, I’m getting really tired of meals tainted with a Sulfur-like odor. While cruciferous vegetables contain Sulfur naturally (and usually taste and smell normal), upsetting our natural Sulfur balance daily via ingestion of additives and atmospheric pollutants not only impacts viral resistance, it pre-disposes us to DNA damage.

I first noticed the odd odor in Jan/Feb in a sealed bag of certified organic Romaine lettuce from a U.S. grower. When I returned it to the retailer, they said the strange smell was due to wet weather in growing regions – extra fumigation or flushing was being done to extend shelf life. I contacted the U.S. grower who wrote back saying they do fumigate their Romaine lettuce post-harvest, but only with nitrogen gas. That was odd… because nitrogen gas doesn’t have a smell, it’s odorless. Fumigation with nitrogen gas is legal during storage of both organic and non-organic produce. Although it’s an inert (non-reactive) gas, nitrogen displaces oxygen, so inhaling nitrogen gas fumigants can be lethal – which may explain why nitrogen storage handlers haven’t detected the Sulfur.

The smelly bag of fresh Romaine from a trusted grower was my first clue. In the following weeks fresh produce, both local and imported, started taking on a similar smell and taste. At first I thought the retailer was doing extra fumigation, and adding sulfur dioxide. Or perhaps distributors under contract from growers had produce building up in their warehouses (conventional food handlers who didn’t traditionally have the same commitment to certified organic, now carry it). It just didn’t add up, however… limiting our supply of clean unadulterated food is a violation of human rights (a fast track to enslavement that weakens will power). Organic growers and retailers have a vested interest in adhering to the Organic Certification Standards, which ensure our food remains clean of chemicals from farm to palate (in Canada the code will become legal text June 30th, 2009*).

No… it’s happening on much too wide a scale for all these separate businesses to be breaking the Organic Standards, deliberately. The contamination has to be linked to a single source, post-harvest… somehow Sulfur compounds must be getting into food-grade nitrogen fumigants before being sold by the manufacturer, and the produce handlers are not aware of it. In other words, they think they’re being sold a nitrogen fumigant as per the label, when in fact it’s a mix of nitrogen gas and Sulfur. (Canadian Organic Standards do not allow Sulphur application of any sort post-harvest processing, handling or sanitation*.) This may be happening on purpose (without telling anyone), or it may be a manufacturing accident, there’s no way to be certain at this point. At any rate current Sulfur levels in our food supply have the potential to poison not only our bodies but the reputation of the organic industry.

Why is fresh produce, the very root of immune health, being tampered with to the point you can taste and smell the chemicals? Why, all of a sudden, the weak link in the certified organic food chain? Why so widespread? I’ve detected the sulfuric acidity in fresh produce as well as grains, beans, and flour, any natural plant-base product  – it’s ending up in our spices, herbs, and vitamin supplements, even water bottles can be fumigated. Whatever that odor is, to be good to eat food, like water, should taste and smell like nothing except itself.  I’ve noticed the sulfur penetrates deeper into produce with longer storage, and smells stronger as temperature of food rises. The smell is especially bad around restaurants lately when food is being cooked (whereas it’s usually mouth-watering). Fumigation with Sulfur was outlawed on restaurant salad bars quite a few years ago after the tragic death of 12 people.

With the recession, although fumigation and flushing with nitrogen gas is no doubt at an all time high, the Sulfur odor is not really noticeable to most people (you get used to it and don’t smell it after a while). Plus, chemical companies also have devised compounds to mask the Sulfur, somewhat. To find out what is in the nitrogen fumigants we will need to set aside the skepticism that rendeers us naively unresponsive, and test fresh produce for contamination. Fresh produce throughout North America needs to be tested regularly to determine if it’s contaminant free. And whoever is responsible (knowingly or unknowingly) for mixing sulfur with food-grade nitrogen or using sulfur on pre and post-harvest produce, although they may consider themselves employers looking for cost-effective solutions, needs to become transparent…

*IMPORTANT NOTICE: Who would have never guessed that the Canadian Organic Standards had provided growers with a loophole by which to add Sulfur to our fresh produce. Elemental sulfur has been allowed on plants during the blossoming and leafing stage of growth, which is fair enough, except that it includes anytime up till harvest. I don’t see the difference between applying additives to fresh produce immediately before, immediately after harvest, or at the salad bar, do you?

July 29th, 2009 email from PACS Certification Committee to Suzanna:

Hello Suzanna:
There is no issue. Sulphur is allowed. The field recommendations for this year are that if there is evidence of mildew on leaves a grower can continue spraying up to harvest. Sulphur is also applied for ridding of mildew on crops.
The PACS Certification Committee

Authors reply to above email:
Thank you for clarifying this point… with this awareness I will be able to start the process of sourcing fresh produce which has not been treated with sulfur, since I am sensitive to it as many people are (overexposure can lead to sensitivity)….

The following article on the hazards of food sulfur is re-printed from Time Magazine

Tossing Sulfites Out of Salads

Crisp green lettuce. Pulpy red tomatoes. Moist orange melons. The heaping displays at salad bars in supermarkets and restaurants across the nation are as appealing to the eye as they are tempting to the palate. For many people, building a salad to order is a bountiful, healthful new ritual. But for some there is a hidden canker. To keep fruits and vegetables tantalizingly fresh, produce has often been sprayed or dipped in sulfite solutions that prevent wilting and discoloration. Sulfites were long considered safe, but in recent years their skyrocketing use has brought disturbing reports. At least twelve deaths have been linked to sulfites since 1982. An additional 850 people have reported allergy-like reactions to the chemicals, 80% after eating sulfite- laced fruits and vegetables at salad bars and restaurants.

This fall, after almost three years of study, the Food and Drug Administration will impose a ban on the use of six sulfite preservatives in fresh produce. Not waiting for the ban, many supermarkets and restaurants have already stopped using the substances, sometimes substituting diluted citric acid or lemon juice. “The ban is a step in the right direction,” Attorney Mitchell Zeller of the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest concedes. “But the public is by no means protected.” About 7 million lbs. of sulfites are now used in the U.S. each year, on far more than fresh produce. Vintners rely upon sulfites to arrest fermentation and block the growth of bacteria in wine. They are routinely added to make cake and cookie mixes less sticky and to preserve canned and frozen vegetables, dried fruits, instant mashed-potato mixes, breads, salad dressings, fruit juices and soft drinks.

Consumers wishing to avoid the chemicals in such products have a tough time. Sulfites added as preservatives must be listed on packaged foods, but that does not guarantee the information is complete. Supermarket stickers traditionally do not acknowledge the chemicals’ use in processing shrimp and other shellfish. Wine labels do not note sulfites either. People dining out also have trouble getting guidance. Restaurateurs say that much of the food they serve is processed elsewhere, and suppliers’ assurances that a preparation is sulfite free can be faulty.

For most people, the chemicals pose no danger. Still, a sizable number are apparently sensitive to sulfites. Their reactions range from hives, nausea, diarrhea and shortness of breath to shock, coma and brain damage, as well as death. Asthmatics appear to be at greatest risk. The FDA estimates that 450,000 asthma sufferers, or 5%, are sulfite sensitive. For many, suggests Immunologist Ronald Simon of the Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation in La Jolla, Calif., the problem stems from sulfur dioxide, which is released by the sulfite solution. The fumes cause spasms in the bronchial tubes, preventing oxygen from getting into the lungs and blood. Notes Dr. Simon: “Asthmatics are exquisitely sensitive to sulfur dioxide.”

Catabolic ≠ Anabolic Cure

How can we adapt to stress without damaging the complete, perfect, and pre-established blueprint of the human organism? How can we best address the lifestyle cause of oxidative stress (inflammation)? How can we achieve anabolic rejuvenation faster on a daily basis, before catabolic wear and tear  puts us at risk of degenerative disease, cancer, and heart attack? Finding the anabolic/ catabolic balance that restores cellular chemical balance in minutes immediately before and after acidic workouts, and whenever stress disrupts metabolic pH, may be the answer.

As a sole means of physical conditioning, SAID (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands), while necessary for muscle conditioning and controlling weight gain before it becomes Obesity, doesn’t  guarantee the process of aging isn’t happening just as fast. Take for example endurance and resistance workouts which depend largely on anaerobic metabolism –  they generally don’t address the catabolic effects of adrenaline fatigue, deep organ shut down, or neural, hormone and circulatory imbalances that  typically stress the immune system almost immediately (sometimes even at the thought of exercise).

Exercising with slower shorter intervals helps reduce immune stress. However the reality is we need to be able to withstand the full impact of stress at greater speeds, duration and intensity. If we are to adapt muscle cell mitochondria to use up a greater percentage of lactic acid as fuel, if we want to reach for Olympic gold, if we want to go for a run or play a game of squash, how do we reconcile adaptation with the acidification which eventually limits the full anti-aging potential of exercise? Clearly body pH acidity is implicated in free radical damage, and this must be addressed when developing any program of nutrition and exercise.

An acidic cellular environment (indicated as soon as breathing quickens during exercise), increases the probability of oxygen becoming a highly reactive and damaging free radical species, -OH. Chemical pH balance is at the root of  all physiologic processes in the body; it’s the foundation for achieving health fitness. The oxidative stress that results from disruption of body pH chemistry during physical exercise (or any kind of mental and emotional stress) can affect neural signals, gene expression, and an inflammatory reaction produces (CPR), also referred to as protein free radicals or oxidesleading to among many other things, to plaque build up in blood vessels. .

Metabolic pH acidity from excess hydrogen (H+), carbon dioxide (CO2) and lactic acid produced by muscle contraction changes the shape and function of protein cells, as well as the distribution of electrolytes necessary for optimizing the cellular action potential – except in muscle of course which hog most of the blood supply in the body (at least until the compensatory mechanisms fail). The proton gradient across the inner mitochondrial membrane is maintained by the action of the electron transport chain
. The electron transport chain consists of 6 proteins associated with the inner mitochondrial membrane.

Among the numerous theories that explain the process of aging, the mitochondrial theory of aging has received the most attention. This theory states that electrons leaking from the ETC (electron transfer chain) reduce molecular oxygen to form superoxide anion radicals. Superoxide, through both enzymic and non-enzymic reactions, can cause the generation of other ROS (reactive oxygen species). The ensuing state of oxidative stress results in damage to ETC components and mtDNAc (mitochondrial DNA), thus increasing further the production of ROS. Ultimately, this ‘vicious cycle’ leads to a physiological decline in function, or pre-mature aging. It’s been estimated that up to 2% of the oxygen used in mitochondrial respiration could end up as superoxide in unhealthy tissue.

On what basis other than the possibility of oxygen becoming a free radical, would say… “even the simple act of breathing constantly inflicts damage upon our genes.”? Such a viewpoint comes from the premise that our default response to physical, emotion, or mental stress i.e., hyperventilation, is the sole paradigm for breathing during physical exertion. And must necessarily derive it’s logic from the assumption that the pre-established blueprint is not complete and perfect within the context of our natural environment.

Metabolic pH acidity predisposes to free radical production, cellular damage, and inflammation, no doubt. However DNA-altering protocols are not a viable solution. Either are statin drugs used to control the inflammatory reaction typical of overactivity in the sympathetic nervous system. Adverse side-effects add to modern stress that goes far beyond simple physical exertion… from exposure to high-use commercial microwave oven and man-made EMF radiation to ingestion of chemical pollutants and genetically altered food (not to mention unknown effects like nano particles on DNA). Stress causes pH acidity, and anything unnatural to the body puts us under even more stress.

Conceivably pH fitness is an option that can be easily implemented without ‘side effects’. Very good information is now available (just google pH fitness). A recent article in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine reports the finding of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley that supplementing with vitamin C reduces C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Black tea*, Indian gooseberry, Curcumin, and Omega-3 fatty acids also have anti-inflammatory properties. An alkalizing diet will help balance body pH, but not during an acidic workout, or when we’re under stress of any kind.

The trade off for exercise conditioning without pH fitness, is accelerated DNA aging. From the food we eat to the skin products we use to the type of exercise we do, even the chronic stress of working before our neuro-endocrine-organ systems are fully integrated… the resulting body pH acidity is pretty much a way of life in our fast paced world. It’s true, without deliberate exercise engineering that fits the needs of the body homeostatic-ally so precisely it renders hyperventilation unnecessary  during exercise, we have no control over a dismal aging prognosis.

Therefore a comprehensive pH fitness exercise routine which can restore H+ levels to normal with speed and ease is indispensable DNA protection. With the emergence of the Body’Fit pH Fitness™ exercise warm-up  cool down workout (short form… pHx™), it’s now possible to recharge cellular electricity and restore metabolic pH balance by building up the deep body oxygen reserves in as little as 7 minutes pre and post sports training. Even yoga or qi gong, by itself, doesn’t give the same advantage. Incidentally Body’Fit pHx resolves the circulatory imbalance inherent in both endurance and resistance training promoting vascular health.

We seem to sometimes forget that, given what it needs in terms of a true body fit, a living organism is quite capable of regenerating itself continuously… view video below for details.

*A nutrigenomics molecule which may produce similar benefits without concern for statin side effects is found in black tea. To reduce destructive inflammatory reactions which are at the root of aging and degeneration, the extract of the molecule called theoflavins has demonstrated powerful antioxidant effects and a remarkable ability to control inflammation at the genetic level. To regulate blood lipid levels Indian gooseberry or amla has produced exciting results in human clinical trials with the added benefit of reducing oxidative damage to fats that can lead to early atherosclerotic changes.

Dr Paul Clayton is immediate past Chair of the Forum on Food and Health at the Royal Society of Medicine, and Scientific Advisor to the Nutritional Therapy Council. He is a former Senior Scientific Advisor to the UK government’s Committee on the Safety of Medicines, and a visiting fellow at Oxford Brookes University. Dr Paul Clayton graduated summa cum laude in Medical Pharmacology from Edinburgh University, prior to obtaining his PhD. He lectures at the Royal College of General Practitioners and his books include Health Defence and After Atkins. He recently was invited to present his proposals on national health policy to a Government Select Committee.