October 16, 2012

Why Do I Crave Salt?

Filed under: salt,unhealthy — patt @ 9:35 am

Actually, there’s a very good reason for it. Table salt, or sodium chloride, is essential for proper metabolism.

One of the ways that salt is important is that it helps to manage the amount of fluid present in our bodies. It may seem odd, but salt is responsible for the proper firing of electrical impulses in us. This electrical activity helps fluids move into and out of cells to help maintain the right balance of liquid in our bodies. This electrical activity uses the positive ions in sodium and the negative ions in chloride to help maintain this rather fragile arrangement.

Your kidneys play a large part in how much salt is present in your blood. When you are wondering, “why do I crave salt?” your body is probably low on what is needed to help get fluids into the bloodstream.

Salt provides the electrolytes, the positive and negative ions that allow the absorption of the liquids that you drink. When you become dehydrated, it can actually be impossible to rehydrate if you only drink water. Water does not contain electrolytes, which means it will simply pass through your digestive system without actually being used

A Personal Salt Craving Story

My mother was evidently a person who needed little salt in her diet, but she extended this to her three children, although my brother, sister, and I evidently had a need for more salt.

In order to satisfy my salt craving, I would go into the refrigerator and bite off sections of the salted butter. I later found out that my brother and sister were doing the same thing in order to try to get enough salt.

I wonder now if some of the illnesses we experienced as young children didn’t stem from dehydration from lack of salt.

Craving Salt for Bodily Functioning

Salt has a great influence over the volume of blood in your system, and the kidneys help to regulate this.  Salt attracts water, and you can try this for yourself by spilling a bit of salt on the kitchen table, and checking on it the next day. You won’t see any salt crystals; all you’ll see are little puddles of water where the salt has pulled moisture out of the air. Salt helps to pull moisture out of what you have eaten to put it into your blood for use by cells and tissues.

One of the reasons why you will experience salt craving is when you become dehydrated in any way.

This can easily occur during the summer, especially, when you’re working or engaging in sports outside and you sweat heavily. Intensive exercise workouts can also cause dehydration through sweating, and you will be drawn to salty foods or drinks precisely to help restore your electrolyte balance. Certain medical conditions will also render people more susceptible to dehydration, and those who have had  abdominal surgery for diseases such as colitis will have a much greater need for salt.

It is also easy to become dehydrated when you become sick and experience vomiting and/or diarrhea. In this case you will definitely have a salt craving as your body tries to restore the proper amount of fluids. This is probably one reason why chicken soup is often looked upon as being good to eat when you’re sick – it will supply a healthy dose of salt.

Remember, too, that water alone may not be sufficient to rehydrate you when you’re ill, you will need to drink energy drinks or tea, water will probably not be absorbed.

October 10, 2012

Why Are Trans Fats Bad?

Filed under: trans fat,unhealthy — patt @ 4:40 pm

Ever wondered what trans fats are?

The story begins way back in the 19th Century, when the first attempts at hydrogenating oils began.  Then in the first years of the 20th Century, the process was perfected. Hydrogenated oils were meant to replace butter and lard in cooking.

Trans fats are liquid oils and fats that have been hydrogenated.

Oil is heated while hydrogen gas passes through it. The small bubbles of hydrogen give body to the liquid oil.

Margarine and other semi-solid and solid cooking products are the result.

Why Were Bad Trans Fats Made?

The introduction of hydrogenated cooking fats came along with a shortage of buttermilk, so public acceptance (with a helpful nudge from attractive advertising) was rapid. The use of hydrogenation also meant that oils that might otherwise be considered unsuitable, such as fish oils, could be used without the consumer being any the wiser.

Plus, trans fat carriers like these were cheap to produce.

Trans fats are so named because they have been basically ‘transformed’ from their original forms by heat and hydrogen.

Most of us have heard about the damage that trans fats can do to the body and why trans fats are bad, but these dangers were unknown before the 1990s.

Manufacturers of baked goods and other foods love trans fats because they are not only much cheaper to use than butter or coconut oil, but because they also give the product a much longer shelf life.

Profit margin can be much greater than if ‘real’ shortening was used.

Reasons Why Trans Fats are Unhealthy

Ever since trans fat dangers have become publicized, many people have become more careful with the products they purchase.  It is always important to read the ingredients label before putting anything into your cart.

Trans fats have been linked to heart disease, cancer, and arthritis, among other problems, so it’s important to remove them as much as possible from your diet.

Your body requires fats in order for normal metabolic functions to be carried out. Every cell needs energy to work and help your body keep going. A healthy fat binds to the cell wall as it should, to help provide fuel for the cell to work with, and allows other necessary substances to pass into the cell.

Trans fat upsets things because it binds to the cell wall, but does not provide the necessary fatty acids and actually prevents the other vital substances required for metabolism to get into the cell.

It has been said that trans fats contribute to at least 100,000 fatal heart attacks every year in the United States.

This is no small number, especially for an avoidable problem.

Not only do trans fats interfere with normal cellular metabolism, they also raise the levels of harmful cholesterol, LDL while lowering the level of HDL, which is a beneficial cholesterol.

Ironically, while we were taught to fear certain foods because they contain cholesterol, most of the natural foods that do so will raise the amount of good cholesterol in the blood, even if they also raise LDL.

Coronary heart disease is not the only health problem associated with trans fats, however. Diseases such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, arthritis, and even the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease have been linked to the consumption of trans fats.

While research data is still being compiled in many cases, it certainly does not mean that we cannot err on the side of caution.

Interestingly, obesity is also linked to trans fats, although not strictly as a matter of caloric overload. Trans fats do not provide the fatty acids our bodies need, so in order to try desperately to acquire these important nutrients, people will keep eating and eating, although all the trans fat saturated food in the world will not satisfy the need.

Many fast food restaurants have switched from using trans fats, generally in response to consumer groups pointing out the threat these hydrogenated fats pose. However, most cookies, crackers, pastries, and other baked good found in grocery stores still contain trans fats, so be diligent at checking the ingredients list.

October 1, 2012

Types of Pesticides and What They Do

Filed under: child health,health,teen health — patt @ 1:15 pm

There are a number of reasons why pesticides are used, although we usually associate their use with food production. Pesticides are also used to control infestations of ants or termites, to prevent malaria mosquitos from breeding, in dips for sheep, and even in the flea and tick products you might be putting on your dogs and cats.

Although we may think of pesticides being used against insects, the term actually encompasses herbicides and fungicides as well.

A scary thought is that less than 1% of the pesticides used actually reach the target – 99% of them are simply added to the environment. There are many types of pesticides used in the United States, and unfortunately, no one knows much about the long term human effects.

Common Pesticide: Atrizine

One of the most widely used pesticides in the United States is actually an herbicide called atrazine. This product is used on agricultural land to kill weeds, and you may also see it sprayed along highways to control unwanted plants.

It is perhaps significant that although it is considered to be ‘safe’ here in the States, atrazine has been banned in most of Europe. Rather alarmingly, it has been found in nearly every water system in the central Midwest, and in a few places in the South.

No one is certain what the effects of pesticides in humans would be as regards atrazine, but damage has been done to the heart, kidneys, and livers in animals exposed to it.

Herbicides, including atrazine, actually constitute the types of pesticides used most in the United States. It is definitely disturbing that tests of blood and urine from various places in the country have always shown the presence of these questionable chemicals

Other Types of Pesticides and What They Do

When sprayed on fields, the herbicides alachlor and 1,3 – dichloropropene can enter the water system either through runoff into streams or groundwater or can be spread as dust in the wind.

Additionally, herbicides are often taken into the crop itself, and once integrated into the actual structure of the fruit or vegetable, will be impossible to remove by washing. Dichloropropene has been found to irritate mucus membranes, cause anemia, and is probably a carcinogen. The effects of alachlor are even more serious and include damage to the spleen, eyes, liver, and it does cause cancer.

Aldicarb is one of the most dangerous types of pesticides and is used to kill or control such crop pests as thrips, mites, and aphids as well as soil-dwelling nematodes. Although an agreement was reached between the EPA and the manufacturer in 2010 to end the use of aldicarb, it can still be produced by the company until 2014 and will not be actually prohibited until four years after that.

Aldicarb is also smuggled in from Mexico for use by unscrupulous farmers. This is such a potent toxin that it can cause death from paralysis of the lungs, although people exposed to it will usually experience only such symptoms as nausea, blurry vision, headaches, and tremors.

Why Are So Many Pesticides Used?

Part of the reason why our country has become so saturated with pesticides is the practice of monoculture.

Monoculture means that vast fields of only one kind of crop are planted, such as thousands of acres of corn or beans. These fields act as a magnet for insects and pests especially, and as such the pests are difficult to control.

It has probably been the demise of the smaller, family farm that has contributed most to the widespread use of chemicals to control pests. It would be unrealistic to imagine that the United States could return to pre-WW II agriculture, but there is no reason why more rigorous testing of pesticides cannot be conducted before these products are used and released into the environment.