Monday, February 1, 2010

Chemicals and the Cold: I Believe One Made The Other Lethal

Last week, there was an episode of the Dr. Oz Show focusing on organic foods. The Food Inc. documentary was discussed on the Oprah Winfrey Show the same week. Clearly, the world is catching on that we need less processed food going into our bodies and less exposure to chemicals.
It is my belief that my own life has been directly affected by chemicals used in food production. Now, I thought I was safe from most of the dangers of antibiotics, growth hormones and improper food being given to animals because I am vegetarian and have been for about 23 years. BUT, the dangers of chemicals came to me via treatments of vineyards and orchards i.e. pesticides and herbicides.
I will preface what I am going to say with what my doctor told me: "there is no conclusive evidence that either the pesticides or herbicides used to treat the fruit are the cause of your condition." That would be because there are no studies done to prove or disprove the cause effect relationship.

I have an allergy most people have not heard of:  cold-induced urticaria.  Let me share with you what I know from my experience.
June 1996 saw me move into my beautiful home in the countryside of southwestern Michigan with my property being bordered by hundreds of acres of orchards and vineyards directly on the north and west sides. The farmer owning those fields would come by my home and caution me he was going to spray that day and while the chemicals were "safe" I could feel free to keep my kids and pets indoors with my doors and windows shut. Which of course, I did.
August 14, 1997. I'd been through one entire year of orchard and vineyard spraying. I spent the day on the beach of Lake Michigan. A warm day, we had a cooler of ice-cold soft drinks to quench our thirst. No problem.
August 15, 1997. I began the drive to visit my parents in Nebraska, stopping at a convenience store to pick up a cold soda for the trip. As I held the soda in my hand, my hand began to burn, to itch, to swell, turning red and yellow. Startled, I surmised there must be something on the bottle causing my hand to react. Locating some napkins, I wrapped several around the bottle and the reaction ceased getting worse, although it was a day before my hand returned to normal.
Throughout the week I was in Nebraska, my thighs swelled when I jogged in the early morning chill of the high desert, my tongue and lips swelled when I drank a slush at the Dairy King, and my finger swelled as I held the garden hose to water my dad's flowers. My father suggested I begin to write these incidents down in a log of some sort, which I did.
In the next six weeks, there were more occurrences of this sort with everything from a breeze in England causing hives to erupt on my legs, to leaning against a porcelain sink and getting hives on my midriff.
Upon taking this log to the doctor, he brought out an ice cube after reading it, he did a simple ice cube test and informed me I have cold-induced urticaria. In layman's language, I am allergic to cold. Cold temperatures. For me, temps below about 50 degrees induce my body to react. The cold temps cause my body to produce histamines creating hives both outside and INSIDE my body. If I eat cold food or breathe cold air, my throat will swell shut and I will die. If the cold radiates onto my heart from what is passing through my esophagus, it swells and will stop. Eating a bowl of Breyer's ice cream, almost killed me.  If anything cold i.e. air, surface, food, water touches me, my body reacts in a very negative and potentially fatal way. I fall into the lake? I'm a goner. Get locked out of the house on a cold morning? I'm a goner. There are worse allergies though, so I consider myself lucky.
There is no cure, only prevention. Curiously enough, it affects my life in ways I'd not foreseen, even in the summer. It's complicated. My allergist informed me that something caused my immune system to become permanently altered, thereby causing this reaction.
Now, long story, but this is how I think what I have is caused by chemical exposure. I heard of two other people in the same area who were exposed to similar toxins. One lived near an orchard, the other picked grapes at a vineyard often eating them without washing them. Coincidence? Not in my book. A friend of my best friend, also had this condition and had to move to Florida. She moved from the area in which I was living. There was also an inordinately high occurrence of cancer, especially of the breast, in my area. Some suspicion it is from chemicals related to the fruit production industry getting into the ground water but it has not been proved.
So. Obviously, I believe, organic is the way to go. More and more I switch to healthier ways of living, my eating included, wanting to eradicate them from my food intake. In the past, it was not near as difficult and I didn't think of the costs involved in purchasing organic products. But now, I am on a very fixed income and am finding it cost prohibitive to do so. There is only so much money to go around.
What tips, what advice do you have for me that might help make it more financially feasible to buy organic (I do garden organic)? With a gallon of milk at $7 versus $2 non organic, eggs at $4 and other products likewise as high-priced, how do I do it? How do YOU do it?
I look forward to hearing your suggestions and wish a long and healthy life for each of you!


Melanie said...

Buying direct from a farmer can be cheaper. They don't need to be certified organic. Many of them will be practising organic techniques anyway. Ask them how they raised their animals, or grew their fruit and vegetables. What are the ingredients in the feed? Was the animal pasture raised?
Cook your own food from scratch rather than buying convenience food, it's easier to control what's in it, it's cheaper and tastes better. Organic food, pasture raised meat and free range eggs taste so much better than their insipid counterparts you will not begrudge the extra cost. Great post. Sorry to hear what happened to you to force you to choose organic food. I would love to hear more about your foray into buying organic.

Lisa said...

My heart goes out to you! Our son has ADHD and when we decided to stop the toxic meds. we switched our family of 6 to an all organic diet. It wasn't easy, it isn't cheap and at the time (just a few years ago) wasn't widely available at most stores. My advice: grow as much as possible and can/freeze what you're able. We don't have a local organic dairy so the store has to suffice for now, but by cutting out junk food etc. and growing produce it pays for itself. Blessings!

Garden Chick said...

Thanks Melanie & Lisa! While I've always been into healthy living, as I've aged I have developed an appreciation for a simpler, more natural way of living. I prefer wearing natural fibers, eating natural foods, planting natural gardens and developing natural relationships. When you try to force things in life into unnatural forms, the result is chaos, disaster, strife, disease. When we mess with nature, it causes trouble.

Having adopted a natural philosophy, I feel better. My life is simplified and I feel as if I am making not only a healthy life but contributing to a better world. There is a blog entry in July 2009 I did that explains it better. Enjoy and be inspired. Sounds like both of you are on the right track, too!