Archive | October, 2013

Feeding Poison to the Sick and Other Thoughts of a Disgruntled Dietitian

13 Oct

I am currently taking a writing class with one of my besties.  We were supposed to write a few pages of something to workshop during class.  I decided to write a mini research paper (found below).  It’s basically a rant with references.  Enjoy!

I work in a hospital, and I am a dietitian.  However, I do not work as a dietitian for the hospital.  Instead, I am a room service host.  I deliver trays of food to the patients.  I spent several years trying to secure a position as a dietitian but to no avail.  I had reached a point of I need a new job! and figured it was time to get as close to my goal as I could.  I don’t get to assign diets or offer nutritional education, but as everyone assures me, it’s a foot in the door.  I have only been in my new position for 1 month.  On a daily basis, I am reminded of why I had gotten so depressed during my dietetic internships.  The hospital setting is dreary in its own right, but it’s the politics of being an RD (registered dietitian) that I dread.  You know what really grinds my gears?  As simple and disgusting as it sounds, most giant organizations are corrupt.  The ADA (American Dietetic Association) is no exception.  They rub elbows with the food companies, and public health suffers as a result.  The ADA markets subpar nutritional products in exchange for monetary compensation and everyone wins.  Well, everyone except for the American people.

Here is an example provided by Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics.  Does everybody remember Olestra?  If you ever tried it, you may have had some traumatic experiences that burned it in your memory.  It made the 2010 Time’s List for “The 50 Worst Inventions”.  Olestra was approved as a fat substitute by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) in 1996.  It has the same greasy mouthfeel without the calories.  It was used in junk foods such as chips to make them healthier.  It almost sounds too good to be true, right?  Well, it is.  Unfortunately, Olestra also interferes with the absorption of fat soluble vitamins: A, D, E, & K.  There’s also the slight matter of possible anal leakage due to overconsumption.  But hey!  Who has ever eaten too many potato chips (especially the “healthy” kind) in one sitting?

Um, everyone!

Surprisingly, Olestra lost its popularity among the public relatively quickly, fizzling out of product lines by the end of the 90s.  The ADA’s fact sheet about Olestra only talked about the benefits (like no calories) and failed to mention the side effects (like the explosive diarrhea…)  Olestra was sponsored by the consumer mega group Proctor and Gamble.  And wouldn’t you know it?  The AMA (American Medical Association) thought that Olestra was pretty cool too!  I’m sure their endorsement had nothing to do with the $800,000 grant they received from Proctor & Gamble.  Let’s explore this notion of corruption further with a case study.


Water, Sugar, Corn Maltodextrin, Milk Protein Concentrate, Soy Oil, Soy Protein Isolate, Pea Protein Concentrate, Canola Oil. Less than 0.5% of the Following: Corn Oil, Magnesium Phosphate, Potassium Citrate, Cellulose Gel, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate, Salt, Choline Chloride, Ascorbic Acid, Cellulose Gum, Monoglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Carrageenan, Potassium Hydroxide, Ferrous Sulfate, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Zinc Sulfate, Niacinamide, Manganese Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Cupric Sulfate, FD&C Red #3, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Vitamin A Palmitate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Chromium Chloride, Biotin, Sodium Molybdate, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenate, Phylloquinone, Vitamin D3, and Cyanocobalamin.

This is the ingredient list of a Strawberry Ensure.  Ensure is a liquid supplemental drink often given to people in need of a nutritional boost.  Dietitians will recommend it as a snack or meal replacement for those with diminished appetites.  Here’s why this disturbs me.  As evidenced by the ingredient list, Ensure is not food.  People who are ill need nourishment, not a sugar high concoction full of synthetic nutrients, refined oils, and food coloring.

The main ingredients are a perfect storm: sugar combined with vegetable oils.  As stated by Paul Jaminet, coauthor of The Perfect Health Diet:

If you feed lab animals high doses of polyunsaturated fat (either omega-6 or omega-3 will do) along with high doses of either fructose or alcohol, then fatty liver disease develops along with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a major risk factor for obesity, and it’s not very difficult to induce obesity on these diets.

Have you heard?  Inflammation (or the avoidance of it) is all the rage these days.  Many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, have been linked to inflammation.  Soy oil and canola oil have more omega-6 (pro-inflammatory) fatty acids than omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) fatty acids. Meanwhile eating sugar spikes your insulin, causing inflammatory molecules called cytokines to be released into the bloodstream.  It’s as if our bodies weren’t designed to drink 32 oz sodas all day.  Oh wait…

As for some of the minor ingredients, I was struck most by the Red #3.  This additive doesn’t show up very often, as Red #40 is more prevalent.  Red #3 has an interesting history.  The FDA banned its use in cosmetics and externally applied drugs in 1990 due to its connection to thyroid tumors in lab rats.  A New York Times article from 1990 commented on the subject:

Red Dye No. 3 still has some approved uses in foods and drugs, but the F.D.A. said it is in the process of extending the ban to cover those.

Twenty three years later, how are we coming along on that FDA?  Hmm…

How about soy protein isolate?  Animal studies have suggested that isolated isoflavones may have cancer-promoting effects.  As a result, women with breast cancer are encouraged to limit their intake of soy protein isolate.  That’s funny, considering how cancer patients are a target market for Ensure products.

Carrageenan is another gem of interest.  A recent study suggests this additive may increase intestinal permeability, contributing to a “leaky gut”.  Gut health is an exploding area of research right now.  There seems to be a correlation between many, if not all, autoimmune diseases and the existence of a leaky gut.

I don’t mean to rain on everyone’s parade.  I like the idea of Ensure.  We should have delicious, easy to digest snack options for those in the process of healing.  I just know that there’s got to be a better way.  The companies who create these types of products, such as Nestle and Abbott Nutrition, are not hurting for cash.  I believe it is economically feasible to offer a more nutritional product.  However when it comes to corporations, it’s always about the bottom line.

I just wish sick people weren’t getting pinned underneath it.


Mahan, L. & Escott-Stump, S. (2008).  Krause’s Food & Nutrition Therapy. Pg. 964.

Nestle, M. (2010) Food Politics (Pg. 352).,28804,1991915_1991909_1991785,00.html

Why I should really stop eating dairy (at least most of the time…)

4 Oct

If there’s one thing this experiment taught me (okay, there’s way more than 1 thing), it’s that anytime you decide to cut something out of your diet completely, it can easily become an obsession.  All of a sudden your brain only knows deprivation.  I can honestly say that my sweet tooth hasn’t been too crazy these days.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s still there, but it’s a lot less demanding now that I can technically have “whatever I want”.  Yet, I feel as though removing dairy from my daily diet is a worthy goal.

I have been eating pretty healthy on a daily basis.  I don’t mean “healthy” for an American, such as “I chose whole wheat bread and low-fat cheese for my meatball sub today!”  I mean legitimately healthy.  I have been making a lot of homemade meals and bringing those leftovers to work for lunch.  While people around me munch on chicken tenders, I enjoy stir fry made with homemade chicken broth, vegetables from my garden, and organic chicken.  I’m not saying this to put myself up on any pedestal.  I confess that I used to be a health food Nazi, but I’ve relaxed quite a bit.  I finally put things into perspective.  I believe that freaking out over a teaspoon of sugar in your cup of coffee is going to cause more health problems than the sugar itself.  I used to be pretty snooty about what “other” people ate, but I feel like I’m mostly over it.  I only care when it impedes upon my own diet.  The worst is when I have to eat things that not only taste unimpressive to me, but also make me feel like crap AND are horrible for me.  It’s a triple whammy that I prefer to avoid, but I don’t want to be unable to eat socially either.  I just can’t win.

I have a lot of food intolerances, as mentioned in previous posts.  I struggled for years to figure out what I could eat without feeling like complete garbage.  It all seemed so random with inconsistent results, so I would often give up immediately and just go back to eating whatever I wanted.  As I started to put the puzzle together, I still didn’t want to commit to any changes.  But I like onions, AND they’re healthy!  or Since fruit will make me feel just as shitty, I might as well eat ice cream instead, because it makes me happier!  To my own surprise, I have done a decent job of reigning in these waa waa moments.  I eat lower FODMAP these days than I ever have in my life (at least intentionally), but it’s still not enough.  I still struggle with stomach problems on a fairly regular basis.  I know I can make things better, because they have been better in the past when I buckled down and got serious about changing my eating habits.  It can be hard to commit, but it’s even harder to stick with it long term.  For example, during my early Hungry Guinea Pig days, I was dairy free.  It wasn’t the magic bullet I was looking for, but I did feel better without it.  No matter.  It wasn’t the answer to all of my health woes, so why leave it out, eh?  While I haven’t been eating a whole lot of dessert lately, I have been on a dairy kick: cheddar, pepperjack, string, and cottage cheeses, REAL cream, butter, chocolate whole milk, plain whole milk, etc.  It’s been delicious, but I’m pretty sure that I’ve gained 2 or 3 pounds in the past couple of WEEKS just by doing so.  There are a lot of potential reasons for this.

There’s the obvious (but not only) answer of eating more calories.  I like full fat dairy, because I don’t believe low-fat dairy to be as “healthy” of an option as the media likes to proclaim.  Low fat dairy has been linked to infertility and blood sugar issues, and has been fortified with synthetic Vitamin A.  Synthetic Vitamin A in excess has been linked to lower bone density in women (possibly due to blocking Vitamin D?).  Full fat dairy doesn’t require fortification, because it’s a real food with real vitamins in it.  See how simple the USDA food guide pyramid tries to make things?  Fatty foods mean more calories.  Fat people = sick people (or so we’ve been told).  Therefore, if we take the fat out of this food, then people will be skinny and therefore healthy!  In the words of Clueless’ Cher, “As if!”

One big complaint I have with traditional dietitians is how reductionist of an approach they embrace.  It’s all about calories in, calories out!  Right?  False!  Foods are more than their nutritional parts.  As J.J. Virgin, nutrition expert, says: our bodies are not banks, they are chemistry labs.  Hormones have a lot to do with the way food affects us.  It would be nice if 60 calories of apple was the same as 60 calories of pie in terms of weight maintenance, but that’s not always the case for EVERY body.  Holy rant!  Moving on…

Other reasons for gaining weight could be the recent addition of a stressful job (I’m not a librarian anymore!), being intolerant to dairy (inflammation encourages hormonal chaos), and/or the fact that even organic milk contains natural hormones that encourage weight gain.  Since cow milk is designed to make a baby calf grow, and fast, its effect on humans can be similar.  However, we get to grow in our bellies!

Weight is certainly not everything, but I must admit that since ending the diet, the pounds have really crept up on me. It wouldn’t be so bad if I gained weight proportionally, but who does that?!  Well, not me anyway.  I am mostly belly, and where there’s belly fat, there’s insulin resistance.  And where there’s insulin resistance, there’s more chronic health problems just lurking behind the corner.   I know that my belly isn’t doing my confidence, my physique, or my heart any favors, so I’d like to make it shrink again.

In any case, I have even more compelling reasons to cut out dairy than just weight loss goals alone.  Even when I take lactase (the enzyme that digests lactose) pills, my body still seems to feel pretty yucky under the spell of dairy.  On top of lactose, there’s the issue of the histamine found in hard cheeses (which from a FODMAPS perspective, should be safe for me).  I seem to have a lower than average tolerance for histamine containing foods.  It’s hard for me to say with certainty that histamine is the problem.  I have suspected mold too.  However, since I seem to have trouble with fresh foods such as tomatoes and cucumbers, it seems as though histamine is the most reasonable explanation.  I can’t eat too much histamine at once or I get major brain fog and unexplained anxiety out of nowhere.  It makes me feel as if I smoked a dooby on my lunch break, and doing my job or trying to think clearly becomes increasingly difficult.  It sounds crazy, but it’s absolutely true.  Since I have fibromyalgia, I may just feel the effects of food chemicals more strongly than your average Joe.  Whatever the reason, I can’t pretend as though those consequences don’t exist if I want access to my brain for the next hour after eating.

Then there’s all of this scientific garbage I collected awhile back to try and convince myself to give dairy the boot.  I didn’t list any of my references, because I meant for it to be a list just for my own personal use.  I know a lot of it came from Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat To Live  and some is from Dr. Mark Hyman’s website.  I wish I had more info for ya’ll, but I don’t have the energy to backtrack all of my sources right now.

*There is a strong association between dairy lactose and ischemic heart disease

– In one study on baboons, lactose produced more pronounced atherosclerosis than fructose, sucrose, starch, or glucose.  Lactose = glucose + galactose (when heated – great potential to bind proteins + thought to be responsible for increased risk of cataracts)

*There is a clear association between milk consumption and bladder, prostate, colorectal, & testicular cancers

*Dairy fat is loaded with dioxins – environmental toxin – prominent cause of many types of cancers in those consuming dairy fat, also implicated immune disruptors, endocrine disruptors, & reproductive disruptors

*There is ample evidence implicating dairy consumption as a causative factor in prostate & ovarian cancer

*Prostate cancer risk elevated with increased consumption of low-fat milk (protein likely to blame)

*Women who consumed the highest amount of lactose (1/more servings per day)  = 44% greater risk for all types of invasive ovarian cancer (Nurse’s Study) -skim & low-fat milk were largest contributors to lactose consumption

*Milk consumption has a high statistical association with higher rates of hip fractures

*Lactose intolerance is CRAZY common (~75% of the planet)

*Milk is the most common allergen

*Milk increases mucus production and is contraindicated in asthma

*Lactic acid connected with panic disorder

*There is no veal industry without the dairy industry

*Constant separation of mother from calves – depressing to think about!

*Intended for animals with a four-chamber stomach

*Possibly addictive (casomorphines), especially in those with leaky gut

*Homogenized milk may contribute to scarring of the arteries

*Casein may contribute to fatty liver

*Casein can be very constipating.  It’s used in making glue – that’s how binding it is!

*Dairy has been suspected as being a main causative factor in Type 1 and possibly Type 2 diabetes

*Natural growth hormones in milk stimulate insulin production-drinking a glass of milk can spike insulin levels 300%!  60+ anabolic/growth hormones found in milk which is designed to make young animals grow

*Lactose and casein have been demonstrated to contribute to insulin resistance

*Whey is also thought to increase serum insulin levels

*Foreign proteins in cow’s milk may be confused with similar proteins in human pancreatic cells

*Casein has been known to cause more advanced atherosclerosis, insulin resistance, and lipotoxicity than other dietary proteins in animal research

*Pasteurization destroys enzyme allowing body to absorb calcium from milk

*Milk may play a role in the development of leaky gut, and therefore, autoimmune diseases (such as Type 1 diabetes mentioned above)

Just so you know, this isn’t meant to scare everyone away from ever drinking milk or eating dairy ever again.  I certainly wouldn’t encourage everyone to start buying soy milk instead.  Store bought milk alternatives have their own consequences (don’t even get me started).  I just thought I would share it, so you could see that even without an intolerance/allergy, there are other compelling reasons to stop consuming dairy.  It’s nice for those who have trouble digesting it to just be able to look at this evidence and say See I’m not really missing out no matter how delicious chocolate milk is! 😦

If you are keeping track, here’s what we know about me and dairy: According to FODMAPS protocol, I should really avoid most dairy unless I find that lactase pills work for me.  So milk, soft cheeses, yogurt, and ice cream are no go’s without enzymes.  The enzymes are expensive, require a bit of planning, and don’t always seem to make me digest dairy a whole lot better.  Cheeses, butter, and cream in small amounts should be fine.  BUT cheeses increase my histamine load, and cream is hard for me to limit, because I am a whole lotta cream in my coffee whore.  For the average person, dairy is best limited anyway due to possible long term health consequences.  Also, the dairy industry makes me more sad than most slaughterhouses for reasons I have shared in earlier posts.  In conclusion, I should really let the dairy go…

Any words of encouragement or advice on making the transition easier is warmly welcomed! 🙂


Fuhrman, J. (2011) Eat to Live.

Virgin, J. (2012) The Virgin Diet.