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Medical expert says, 'We are living in a very toxic society'

In regards to one's health, it's common to have an understanding of family medical history and whether or not you are living a healthy lifestyle. But how aware are you of the chemical content in the food you ingest day after day?

Weighing in on this topic is Dr. Nancy Klimas, who has advised three Secretaries of Health and Human Services serving the United States. Klimas received international recognition for her research and clinical work in multi-symptom disorders.

"Anything that drives the immune system or damages the immune system so it can't be as responsive is bad for patients," Klimas said.

She said that mycotoxins in the environment are a big factor in conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome. She explained that mycotoxins are naturally occurring toxins produced by certain molds, which can be found in food, potentially causing disease and death in humans and animals.

"There is a lot of evidence of mycotoxins in [my] patients," Klimas said.

Mold exposure is one of the leading examples of an environmental intolerance that can lead to health problems.

"Roof leaks and plumbing leaks can lead to mold (being) trapped in our airspace; (it's) recirculated and concentrated since we close up our homes to air-condition or heat," Klimas said. "Myriad problems are caused by mycotoxins. These are not allergies; these are poison."

These toxins are known to damage cell functions, and considering toxins in the food people eat is a sobering topic.

"Certain foods have much bigger pesticide and Roundup content than others," Klimas said. "Think corn and soy, but also almond, peaches, cherries and citrus."

Pesticides are considered neurotoxins, a poison which acts on the nervous system.

The Environmental Working Group identifies the Top 12 "Dirty Dozen" of non-organic foods: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery and potatoes. It is also noted that hot and sweet bell peppers "can carry residues of neurotoxic chemicals such as the organophosphate insecticides acephate and chlorpyrifos."

"We are living in a very toxic society," Klimas said, adding that these chemical pesticides are having a negative impact on food.

While many people strive to find healthy foods that are mindfully grown in a clean environment for human consumption, the reality is that throughout their lives people are exposed to chemicals through different environmental factors.

"Roundup, for example, is sprayed in playgrounds; it can and does make its way (into) the water we drink," Klimas said.

Given how common the weed killer is, it is used in many parks, people's yards and more.

On the positive side, there are individuals and businesses who have a passion for helping others lead a healthier life and avoid chemical exposure.

One such example is the Maciel Family Farm, a certified organic farm in Bonsall, owned by Adam and Laura Maciel.

The Maciels are passionate when discussing the value of truly organic produce and the importance of avoiding toxins for better health.

"A lot of people believe that if the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) says chemical pest control won't hurt them, it really won't," Laura Maciel said. "But how do you know that for sure? How do you know what will happen down the road with your health due to those chemicals?"

Following the stringent guidelines to be a certified organic farm is something the Maciels adhere to without a second thought.

"We've had the same customers for years," Laura Maciels said. "They become good friends. You never want to break that trust your customers have in you."

The Maciels have a good reputation in the organic farming industry since 1987 and provide high-quality, farm fresh produce to customers each week.

As consumers, people associate how produce is grown and handled based on the classifications: non-organic, USDA-certified organic or organic from another country.

What are the variations of standards in these categories?

Under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's guidelines, for crops to be classified and labeled "100% organic" or "certified organic," agricultural products, including ingredients, must be produced and handled per their regulations. Food grown in other countries, although labeled "organic," is not necessarily held to the same USDA standards. It is advisable to ask the origin of produce labeled "organic."

Klimas said that with USDA certified organic farming we "can be pretty confident the plants and soil are randomly tested."

The Maciels reaffirmed this information, saying, "(The authorities) come out periodically and run tests on the vegetables and fruit."

Before being classified a certified organic farm, "They had to verify that the soil hadn't been treated with any synthetics (non-organic chemicals) for at least three years," Laura Maciel said.

For fertilization, Adam Maciel said he favors natural chicken compost. In following the USDA's certified organic guidelines, the Maciels said that they use beneficial insects for pest control purposes, which have been successful.

The No. 1 beneficial insect the Maciels use are lacewings. Lacewings are known to eliminate aphids, thrips, whitefly, leafhoppers, spider mites and mealybugs. They are able to tolerate wide temperature ranges and work well in tandem with other beneficial insects.

"We haven't had to use (organic) sprays for quite some time," Adam Maciel said.

More and more people are seeing the benefit of food that is free of chemicals, Klimas said.

"We can now measure Roundup in a blood test, and we have never found anyone with a negative result," she says. "Everyone has Roundup in their blood."

Dr. Nancy Klimas is the director of the Institute for Neuro-Immune Medicine at Nova Southeastern University, director of Clinical Immunology Research at Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and member of the VA Research Advisory Committee for Gulf War Illness.

Shelby Ramsey is the author of the blog, which also features interviews with migraine sufferers and medical experts.

Top 12 "Dirty Dozen" non-organic foods














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