The diet you choose to eat will determine what illnesses you suffer from and how healthy you are. Most of us eat too much fat, too much meat, too much sugar and far too little fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and fibre. The list of diseases known to be associated with the food we eat grows longer every year and now includes an enormous variety of problems, ranging from asthma to cancer and heart disease to varicose veins.
IF YOU ARE SUFFERING FROM ANY OF THE MEDICAL PROBLEMS LISTED BELOW, DO TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR
BEFORE CHANGING YOUR EATING HABITS. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT IF YOU CHANGE YOUR EATING HABITS YOUR NEED FOR MEDICAL HELP MAY CHANGE TOO. FOR EXAMPLE, IF YOU SUFFER FROM HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE AND NORMALLY TAKE TABLETS TO CONTROL YOUR CONDITION CHANGING YOUR DIET MAY REDUCE YOUR NEED FOR MEDICATION.
Several scientific studies have shown that there are powerful links between eating habits and acne—one of the commonest, most troublesome and most embarrassing of all skin disorders.
Doctors have shown that Eskimos who change to a Western diet develop more acne than Eskimos who remain faithful to their traditional, more natural diet which contains far less sugar. It has also been shown that there is less acne among black people living in Kenya and Zambia and surviving on a traditional diet than there is among black people of similar origins living in America—one of the main differences between the two groups is, of course, the diet that they eat. It is clear from the evidence which is now available that you can help clear up acne by eating less fat and less sugar and by eating more fibre.
Asthma, dermatitis, eczema, hay fever and rhinitis are all much more common now than they were a few decades ago. Two generations ago eczema affected two people out of every thousand. Today the same disorder affects six times as many people. The one thing that all these disorders have in common is that they are frequently caused by allergies. What to? Well, a growing number of doctors have noticed that these conditions are more common among people who eat a junk food diet or who consume large amounts of dairy food and the suspicion is that many of those who suffer from these allergy related problems do so because of their diet. It is now widely believed among doctors that many people whose diet includes too many refined foods, too many additive rich foods and not enough fresh fruit or vegetables would be much healthier if they changed their eating habits.
Anaemia—caused by eating a diet which contains too little iron—is remarkably common in the Western world. Vegans— who eat no animal products at all—may be at risk of developing iron deficiency anaemia if they do not take care to eat a well balanced diet but, strangely, anaemia is probably commoner among meat eaters than among vegetarians!
There are two reasons why anaemia is so common among meat eaters. First, many meat products contain relatively few useful nutritional ingredients (and little iron). Second, the human body can absorb iron more easily when the iron is consumed along with a diet which is rich in vitamin C. Meat eaters often eat far too little fresh fruit and fresh vegetables—the main source of vitamin C.
Many who suffer from constant or recurrent anxiety live on a diet which contains too little vitamin B and so if you are an anxiety sufferer you may be able to improve your resistance to anxiety by increasing your consumption of vitamin B rich foods. Anxiety sufferers may also be able to reduce their symptoms by cutting down the amount of sugar they eat and by drinking less caffeine rich drinks.
The incidence of asthma has trebled in the last two or three generations and it is now widely acknowledged that there are probably two main reasons for this: the pollution of our atmosphere with industrial waste chemicals and carbon monoxide gases, and general poor eating habits.
The problem which seems most likely to be responsible for the increase in the incidence of asthma is our increased consumption of dairy products such as milk, butter and cheese (though a diet which is rich in fatty meat is also very likely to trigger off asthma attacks). Many patients who suffer from asthma have found that their symptoms improve if they change to a diet which contains more fruit, nuts and vegetables and less dairy products and meat.
In an emergency, by the way, it is possible to obtain some slight relief from the wheezing associated with asthma by consuming a drink which is rich in caffeine—a powerful drug which is an effective bronchodilator. Coffee, tea and cola drinks
May all provide some short-term emergency relief for asthma sufferers.
Doctors around the world now agree that your chances of developing atherosclerosis—or clogged up arteries—are closely linked to what you choose to eat. If you eat too much fat (and, in particular, too much saturated animal fat) and too much sugar then your risk of developing atherosclerosis and suffering from heart disease, stroke or high blood pressure will be dramatically increased.
There is also evidence to show that a high caffeine consumption can also increase your chances of suffering from atherosclerosis. You can reduce your chances of developing atherosclerosis—and the associated disorders—by increasing your consumption of high fibre foods such as oat bran and of vegetables. You may also be able to help yourself by eating more beans, garlic, onions and live yoghurt.
It is now generally accepted that between a third and a half of all cancers are associated with the food we eat. There are some experts who believe that the risks—particularly for women— are even greater than this and that poor eating habits may be responsible for more than half of all cases of cancer.
A high fat intake has been linked to an increased incidence of cancers of the breast and the colon. Eating smoked, cured and pickled foods is thought to be responsible for many cases of cancer of the oesophagus and the stomach; and a diet which contains too little fibre and too much fat is believed to be associated with cancer of the prostate in men and cancers of the ovary and the uterus in women.
The one conclusion to be drawn from all the available evidence is that if you want to reduce your risk of developing cancer you should eat fewer fatty foods (in particular this means
Less meat and less dairy produce) and more vegetables, more fresh fruit and more wholegrain cereals. You should also try to avoid pickled and smoked foods and you should drink only moderate amounts of alcohol.
A diet which is low in meat and fat and high in foods such as cereals, vegetables and fruit helps your body in several ways. There are fewer cancer-inducing chemicals in cereals, vegetables and fruit and the large amounts of fibre in these foods means that any chemicals which you do eat will spend less time in your body and will, therefore, be less likely to be absorbed. There is also some evidence to show that people who are severely overweight will also be more likely to suffer from cancer (and less likely to recover from it) than individuals who keep their weight under control.
There is also evidence to show that people who have already developed cancer stand a much greater chance of surviving if they cut down their consumption of fat and increase their consumption of vegetables. Researchers in New York have recently calculated that the chances of a woman with breast cancer dying from her disease increase by 40% for every 1,000 grams of fat she eats every month.
A woman on a low fat vegetarian diet may consume about 400 grams of fat a month. A woman on a typical diet may consume around 1,380 grams of fat a month. But a woman on a high fat diet may eat 2,000 grams of fat a month. It’s easy to see how cutting down your fat intake can have a tremendous impact on your chances of survival! A woman with breast cancer who is on an ordinary diet will have a 40% higher chance of dying from the cancer than a woman who is on a low fat, vegetarian diet.
You can reduce your risk of developing a cataract by keeping your intake of sugar as low as possible.
A diet that is rich in sugar and meat will increase your chances of suffering from constipation. You can reduce your chances of suffering from constipation by increasing the amount of roughage or fibre that you eat.
If you suffer from depression you may also be suffering from a shortage of vitamin B.
If you already have diabetes then you may be able to reduce your need for drug therapy by cutting down your consumption,of sugar and fat rich foods. Cutting down your consumption of foods of this type may also help you not to develop diabetes. Individuals with a family history of diabetes who want to reduce their chances of suffering from the disorder should, therefore, eat less fat and less sugar rich foods.
A diet which is high in fibre and complex carbohydrates is excellent. The fibre helps by slowing down the rate at which sugjir is absorbed. You must, of course, see your doctor if you are a diabetic before you make any change to your diet.
Gall bladder disease (including gallstones)
The high incidence of gallstones in Western society is very closely linked to the type of food we eat. Most of us eat far too much fat and far too little fibre. We also tend to eat far too much food in general. Gallstones are an almost inevitable consequence of all this overeating and self indulgence.
You can reduce your risk of developing gallstones (or suffering from any symptoms associated with their existence) by avoiding fats of all kinds, reducing your consumption of refined carbohydrates, controlling your weight, increasing your intake
Of fibre rich foods such as fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and whole grain cereals.
There is, in addition, some evidence showing that eating a regular breakfast will help to reduce your chances of suffering from gall bladder problems.
Some experts also claim that food allergies can sometimes lead to gall bladder problems. The three foods most commonly blamed are eggs, pork and onions. If you suffer from a gall bladder problem you should (in addition to cutting down your fat intake and increasing the amount of fibre you eat) reduce your intake of these three foods for a while to see if your symptoms disappear.
Gout can be triggered off by foods which are rich in purines so if you suffer from gout you would probably be sensible to avoid meat extracts, game, asparagus, spinach, strawberries, rhubarb, fish roe, herring, salmon, whitebait, liver, kidneys and sweetbreads. You will probably also benefit by cutting down on your consumption of protein-rich foods and by limiting your intake offish, peas and beans.
Gout sufferers are also sometimes intolerant of carbonated drinks, beer, sparkling wines, port, champagne and, indeed, other types of alcohol.
Stress, tension and anxiety are undoubtedly the commonest cause of headaches.
Food is the second commonest cause—though, of course, there are some specific foods which are known to be particularly responsible for the development of headaches and most regular headache sufferers only seem to get problems because of a sensitivity to specific types of food. Alcohol, chocolate, fatty foods and additive rich foods are among the most frequent causes of headaches. Many patients who suffer from headaches
Are able to deal with their problem permanently by keeping a diary, finding out which foods seem to trigger their symptoms, and then eliminating those foods from their diet.
Caffeine—usually drunk as strong coffee or as tea—is a common cause of headaches. In some cases caffeine-linked headaches are caused by drinking the coffee or tea. In other cases the headaches occur as withdrawal headaches—when the victim hasn’t drunk any coffee or tea for a while.
The link between fat intake and heart disease was first officially established back in 1953. Since then a great deal more evidence has been collected to support the contention that fat intake is one of the major factors in the development of heart disease. Virtually every major, independent scientific and medical committee in the world now agrees that saturated fats cause heart disease. And just about every expert in the world agrees that we would all be wise to cut down our consumption of fat—and, in particular, of saturated fat.
Despite this agreement among scientists and doctors many people have continued to eat lots of fat and there is little doubt that this is a result of the efforts of pressure groups working for those industries trying to boost the sales of dairy products and meat. I have no doubt at all that every year thousands of men and women around the world die prematurely—often in their thirties and forties—largely because they have been encouraged to eat fatty food. The ‘credit’ for this disgracefid state of affairs must, in my view, go to the food manufacturers and their lobbyists, and to the politicians who have allowed the lobbyists to pressure them into inaction.
The propaganda experts—hired by those industries which have a vested interest in ensuring that we all continue to eat lots of butter, eggs and fatty meat (washed down with fiill cream milk)—have funded a number of extremely effective campaigns. Sometimes, attempts are made to exert pressure in other ways. For example, after I appeared on one British TV
Station and told viewers that a high fat diet containing too much butter and milk could lead to heart disease the station received a letter from an executive of the Butter Information Council. The writer of the letter pointed out that his organisation had been about to spend a large sum of money on TV advertising, and that this plan had ‘come under review’ as a result of my remarks.
Cutting down your consumption of fat will cut down your calorie intake, improve your health and ensure that your heart remains in the best possible condition. Saturated fat won’t just clog up your blood vessels; it will also reduce the efficiency with which your red blood cells carry oxygen around your body, and it will pick up and accumulate waste products which should be excreted. To keep your heart healthy, reduce the amount of fatty meat that you eat and keep down your intake of high fat dairy products.
High blood pressure
Up to twenty per cent of the world’s population have high blood pressure. Only fifty per cent of those individuals know that they suffer from high blood pressure. Only twenty five per cent are being treated. And only half of those are being treated effectively. But high blood pressure is a major killer—an important cause of heart disease and strokes.
If you suffer from high blood pressure you may be able to control your problem simply by eating more carefully. You should eat a low fat, high fibre diet and you should reduce your intake of salt as much as you can and increase your intake of potassium. Even if you don’t suffer from high blood pressure but have a family history of high blood pressure you should reduce your salt intake. You can do this by not adding salt to foods that are being cooked and by leaving the salt cellar off the table. Other flavourings which can be used instead of salt include lemon juice, parsley, garlic, horseradish and tarragon.
Indigestion is one of the commonest of all diseases. The
Chances are that there is a sufferer in your family. Most sufferers simply head straight for the bathroom cabinet or the local chemist’s shop and take a few slugs from a bottle of white medicine. Traditional stomach remedies usually work well because they contain a substance which counteracts the powerful acid that is causing the pain. But swallowing a few gulps of white medicine after your symptoms develop only provides an immediate and short-term answer and there is a real risk that if you don’t do something to stop your indigestion developing you will eventually end up with a stomach ulcer.
Since what you eat—and how you eat it—is largely responsible for the pains of indigestion, here are some tips on exactly how you can reduce your chances of developing indigestion. Even if you’re not already a sufferer you’ll benefit by following this advice.
Remember that eating regular meals is better for you than going for long periods without food. If you don’t eat regularly, the acid that accumulates in your stomach will have nothing to work on—except your stomach lining.
Eat slowly. Put down your knife and fork between mouth-fills—that should slow you down.
Put small amounts into your mouth. If you stuff huge amounts of food into your mouth then you’ll swallow without chewing. Chewing is an essential part of the digestive process.
When you’ve finished a meal have a short rest. Give your stomach time to finish its job before you start chasing around again.
Don’t read or watch TV while you’re eating. If you concentrate on what you’re doing when you have a meal then you’ll be much more likely to know when you’ve had enough to eat. Overeating is a common cause of stomach problems.
Don’t let other people push you into eating more than you
Want. Be prepared to leave food on the side of your plate if you’ve had enough.
Avoid any foods which upset your stomach. The sort of foods that can cause upsets are: all fried foods, fizzy drinks, alcohol, strong tea or coffee, fatty foods, spicy foods, unripe fruit, very hot or very cold foods, tough food that can’t be chewed easily, pickles, sprouts, radishes, cucumber, coarse bread, biscuits or cereals, nuts and dried fruit.
Finally, remember that tobacco smoke will irritate your stomach too.
If you suffer from recurrent or persistent indigestion then you should, of course, see your GP. There are powerful drugs available which can be used to help treat this problem without recourse to surgery.
Your body will be better able to fight off infections if you eat a diet which contains very little fat and very little sugar but good amounts of vitamins A, B and C. There is, in addition, now some evidence to show that eating a diet which contains garlic and live yoghurt will help your body fight off infection.
In order to sleep better and more soundly you should avoid caffeine, avoid cow’s milk and keep your consumption of alcohol down.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Some experts claim that at one time or another as many as one in three people suffer from the irritable bowel syndrome. Children under ten can get it and there are many sufferers in their seventies and eighties. The irritable bowel syndrome probably affects as many people as toothache or the common cold.
It is also one of the most commonly misdiagnosed of all diseases—and one of the most badly treated. Once it has developed it hardly ever disappears completely.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is twofold.
First, irritable bowel syndrome isn’t dangerous; it doesn’t turn into anything more serious, it won’t turn into cancer and it won’t kill you or even threaten your life.
The symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome may be exhausting, irritating, worrying and disabling but there is no underlying pathology.
And second, although it does tend to hang around—once you have got it you’ve probably got it for life—irritable bowel syndrome can be controlled. There is no quick, simple, reliable cure because there is no clearly defined cause. But although you may not be able to conquer irritable bowel syndrome completely—and make the symptoms disappear—you can control it.
Not many irritable bowel syndrome sufferers have fewer than three of the symptoms I’m about to describe—symptoms which I am going to group into categories simply for the sake of convenience.
First, there are the primary symptoms which involve the bowel itself and what goes on inside it. Pain is probably the most obvious of these symptoms—though it is also one of the most variable. It is often a colicky, spasmodic sort of pain which comes and goes in waves; it can affect just about any part of the abdomen and it frequently fades a little when the sufferer goes to the toilet. Bowel irregularities are common too.
Most sufferers complain of diarrhoea—which can sometimes be quite sudden and explosive—but, oddly enough, constipation is also a common symptom. Sometimes the two problems alternate.
The third very common bowel problem associated with this complaint is wind and this really is typical. Most sufferers complain that their tummies swell up so much that their clothes
Don’t fit them properly. Many complain of embarrassing rumblings and gurglings and other noises and of the social problems associated with escaping wind.
In a survey of irritable bowel syndrome sufferers which was published in the British Medical Journal it was found that every single patient with this problem complained of these three symptoms: abdominal pain, abdominal distension caused by wind and an abnormal bowel habit.
Next, there are the secondary symptoms which affect a lot of sufferers but which don’t affect all patients. You’re almost certain to have the three primary symptoms but you are unlikely to have all of these secondary symptoms.
One or two of the secondary symptoms are caused by the wind that is so widely associated with the irritable bowel syndrome and these will probably come and go as the wind comes and goes. Symptoms in this category include a feeling of being full all the time and not being able to eat very much, a constant feeling of nausea, heartburn and indigestion. Back pains of one sort or another are also fairly commonplace and these too are frequently a result of wind accumulating in the intestines. Its even quite common for irritable bowel syndrome sufferers to complain of urinary frequency and other bladder problems caused by pressure produced by wind in the intestines.
Last, but certainly not least, there are the mental symptoms which aren’t in any direct way related to the intestines or what is going on inside them. Anxiety, depression and irritability are all common but the one mental symptom that really seems to affect irritable bowel syndrome patients more than any other is tiredness.
Even though you may be quite convinced that you are suffering from the irritable bowel syndrome you shouldn’t make the diagnosis by yourself without visiting your doctor. Although the irritable bowel syndrome is probably the commonest of all bowel problems today there are other problems which can cause bowel symptoms and only by visiting your doctor can you be absolutely sure that you have got the diagnosis right.
Stress is one cause of the irritable bowel syndrome. The other
In the last century or so the people who produce, market and sell our food have changed our diet almost beyond recognition.
Today most of us tend to eat a bland over-refined diet that contains very little natural roughage. And the result is that our bowels can’t cope very well with this change—they haven’t had time to adapt and so they struggle. Our grandparents ate a diet that contained lots of raw, natural foods. We tend to live on prepackaged, convenience foods that may be rich in vitamins and minerals but which are dangerously short on fibre.
To control your IBS properly you need to take a long, cool, careful and critical look at your diet.
You will almost certainly benefit if you gradually increase the amount of fibre that you eat. To do this, start eating wholemeal bread or high bran cereals. Eat wholewheat pasta, brown rice, oats—in porridge for example—and more fresh vegetables and fruit, though if you suffer a lot from wind you will probably be wise to avoid any vegetables—such as sprouts—which seem to cause you a lot of wind. Nibble fruit and nuts instead of chocolate and sweets.
Try to cut down your fat intake too.If you eat meat then cut off the visible fat and avoid red meats as often as you can. And you may find that you can help yourself by cutting out all dairy products—milk, butter and cheese. Don’t add fat when cooking; and grill, bake, steam, poach, casserole and boil rather than roasting or frying.
You can help reduce your risk of developing kidney stones by avoiding sugar and meat and by following a high fibre diet. You should also avoid milk and caffeine and drink plenty of fresh water.
Women who suffer from painful, uncomfortable or unpleasant symptoms just before a period may be able to help themselves by reducing their intake of caffeine, milk, salt and sugar.
Restless legs syndrome
Many women complain that while they lie in bed at night their legs twitch. This is called the ‘restless legs syndrome’. It is one of the oldest of all disorders and was first described over 300 years ago. Caffeine is believed to be one of the major causes today. To avoid the problem try drinking less—or weaker— coffee or tea. If you spend much of your time sitting down then mild exercise will probably help.
There is evidence now available to show that sufferers from rheumatoid arthritis can help themselves by avoiding meat and following a vegetarian diet. You should also limit the amount of fresh fruit that you eat.
If you want to cut down your risk of having a stroke you should eat more fresh vegetables, more fibre rich cereals and more fresh fruit and avoid foods which are rich in fat—particularly saturated fat. In practice this means avoiding red meat and dairy products.
It is sometimes possible to ease this exceptionally annoying problem of noises in the ears by cutting down your consumption of fat and sugar.
Tooth decay and gum disease
Half of all five year old children in the West have some tooth decay. Campaigns organised by governments, doctors and dentists have been successfully overcome by advertising campaigns run by food companies encouraging children to eat more sweets and chocolates. The constant consumption of sugar rich foods feeds the bacteria which produce the acid which attacks teeth and starts the process of decay.
By eating fewer sugar rich foods and by increasing your consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables you will be able dramatically to reduce the risk of suffering from either tooth decay or gum disease.
Ulcers (gastric and duodenal)
You are more likely to develop and suffer from varicose veins if you eat a high fat, low fibre diet. Constipation and obesity— both problems which are associated with a high fit, low fibre diet—dramatically increase the risk of varicose veins developing.
Two-thirds of the gas in your body is probably swallowed air. You’re likely to swallow too much air if you eat too quickly, gulp hot drinks or sip drinks through a straw. Habits like chewing gum, smoking and sucking mints can also cause wind to accumulate. Fizzy drinks are an obvious cause of wind. Chewing with an open mouth or talking with your mouth full increase the likelihood of wind too.
Foods that likely to cause wind include: beans, broccoli, cabbage, raisins, bananas, popcorn, peanuts, onions, chocolate, coffee and milk.