Importance of Limiting Pesticide Exposure by Eating Organic

Eating fresh vegetables and fruits is all well and good, but there’s a catch. Most of us are not aware of the pesticides and chemicals that go into our food production process. Chances are that what you consider to be healthy might just be killing you. Commonly used pesticides like organophosphates are neurotoxins can be terribly harmful to your body. Other chemicals like phthalates are endocrine disruptors can also cause severe harm to your reproductive, nervous, and other body systems.

Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to eat whole food that has zero exposure to these chemicals in today’s food supply, but a little is much better than a LOT.  Researchers have found that eating a completely organic diet can reduce your pesticide exposure by 90%. These pesticides have ghastly effects on your body. Some of which can be hard to shake while others can be managed by an altered diet.

Here are some frequently used pesticides and what they might be doing to your body:

Organophosphates and Carbamates

Exposure to these pesticides causes increased salivation and perspiration. It can also cause narrowing of the pupils, nausea, diarrhea, decrease in blood pressure, muscle weakness and fatigue. The symptoms fade after the exposure to these chemicals decreases. Some pesticides of this variety also have a delayed neurological reaction which causes weakness in muscles and arms.


Created in the 1960s, this pesticide has been around for a while. Once used in home gardening they have now found their way into cotton, almonds, oranges, and even corn crops. This pesticide can cause a number of ill effects in the body. From a mild headache to an increased risk for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to much more serious conditions like respiratory paralysis.


Exposure to these chemicals can cause aggression, uncoordinated behavior, whole-body tremors, and seizures. Skin exposure can also cause allergic responses, cancer or even developmental defects.


The active ingredient in the popular weed killer called RoundUp, glyphosphate is designed by the seed makers for use on genetically modified soy, corn, canola, cotton and in parks. Its residue has become ubiquitous and has even been discovered in the Mississippi basin. Its ill-effects include neurological disorders, birth defects, infertility, and is a known carcinogen. There are some serious issues that one should be worried about when eating foods laden with pesticides. You should be aware of the following:

Memory Loss

A review from the University College London concluded that low level of pesticide exposure can cause cognitive impairment. It can affect memory, the speed with which you process information, and higher brain functions like long-term planning.


Tolyfluanid, a fungicide used on crops, can increase insulin resistance in cells. This can accelerate the development of diabetes and may be contributing to the national epidemic that is happening right now.  It’s estimated that 1 in 3 people will be diagnosed with diabetes by 2020.


There are more than 260 studies linking pesticides with cancer like lymphoma, leukemia, soft tissue sarcoma in a wide-range of tissues including breast, brain, prostate, bone cancers among others.  There are many resources explaining these risks and all of the package inserts of these pesticides have warnings about the potential of cancer from exposure to these chemicals.

Parkinson’s Disease

Over 60 studies have identified a strong correlation between long-term exposure to herbicides and pesticides with Parkinson’s disease. The only way to avoid this is to eat food that has no traces of pesticides in them at all.

Developmental Diseases

Leading autism researchers believe that there is link between pollutants and genes causing autism. Insecticides usually kill bugs by disrupting their neurological functioning. The same thing seems to be happening in children. A 2010 Harvard study found that children with organophosphate pesticide breakdown materials are more likely to have ADHD.

How is Organic Food Different?

Organically grown vegetables, fruits, and grains do not use pesticides, chemical fertilizers or any other chemicals to support their growth. This means the growing food process utilizes natural fertilizers such as manure and compost. It is important that animal products are also organic as these animals should be reared on organic feed (not treated with growth hormones) and allowed regular access to the outdoors. Organic produce is clearly labeled, and this is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture.

There is emerging research that organic food has a higher percentage of antioxidants. This is because plants produce a large percentage of their antioxidant compounds to fight against pest attacks. Supplementing their growth with chemical pesticides only inhibits their ability to grow the compounds we eat these food items for. Moreover, food grown this way is far safer for the environment while also being safer to consume. Be it plants or animals, organically reared food is undeniably better for the body and keeps you safe from ingesting harmful chemicals. Most would argue that it tastes much better as well.


Eating organic food is the best way for you to limit your exposure to pesticides and dangerous chemicals. While it may seem more costly, it is definitely a cheaper option to the health risks of ingesting chemical-laced food. There are a number of health risks that have been identified as being associated with pesticides as mentioned above. Many Americans are realizing the value of prevention being better than cure and shifting to an organic lifestyle in droves.

13 health benefits of a plant-based diet

A plant-based diet is primarily one that is based on plant products, which includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seeds, legumes, nuts, with minimal or no inclusions of animal products. There are many different types of plant-based diets but they all feature foods with great health benefits.

Those who follow this type of diet also avoid plant fragments such as refined flour, sugar, oil or junk food and focus on consuming the whole plant or only minimally processed versions thereof.

Major health benefits

Lowers blood pressure

People following a plant-based diet have better control on their blood pressure as their diet consists of mostly potassium-rich foods. Potassium is an excellent nutrient for good blood pressure health.  Almost all whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and all fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of potassium and Vitamin B6, which help lower blood pressure. On the contrary, meat and most animal foods contain little to no potassium and actually raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels when consumed regularly.

Euglycemia- control of blood sugar levels

A plant-based diet incorporates ingredients that are rich in fiber content, and the best and easiest way to fight high blood sugar is to consume more fiber. Fiber in your diet slows down the absorption of sugars in the bloodstream, which in turn helps to control blood sugar. Many dieticians are correct when they counsel patients not to drink fruit juices. However people that make their own fruit juices that include the fibrous portion of the fruit with no added sugar should be encouraged to continue doing so.

Lowers Cholesterol

Since “bad” cholesterol is primarily due to animal proteins, embracing plant-based foods is the simplest way to control cholesterol levels. Plants contain no cholesterol; not even the saturated sources such as coconut and cacao. If you don’t put it in, you don’t have to control it.

Weight management

Conventional approaches to weight loss like formal exercise programs and calorie counting are flawed in many ways- they don’t address the root causes of the weight problem. For people that can follow a plant-based diet, losing and managing weight is a cinch. Weight loss occurs naturally when you consume most of your calories more from fiber, vitamins, and minerals than animal fats and proteins. People that follow a plant-based diet can easily lose weight without depriving or starving themselves and don’t have to worry about taking on formal exercising programs if their existing activity level is vigorous enough. As the number of meat-substitutes increase and get tastier, our nation of meat-loving sick people will naturally become plant-loving healthy people!!

Improves heart health

Several studies and emerging research has shown that higher intake of plant-based foods lowers the chances of cardiovascular diseases. For those who are already suffering from heart diseases, switching to a plant-based diet can help reverse or get rid of heart disease completely. Atherosclerotic diseases are most common and there is no more effective treatment than a plant-based diet. Don’t want to take expensive pills anymore? Use the money you’ll save on prescriptions to buy good, clean, organic whole foods (fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts) and watch your coronary artery disease melt away.

Good for your gut

If you follow a fiber-rich plant-based diet, and choose foods high in resistant-starches, which come mostly from whole foods like grains, seeds, and legumes, it facilitates the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut, thus helping you reap the benefits of a harmonious microbiome. If you’re not making nice fluffy, voluminous stool, your gut health is in serious trouble.

Healthy vision

It is a well-known fact that the vitamin A in carrots aids vision. Your eyes will definitely thank you for a plant-based diet rich in spinach, kale, corn, squash, kiwi and grapes. The lutein and zeaxanthin pigments present in these foods help to prevent cataract and macular degeneration. In fact, even colorful fruits and vegetables as well as leafy greens are packed with antioxidants that are vital for good eye health.

Excellent skin health

95% of common acne is due to your diet. When you cut back on chemical-rich foods and animal products, you stop clogging the pores that lead to acne. The vitamins, pigments, and phytochemicals present in fruits and vegetables in a plant-based diet leave you no choice but to have healthy skin. For example, the lycopene in tomatoes protects your skin from sun damage and the vitamin C in sweet potatoes helps smoothen wrinkles by stimulating collagen production. Your favorite skin-care companies cannot patent naturally occuring elements that are contained in whole fruits and vegetables.

Helps in cancer treatment

There is strong evidence that whole food and plant-based eating is the best protection and one of the best dietary choices complementing conventional cancer treatment. Your doctors should be strongly recommending plant-based diets as part of your cancer treatment.  Eating a whole-food, plant-based diet will give you the best chance to recover from even the rarest cancers.

Improves brain health

Emerging evidence is overwhelmingly showing that diets based on legumes, grains, and healthy oils are associated with better brain health in older adults.  Those who favored fruits and vegetables had less brain shrinkage, linked with a reduced risk of cognitive decline. We don’t commonly come across vibrant people in their geriatric years, but the next time you do, ask them what type of food they’ve been eating throughout their life.

Lowers risks of hypothyroidism

Plant-based diets can help lower the risks of hypothyroidism. Depending on the root cause of your condition, a plant-based diet can help control and even CURE this condition while also offering all of the other benefits listed here.

Improves hormone health

A plant-based diet helps improve hormone health and relieves symptoms of the premenstrual syndrome (PMS). This diet is also known to treat infertility naturally and help heal polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Trying to have a baby? Make sure your doctors are giving you proper nutritional counseling.

Protects the environment

What is the most common source of dangerous greenhouse gases that deplete our ozone layer? It’s NOT trains, planes, and automobiles… It’s cattle!!! Furthermore, it takes an incredible 660 gallons of water to produce one hamburger!! We are currently on an unsustainable path to permanently damage our ozone layer and water supply. If you love Earth as much as we do, please reconsider your fast food choices and give veggie burgers and black-bean burgers a try- they’re delicious!!


A plant-based diet presents a host of health and environmental benefits.  It also comes packed with nutrients. It can be the most powerful asset in your overall wellbeing and can even help reverse any chronic health issues that may have been troubling you for long. So, reduce your meat intake and choose a delicious plant-based food at your next meal for a healthier you!

We salute Dr. Michael Greger for his tireless work in promoting the medical benefits of a plant-based diet. His non-profit website,, is easily the most plentiful resource on the topic and we encourage you to check out his tremendous entertaining and informative videos on the latest evidence for great nutrition.

Eat POOP and Live!! The Human Microbiome

Microbial Minions

When you think of the most important organ in your body, what comes to your mind? Probably the brain, or maybe the heart and lungs. If damaged, these are, after all, the ultra-sensitive organs that allow us to survive not even a few moments without. But what if there was an organ that affected our body in an even more systemic capacity, from the moment you’re born, throughout your life. This organ can change the course of your future health, affect the way you develop acute or chronic diseases, and help or hinder the digestion of every morsel of food you ever eat. And perhaps the most amazing thing about this organ is that it isn’t even human. It is the human microbiome, and it’s made up of the more than 30 trillion bacterial cells living in and on every surface of your body. Your excrement is a by-product of your microbiome and pretty much every time we take a breath or put anything else into our body, we are inserting more bacteria into it. An American’s greatest challenge is to eat healthy bacteria that can strengthen the microbiome.

Functions of the Microbiome

Germaphobic readers might be squirming in their seats right now, but the truth is, your microbiome or natural flora, is incredibly vital to the way your body works. Not only do they synthesize vitamins and break down complex carbohydrates in your gut, they also help train your immune system to recognize pathogens. They take up prime real estate in mucous membranes like your mouth, airways, and even your eyes to help prevent pathogenic bacteria from gaining a foothold and causing infection. A lot of research is now being done to look at the effects that the microbiome can have on our genetics. Increasing evidence is demonstrating that different populations of bacteria can toggle the genes and metabolic pathways that can raise or lower your risk for different diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even more mundane conditions like allergies and heartburn.

One of the things that makes the study of the microbiome very difficult is how individual each person’s microbiome is. The variances in populations and amount of the different species of bacteria from person to person are immense, and beyond the individual variances, the diversity in species varies greatly based on anatomy. This would be expected if you were looking at, say skin vs gut microbes, but studies have shown that even the difference between the microbes colonizing the forearm and elbow is significant. All of this complexity can make setting up experiments and studies extremely difficult. Fortunately, the recent advent of big data processing is helping scientists keep things straight and even the most nascent results of this work are revolutionizing our approach to managing health.

So What is Poop Anyway?

Poop, also known as stool, feces, defecate, manure, muck, poo, kaka and many more colorful names, has a vital role in your body’s function. It is produced primarily from the microbiome of the lower intestinal tract. When normal and healthy it is about 90%+ bacteria with the remainder being partially digested food suspended by water and soluble fibers.* It is an excellent marker of overall health and there are entire professions dedicated to the study of it. Understanding the Bristol Stool Scale can help you keep an eye on your stool health. Problems with defecation can lead to significant discomfort, pain, and even death. Simply stated, the flow of your poop is directly proportional to your very ability to stay alive and healthy, so don’t be too shy to take a look at it every time you go.

Microbiome from Birth

Research is being done, and although we’re only scratching the surface, what has been discovered so far about the effect that the microbiome has on our health and the health of our children, is nothing short of incredible. Starting with our mother’s microbiome this non-human organ has a huge impact on our health. Studies have shown that mothers with a healthier, more robust gut microbiome will pass some of this diversity on to their baby in utero. These children tend to have activation of metabolic pathways in the gut that lead to a healthier life with a lower risk of diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic diseases – this is of course ignoring any future lifestyle choices. Even the method of delivery of a child (C-section vs vaginal) can also have a tremendous impact on this.

A study conducted in Venezuela looked at the microbial populations of newborn babies who were born vaginally vs those born via C-section. The naturally born babies had larger proportions of microbes commonly found in the gut, which they had acquired while moving through their mother’s vaginal tract. The C-section babies were found to have mostly skin associated bacteria on them, since they were removed directly from the uterus and did not get to pass through their mothers’ microbial population. A later study followed children to adulthood and found that the babies born via C-section were more likely to suffer from childhood obesity, Celiac disease (gluten sensitivity), asthma, and allergies. While there are certainly many factors that contribute to this, the study was controlled enough that researchers believe the initial colonization of microbes is a significant part. A great TED talk by Robert Knight elaborates further on this and can be found here.

The Microbiome and Immunity

Not only does the microbiome play a role in chronic illnesses, it’s also essential during acute periods of infection as well. Clostridium difficile (C. diff) has become one of news television’s superstars in recent years. It is a particularly nasty bacteria that are resistant to most antibiotics and take up residence in the gut. When the normal microbiome has been disrupted enough (by antibiotics), they have a huge party in the gut overtaking a chunk of of it and eventually growing out of control. These infections are particularly difficult to eradicate, causing severe diarrhea, fever, nausea, and in severe cases kidney failure and even death. Even after the infection has been treated, it has a high recurrence rate (1 out of every 5 infected patients). For decades, standard treatment for C. diff infection has been antibiotics, however, fecal transplant is becoming increasingly common in the treatment of particularly stubborn infections. Yes, this is pretty much what it sounds like: fecal material is collected from a healthy patient (often a relative of the patient since microbiomes of those who live together tend to share more similarities) and transplanted to the affected patients GI tract by one of several methods (don’t ask). These treatments have had much more dramatic results than standard antibiotic treatment in many patients, relieving months of almost constant diarrhea in days or even hours. This relief is due to the reestablishment of a healthier microbiome, which can bring the out of control C. diff back in check. You should never underestimate the value of poop.

Steps for Good Poop Health

There are tons of articles on the web supporting this topic, but here is our “quick list” of recommendations:

  1. Water- stay hydrated
  2. Fiber- eat whole foods, stay away from processed foods
  3. Activity- ideally exercise, but even simply walking 40 minutes a day and moving around during your routine activities is better than being dormant
  4. Probiotics- are actually good bacteria: yogurt, kefir, fermented vegetables
  5. Prebiotics- support the growth of bacteria: kimchee, raw garlic, raw onions, green tea
  6. Organic – eat organic food sources as much as possible and avoid all GMO (genetically modified organisms) products, hormones, and antibiotic-laden food
  7. Magnesium- promotes muscle activity
  8. Take your time- don’t be hasty when defecating, give your body a chance to do it’s business
  9. Position- squatting turns out to be the best position for defecation. Check out the Squatty Potty.
  10. Anxiety and other emotional stress can reduce the nervous function of your gastrointestinal tract
  11. When necessary, use natural laxatives and not chemicals- flaxseeds, whole foods, prunes, psyllium husk, aloe vera, and many, many, many others. Most of which are significantly cheaper than the over-the-counter aisle in the grocery store.
  12. AVOID ANTIBIOTICS!!! Both from your doctor and in the food that you eat (see #6)
How to Help Your Microbes

So since it is apparent that having a healthy microbiome is so incredibly important, what are some of the things we can do to help support it? Good nutrition certainly seems to be a large piece of the puzzle. You’ve probably seen products in the store such as yogurts labeled “probiotic”. These foods contain either cultures of gut microbes, or compounds that help those microbes to grow and flourish in the gut, and are commonly found in fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kimchee, or increasingly popular komboucha and other fermented drinks. The biggest enemy of the microbiome is antibiotics. This is NOT to say that if you have a bacterial infection you should not take antibiotics that are prescribed to you. However, inappropriate use of antibiotics is impacting our microbiomes as a whole. Even in a non-medical sense, livestock are often fed antibiotics, not only to treat illnesses that crop up in populations, but also at very low levels to help fatten them up. Since the antibiotics keep the populations of microbes in the animals guts low, they are competing with less organisms for the nutrients they eat and are able to grow fatter more quickly. Despite guidelines from the FDA about the amount of antibiotics allowed in our food by the time it gets to us, the meat and dairy products we buy in the supermarket often have more than the allowable amounts, exposing us to more antibiotics without our even realizing. Yes antibiotics have been linked to increased obesity in humans too!!

Being cognizant of the effects that the foods we eat have on our microbiome is essential to preserving its function. The bacteria of the microbiome are far more than just a group of hitchhikers, they are an essential component of our body, without which we literally could not survive. We are already beginning to see the effects of the stresses being put on the microbiome in the form of rapidly elevating numbers of people with diabetes, obesity, allergies, asthma, and autoimmune diseases. As physicians, we often focus on the human factors that contribute to disease, but we have to make sure we don’t ignore the 50 trillion non-human factors as well. Help your doctor remember the importance of the microbiome in your care.

Only 1% of all the DNA in your body is actually yours. So the next time you’re standing at the mirror, take a really close look realize that you may not be who you always thought you were…

* Incidentally, insoluble fibers are not easily digested and often show up whole in your stool.


  1. Avril, Tom. “Hospitals Struggling against ‘C. Diff’ Bacteria.” N.p., 07 Oct. 2016. Web.
  2. Blaser, Martin J. Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues. New York City: Henry Holt & LLC, 2014. Print.
  3. Burling, Stacey. “Treatment of Last Resort for C. Difficile Infection.” Philly-archives. N.p., 07 Apr. 2014. Web.
  4. Enriquez, Juan, and Steve Gullans. Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation Are Changing Life on Earth. London: Oneworld Publications, 2016. Print.
  5. Turnbaugh, Peter J., Ruth E. Ley, Michael A. Mahowald, Vincent Magrini, Elaine R. Mardis, and Jeffrey I. Gordon. “An Obesity-associated Gut Microbiome with Increased Capacity for Energy Harvest.” Nature Publishing Group, 21 Dec. 2006. Web.

We’re Spilling our Guts on the Leaky Gut Syndrome

by Sara Emslie
Rashida Ghauri, MD, ABIHM
Baber Ghauri, MD, ABIHM

The number of food allergies and sensitivities has been on the rise in recent years. Everywhere products are advertised “Soy Free”, “Nut Free”, “Dairy Free”, “Gluten Free”, and the list goes on and on. While some of these allergies are related to inappropriate immune responses or recognized conditions like Celiac or Crohn’s disease, some have a more under-recognized pathophysiology known as Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS).

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?

The human intestineal wall showing the impact of LGS on health.

Leaky Gut Syndrome has to do with the cells in your small intestine. The job of this tissue is to selectively absorb food particles that are of an appropriate size and nutritional value for circulation in your bloodstream. These particles are absorbed through spaces called tight junctions which are lined with immune cells designed to deal with substances that shouldn’t make it into your body. In individuals with LGS, these tight junctions are not as “tight” as they are supposed to be causing larger food particles to sneak through into the bloodstream. While these particles are innocuous enough on their own, they are seen as invaders by your immune system, which will then launch an assault on them. This causes the hallmark inflammation in your tissues causing the wide array of symptoms ranging from headaches and fatigue, to skin rashes, gas, bloating, and nutritional deficiencies.

Pathophysiology of Leaky Gut Syndrome

So now that you know the basics, you should also know that there isn’t one cut and dry explanation for why people get LGS. Research has shown that upregulation of certain genes in the gut can produce proteins that increase the permeability of these cells, causing the gaps in the tight junctions that can allow foreign particles into the bloodstream. This increase in protein production can be caused by a variety of factors, influenced by an individual’s diet, gut microbiome, lifestyle, and family history among others.

Microbial Neighbors

We’re taught from a fairly young age that bacteria are bad. However, bacteria are a necessary part of human (and animal) life. Every surface in our body is covered with different species of commensal bacteria and they can outnumber our cells by about 10 to 1.  All the bacteria of a certain area together are called the microbiome and perhaps one of the most important microbiomes is in our gut. Not only do these microbes help us break down our food, produce necessary vitamins, and prevent other pathogenic bacteria from taking up residence, there is also evidence that they can help turn genes in our body on and off. Some of these genes activate metabolic pathways that can predispose an individual to be obese or healthy weight, diabetic or non-diabetic, and among many other factors, they can also influence whether an individual will develop leaky gut. Since diet, lifestyle, and any antibiotics or medications an individual may be on can greatly influence their gut microbiome populations, you can see how quickly changes to these factors can snowball into more helpful or harmful gut microbes.

I don’t want it- what’s up Doc?

Probably the most important way to prevent leaky gut is through a proper diet. Taking common-sense measures like avoiding processed sugars, dyes, and preservatives and trying to incorporate more fiber, fruits, and vegetables into your diet can help promote the growth of a healthy gut microbiome and keep your tight junctions closed. Avoiding meat that is processed or injected with hormones and antibiotics can also prevent irritation of the lining of the intestine that creates ideal circumstances for LGS to progress. Glutamine has also been shown to help promote good gut health, but always be careful when incorporating new supplements into your diet.  Increasingly, there are options for intravenous (IV) infusion of vitamins, minerals, and other supplements that can help fortify the various microbiomes of your body.

Leaky Gut, Autoimmune Disease, and Common Pain

Leaky Gut can be a major contributing factor in many autoimmune conditions. For individuals who have these conditions and are struggling to keep their symptoms under control using pharmaceuticals, those who are just having gastrointestinal symptoms, or even just those who want to prevent future problems, careful monitoring of diet, and how different food types make your body respond can make a huge difference in managing and even eventually reversing leaky gut. Most people look to corticosteroids to treat and manage autoimmune diseases, but what if we’ve been looking in the wrong place for the perpatrators of the inappropriate immune response all this time? What if instead of coming from the air, or the joints, or the tissues, it is coming from silent invaders through a leaky gut? And what if these disorders could be not only controlled but reversed? While each individual’s case will be different, more and more evidence is beginning to point to leaky gut as a trigger for autoimmune diseases, and just being aware of this fact is key in the prevention and management of these conditions.  Talk to your doctor about LGS.


Leaky Gut Syndrome is an under-recognized condition of the gastrointestinal tract that can cause a wide-range of symptoms including “stomach” pain, discomfort, skin rashes, headache, and even arthritis.  The pathophysiology is very interesting and only now being studied and treated by the conventional medical community.  If you believe you may be suffering from this condition, eliminate your consumption of meat, dairy, gluten, and processed foods as a trial and/or check in with your doctor to be tested.  The good news is that no one has to suffer from Leaky Gut Syndrome as it can be cured with proper nutrition.



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