disease prevention

Do You Know the Five Main Causes of Disease?

by Kelley Herring on July 20, 2009

What if I told you that you can prevent Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart attacks, strokes, breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, weight gain, premature aging, cataracts and macular degeneration, infertility and IBS… all in one meal?

Seem too good to be true?

Well, it’s not. That’s because most chronic diseases – though they may look very different on the surface – are really just physical variations of the same underlying causes of disease.

Chances are, you may be unfamiliar with this perspective. And likely so is your doctor. That’s because allopathic medicine – or Western medicine – treats the symptoms of disease while ignoring the root causes of the problem.

You don’t just wake up one day with diabetes. You don’t catch cancer. Your memory and cognition aren’t here one day and gone the next. These chronic illnesses take years, or even decades, of the same destructive internal processes before the diagnosis occurs.

Fight “the Big Five” to Survive… and Thrive!

At Healing Gourmet, we call these destructive internal disease processes “The Big Five”.

Here they are:

  1. Inflammation
  2. Glycation
  3. Oxidation
  4. Depletion
  5. Toxification

Now, let’s take a closer look at these disease-causing processes and how you can use the power of your plate… to protect your fate.

#1: Inflammation: The Quiet Killer

acute inflammation is important

Acute inflammation is lifesaving… long-term chronic inflammation is a recipe for poor health and degenerative disease

Inflammation plays numerous important roles in the body. Without it, we couldn’t defend against harmful invaders (like microbes) or repair the damage caused by injuries. For example, the heat and swelling you feel when you scrape your knee is the result of inflammation – and it is part of the healing process.

But chronic inflammation is different. Unlike the redness and pain that tells us loud and clear that our body is in repair mode, chronic inflammation is a silent internal process that slips “under the radar”.

This quiet killer is the cornerstone of degenerative disease and physical aging.

However, the good news is that the primary causes of chronic inflammation are completely within your control. They include:

At Healing Gourmet, you’ll learn dozens of ways to stop inflammation… and therefore your risk for all chronic diseases. Please visit our Anti-Inflammatory Diet Center for inflammation-fighting tips, recipes and more.

#2: Glycation: The Sticky Destructor

As a kid, your mom probably told you to lay off the sweets. But her concern for a trip to the dentist is the least of sugar’s ill effects.

In fact, sugar promotes every chronic disease including diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, cancer, Alzheimer’s and more.

That’s a pretty scary fact, given the recent statistic that the average American eats 158 pounds of sugar in various forms each year!

And one of the ways this not-so-sweet compound sours your health is through a process called glycation.

sugar promotes disease

Sugar – whether it comes from donuts or dried fruit – promotes glycation.

Quite simply, glycation is the process whereby sugars attach to proteins in the body. It may sound innocuous, but like inflammation, it causes a slow but sure deterioration of your health.

Here’s how: When you eat a sugary dessert, drink a soda or any carb-rich food, your blood sugar rises. The sugar in your blood then binds to red blood cells (as well as other proteins and fats) and creates disease-promoting compounds called advanced glycation end-products (AGEs).

These “sticky” AGEs float along until they bind to the wall of a blood vessel or other tissue in the body — gumming up your pipes and hampering the integrity of your organs too (including your brain!)

As the glycated globs grab on, they wreak havoc on your cells and set off a destructive chain reaction. First, they cause oxidation (which you’ll learn about next section). This causes your body to defend itself, rushing to repair the damage with inflammation.

In other words, three of the “Big Five” disease-causing processes cascade from one killer ingredient: sugar.

The good news is that you can guard yourself against AGEs by keeping your blood sugar under control and by choosing foods that are low in AGEs.

At Healing Gourmet, you’ll learn how important your blood sugar really is and the tasty ways you can protect yourself. And unlike other so-called “healthy” cooking sites, all of our delicious recipes are low glycemic. Plus, you can track every gram of sugar in each recipe, menu, and packaged food we showcase.

Learn more about the glycemic index and find delicious, low glycemic recipes to balance your blood sugar at our healthy recipe center.

#3: Oxidation: The Radical Robber

Each day, every cell in your body is attacked by more than 10,000 free radicals. This process – called oxidation – is perfectly natural. In fact, up to 5% of the oxygen that cells use is converted into free radicals.

However, our normal metabolic processes aren’t the only way these damaging compounds are formed. We are also exposed to free radicals from pollution, smoking, medications, alcohol…   and eating the wrong foods.

So what do free radicals do?

blueberries fight free radicals

Antioxidant-rich foods like berries and organic cocoa help fight oxidation. But the most POWERFUL free radical fighter is made right in your own body.

These rogue molecules are highly reactive with other molecules. Since they are missing an electron, they spend their time robbing electrons from healthy cells. The result is a cascade of cellular damage.

Here are some of the ways free radicals rob you of your health:

  • Damage cholesterol and make it more likely to stick to the lining of your arteries, increasing risk for heart attack or stroke
  • Wreak havoc on the DNA inside your cells, causing mutations that can lead to cancer
  • Attack the delicate structures of the eyes, promoting cataracts and macular degeneration
  • Pillage the nerve cells in your brain (neurons) contributing to Alzheimer’s
  • Weaken collagen and elastin – the structural proteins in your skin – contributing to wrinkles and other visible signs of aging

The good news is that our bodies have mechanisms to neutralize these molecules and repair their damage. Eating foods high in antioxidants – including carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and a colorful array of phytonutrients – is one way to lighten your body’s free radical load.

But research shows that the antioxidants manufactured inside your body – including glutathione –  are much more effective. And there are a handful of foods that serve as the fuel for your own antioxidant artillery.

There are also foods that are free-radical factories. You should avoid these foods at all costs. You’ll learn about all of the free-radical fighters (and food foes!) and the many ways you can boost your defenses against oxidation in our Anti-Aging center.

#4: Depletion: The Silent Sapper

Dr. Linus Pauling, winner of two Nobel prizes, wrote:

You can trace every sickness, disease or ailment in the human body to a trace element deficiency.

It was true then. And it’s even truer today.

In fact, the average vegetable in today’s supermarket is anywhere from 5% to 40% lower in minerals (including selenium, magnesium, iron, calcium and zinc) than those harvested just 50 years ago.

pastured eggs

Pastured eggs contain 10 TIMES MORE vitamin E than supermarket eggs!

Many of the foods we eat are nutritionally bankrupt!

Why? Our soil isn’t what it used to be. Industrial farming has depleted it, and therefore depleted the foods grown in those soils. But it’s not just the soil. The chemicals that conventional farmers use reduce the amount of beneficial nutrients plants naturally produce.

What’s more, conventionally-raised livestock eating grain (not grass and other foods native in their diet like clover) provide fewer nutrients too. (Learn about the benefits of grass fed beef  and pastured eggs).

Finally, most of us suffer from an unhealthy digestive system that doesn’t absorb nutrients and we take prescription and over-the-counter drugs that also sap our nutrients.

Add it all up and you have a recipe for depletion… and therefore disease.

But not to worry. At Healing Gourmet, you’ll learn how to get your digestive system in tip top shape for maximum nutrient absorption, the food allergies that cause serious deficiencies and how to stop them, and the best ways to cook (or un-cook) your food to get the most nutrient “bang per bite”.

#5: Toxification: The Body Burdened

While the nutrients in our foods are DECREASING, our exposure to harmful toxins is INCREASING. And without the proper nutritional forces, our body’s detoxification efforts fall short.

Our livers are on overload, and our health pays the heavy price.

While toxins are present in the air we breathe and the water we bathe in, most make their way into our bodies by way of our plate (including mercury, BPA, pesticide residues,and  arsenic, to name a few)  or through the chemical products we use (like lotions, shampoos and other personal care products; household items, etc).

These toxins damage our cells and affect our delicate hormonal system, producing a wide range of toxic effects. Some encourage our body to store fat, while others impair the function of our thyroid. These toxins can also affect our reproductive hormones, promote cancer and even damage our brain.

The good news is that your body has a natural “pollution solution.” And with good choices, you can also keep the poison off your plate, lighten your liver’s load and put your detox machinery in high gear.

At Healing Gourmet, you’ll learn about the foods that boost your body’s detox processes in our Detox Diet center.  You’ll also learn how the toxins in commercially produced meats, farmed-fish and conventional produce affect your hormones and increase cancer risk. In our Organic Diet center, you’ll discover the healthy alternatives to choose. And finally, you’ll learn safe ways to cook and kitchen tools to use to guard against toxins in our Healthy Cooking center.

How Healing Gourmet Turns Research… Into Recipes

You might think this is a lot to digest. And you’re right.

But the good news is that you don’t have to read hundreds of articles or understand all of the nutritional science to get the disease-fighting benefits and deep six “the Big Five”.

You just have to follow the Healing Gourmet Philosophy – eight easy rules that every recipe and menu we create follows to guard against the key disease-causing processes.

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About The Author

Kelley Herring, founder of Healing Gourmet, is a natural nutrition enthusiast with a background in biochemistry. Her passion is educating on how foods promote health and protect against disease and creating simple and delicious recipes for vibrant health and enjoyment.

Kelley Herring – who has written posts on Healing Gourmet.

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