Part of the education I received in Holistic Nutrition was to think about the contributing factors outside of just food itself (which is probably the biggest difference between an RHN and a dietitian). I believe that both genetics and environmental factors play a roll in your overall health. I now understand that living a clean life not only includes the food you consume but also the products that we utilize everyday.
So, while prepping this week’s recipe (which will involve sweet potatoes and other yumminess) it has brought up an important topic that I would like to address…aluminum products. Most times when you read recipe that involves baking potatoes, fish, or casserole dishes it asks the reader to wrap their delicious foods in aluminum foil or place them in an aluminum tray!
This blows my mind.
Although aluminum is abundant in the Earth and in the sea, it is present in only small amounts in human and plant tissues.Therefore it is only necessary to consume in small amounts. However, it is commonly ingested in foods, medicines and in cosmetics. For most people, the greatest aluminum intake comes from food additives. It is present in processed cheeses (used as an emulsifier), white flour (used to whiten) and particularly regular table salt (used to help it run freely and not cake).
When using aluminum pots,pans and aluminum foil, some of the aluminum leaches into the food, especially with acidic foods such as tomatoes or rhubarb. Soft drinks are also typically acidic and when packaged in aluminum cans the aluminum leaches into the liquid which you consume.
One thing that should be a cause of concern for everyone is the aluminum salts used in anti-perspirants. This is a primary contaminant for most people, as it is used everyday. Anti-perspirants are designed to stop perspiration in the underarms and not only does it coat the outer skin, it is also absorbed into the ducts which blocks perspiration. Regular use of aluminum-containing deodorants may contribute to the clogging of underarm lymphatics and then to breast problems, such as cystic disease. A simple internet search on deodorant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deodorant) pulls up various not-so-positive information about anti-perspirants. For example, the FDA classifies deodorant as a cosmetic and anti-perspirants as a drug. Interesting. Since approximately 2002, research has “suggested” that there may be links between antiperspirants and breast cancer. At the very least, this should create more questions about what this commonly used product is doing to our bodies.
So why else should you avoid aluminum?
It is not clear how aluminum functions or interferes with activities in the human body. Dr. E. Haas, MD believes it has to do with how it interacts in magnesium function, in that, it may reduce vitamin levels or bind to DNA, and it has been correlated with weakened tissue of the gastrointestinal tract. Oral aluminum, as obtained from our aluminum wrapped foods or antacids, binds pepsin which weakens protein digestion.
Aluminum toxicity is now widely excepted has been implicated in brain-aging disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, both of which have become more prevalent as the incidence of aluminum toxicity has increased. In Alzheimer’s disease, studies have shown there are increased aluminum levels in the brain tissue.
You will not find research that will point the finger to one particular product or that will directly link aluminum with cancer or mental health issues. It is not that usual, when it comes to these topics, to find information that is inconclusive. There are too many variables (and not enough funding) that contribute to this area of research. However, there is always common threads of information, that over time, point in an obvious direction. We do know how much aluminum our bodies need to function properly and so therefore too much of it will disrupt the body’s natural balance. And for me that is enough. Enough to question ingredients and make small changes to what I buy and how I prepare my food. Small, simple choices that are preventative.
Tips for prevention of aluminum exposure
- Avoid common table salt and switch to sea salt (which come from evaporated seawater and contain numerous nutrients)
- Replace your aluminum-containing antiperspirant with a deodorant that is aluminum-free (there are several products available nowadays)…it is not natural to block your sweat pores! If there is a problem in this area then address your diet, stress levels and/or cleansing routine. “Kiss my Face” is one of my favorite brands and is widely available at Shopper’s Drug Mart or Superstore
- Instead of wrapping your food in aluminum foil you can make a “pouch” from parchment paper (this is fantastic for potatoes & fish) or use glassware with a glass lid in the oven…or sometimes if I am using a casserole dish that does not have a lid, I use a stainless steel baking sheet to cover it. And whenever possible, avoid eating your food out of an aluminum foil tray!
I truly believe most people want to make to the best choices for themselves and their children in hopes that they live a long and healthy life. And for that information is key. It is important to understand that sometimes products get introduced to us simply for convenience or cost reduction. Convenience + cost reduction rarely (if ever) = optimal health.
So lets keep aluminum where it belongs, in the Earth, our cars and in tractor trailers. Not our bodies!
This concludes my rap. Feel free to share your opinions or questions.
Here’s a peak at what I am working on for this week…Creamy, smoky, double-baked sweet potatoes with zesty lime rice…Yum!