Thursday, September 6, 2012


                Previously in these Tales of Idyllia, I have mentioned, and lambasted High Fructose Corn Syrup, that evil creation by the gigantic corn growing machine. And while it is true that I lost 45 pounds in 3 months by consciously not eating anything that had high fructose corn syrup in it, my diet was by no means free of toxic ingredients that permeate just about all of our processed foods. The sad reality is that there are so many unnatural and harmful ingredients in the food we eat! It is quite difficult to identify each and every one of those nefarious additives, especially when they are not listed as an ingredient! Nonetheless, the approach, for me at least, seems to be to identify one at a time, come to grips with what is involved with the ingredient, then deal with the situation accordingly.
                And thus, with this entry… carrageenan is the focus.
                What is carrageenan? I have often asked myself that… and having no answer, I let it go. Personally, I am of the generation that as a kid, I watched Breyer’s Ice Cream commercials, where other little kids, pretty much my own age, attempted to read the “fake” ingredients on competition ice cream packages, whereas Breyer’s had real milk, sugar, etc., aka. ingredients kids could read. Somewhere around that time, perhaps it was the early eighties, I first encountered “carrageenan”. What is carrageenan? That has remained a very good and poignant question for me for decades now.
                But, of course, that question slides into the background as one’s “busy” life takes control, and what is most important overrules the ability to question,  “Just what is carrageenan?” And in fact, many, many years fell to the wayside until an e-mail was sent to me by the Cornucopia Institute, with a heading, “Cure Your Gastrointestinal Distress-Is Carrageenan the Culprit”? What? I kept reading…
“Carrageenan is a highly processed seaweed-based ingredient that acts as a stabilizer and thickening agent in foods. Dozens of scientific studies have linked food-grade carrageenan to gastrointestinal inflammation and disease, including several studies showing higher rates of colon tumors in rats given carrageenan in their diet.” The e-mail continued with… “Carrageenan is commonly found in dairy products (cream, chocolate milk, ice cream), dairy alternatives (soy milk, soy ice cream, coconut milk), and deli meat.” Wow! I was dumbstruck.
                Over the years, I have noticed how certain foods, dairy in particular, have not worked with my system. I have always equated this to being lactose-intolerant. More specifically, rarely are dairy products part of my diet, simply out of neglect, I guess. Dairy products just don’t entice me. However, this past year, after making some ice cream with the strawberries we harvested, I experienced some intense gastro-intestinal pain. By no means did it feel…acceptable, but I had experienced such discomfort before…
                Could it really be, that such intense gastro-intestinal distress was the result of a thickening agent added to foods? And more specifically, an ingredient in organic processed foods that somehow meet the national organic standards?
                Luckily for me in this situation, I was not alone. Stephanie was also a victim, if you will. In an effort not to divulge Stephanie’s dietary regimen, I will simply reveal that she LOVES cheese. And that has been an issue. And this is where it is strange to analyze. In much the same way, that a novice gardener will see a mammal’s damage to their crops and shrug it off as a random critter’s damage, rather than that of the actual cause… a f#$%ing groundhog, the food we eat are often approached in the same manner. Rather than there being an actual cause for gastro-intestinal distress, it must be a random imbalance in the diet.
                Perhaps, just perhaps, it is much more simple than that. But how does one determine this? I will revert back to my approach to high fructose corn syrup. Remove it from your diet and see what happens… naturally… to your own body! So, Stephanie stopped eating cheese… and sliced turkey meat. Her random gastro-intestinal distress ceased to be. Again, is it really that simple? As in, remove such a nefarious ingredient toward our digestion process as carrageenan… and the body can digest in peace again?
                Stephanie and I have learned a lot about this “thickening” agent that originated as “irish moss” many hundreds of years ago. Unfortunately, the original source and processes have changed in order for large food production companies to create a similar and more inexpensive product. That is, inexpensive only if one considers sales revenue and not health cost issues.
                I do admit that this is all new to me. I have searched through some of the scientific research… (and yes, I do respect scientists for scientific knowledge)… along with the history behind carrageenan. I certainly urge you to do the same. Oh, and cut it out of your diet to see what happens to your own digestion activity.
                Since learning about carrageenan’s negative effects, I have had two situations that have quite substantially proved its gastro-intestinal distress properties quite succinctly. It is somewhat easy for me to diagnose these situations, simply because I do not ingest very much processed foods, if any at all. And I do not miss it.
                So, I was over my parent’s house a couple of weeks ago. They had a pizza on the kitchen table and offered me some slices to eat. For countless years now, I have not been a fan of pizza.  Until learning about carrageenan, I had not decisive reasoning on this other than… it did not treat my digestive system well. Wow, thinking back on the last time I had pizza, it was precisely because of strange digestion issues on why I did not enjoy eating pizza. I dove in! I ate two slices of pizza. Within twenty minutes, that long remembered “stomach ache” arose on the left side of my stomach. It was simply too obvious to deny.
                I do realize how many will scoff over that simple example, but I stress, TRY IT FOR YOURSELF! If you eat processed food and experience gastro-intestinal distress, drop dairy… and sliced turkey meat from your diet. Sliced turkey is my second situation in this investigation, if you will. In the meat drawer of my parent’s refrigerator, a package of sliced turkey meat almost always resides. As a glutton for punishment, a couple of days after my pizza experiment, I made a turkey sandwich to eat. A turkey sandwich! What could be wrong with a turkey sandwich? I ate it… and twenty minutes later… my left side hurt! And as that pain arose, memories arose of similar pains in my most recent past! My mind had equated the gastro-intestinal distress to too much coffee. But literally, twenty minutes after eating the turkey sandwich, which contained carrageenan, the pain arose.
                I will stop here. This has been by no means a scientific analysis of the food additive carrageenan. What it attempts to be is a relaying of information I had not been informed of until recently, and after a relatively small amount of personal experimentation, has seemed to reveal that gastro-intestinal distress is more an ingredient issue in processed foods, than a random reflex of the body on natural foods.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree with you on stopping the processed foods and dairy. I have had remarkable changes in my digestive system since I have made these changes myself. There are many other reasons dairy is not a healthy choice too. When I do have something from the "old foods," I pay attention to how it tastes, and ask myself is it "really" something I enjoy? I will be on the look out for the carrageenan as well. Thanks for the post.