We often take health for granted until we manage to lose it to bad habits, neglect and laziness. Nevertheless, even with regular exercise, healthy dietary choices and enough sleep, you may still be prone to various illnesses. Surprised? It is not news, really: the old adage about one man’s food being another man’s poison sums it up pretty neatly. If you tend to feel a bit under the weather every time you have a four-course meal, it is high time you took a closer look at the ingredients on your plate. The reason for your stomachache may not be accumulated stress or shifty weather – the culprit may in fact be hiding behind food labels.
A pinch of E.coli
Bad news, carnivores: meat has caused at least 33,000 illnesses between 1998 and 2010, which is serious food for thought if you regularly consume this staple. The main reason for daunting CSPI reports on poisoning with chicken (with as many as 455 outbreaks linked to nearly 7,000 illnesses in the said period) and ground beef is very small – as small as bacteria can be. E.coli O157:H7 found in raw meat is known to produce disease-inducing Shiga toxins: according to the CDC, 265,000 Shiga toxin-caused diseases occur in the U.S. alone every year. E.coli poisoning symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and nausea, so if you are an avid meat consumer, cook, grill or roast your favorite treat well before you wolf it down.
Seasoned with salmonella
Another microorganism that may have found its permanent residence in your food, salmonella usually occurs in beef, poultry, milk, and eggs, but it can be found in vegetables too. The most common reason for salmonella garnish is food contamination during processing, especially if the handler failed to wash their hands or came into contact with a salmonella carrier in animal form. CDC estimates show that 1.4 million salmonella poisoning cases are reported each year, but millions more go by undiagnosed. People infected with salmonella often experience abdominal cramps, nausea, headaches, vomiting, bloody stools and either fever or chills. Before you dive into that yummy pork tenderloin or pour yourself a refreshing glass of milk, make sure they are properly cooked – and do not forget to wash your hands first!
Unfortunately, we do not need bacteria to make us ill – we are doing an excellent job with our own dietary choices, thank you. As many as 15 million Americans are afflicted with food allergies, and many of them do not even know it. The figures are steadily rising: a 2013 study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the occurrence of food allergies among children increased by as many as 50% between 1997 and 2011. As many as 90% of allergic reactions to food occur upon the ingestion of milk, eggs, wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, fish and shellfish, and the list of symptoms ranges from rashes and hives to anaphylaxis. Better run allergy tests before your next meal, ha?
If you feel bloating, cramps, fatigue and diarrhea or constipation every time you feed pastry to your inner foodie, you may be suffering from celiac disease. Approximately 1 in 33 Americans are afflicted by celiac, but the real figures are much steeper as approximately 83% of celiac disease cases are never diagnosed. The celiac offender goes by the name of gluten, so if you want to avoid a first-hand encounter with the protein component, steer clear of wheat, barley and rye. For celiac patients, physicians often recommend switching to a gluten-free diet and using quality nutrient supplements to make up for the protein, vitamins and minerals missing from a no-gluten plate.
However intimidating, it is still true: your food may be fueling an illness instead of nourishing your body. Fortunately, allergy tests, hot water and soap can help: health is truly priceless, and it is up to you do everything you can to avoid losing it.