Apples.IraqVet

I’m pleased to welcome Mike Yost, guest contributor, and his tale of two foods to The Local Dish. Organics and clean food played a big role in helping him regain his health following his tour of duty in Iraq and he will be sharing his continuing food journey here on The Local Dish. Barb 

I started out the same as everyone else when organic foods began showing up in most grocery stores. I viewed organic foods as “premium items”, perhaps some sort of gourmet treat for when I got tired of eating chips. But shortly after serving in Iraq as a combat medic, I returned home with two new chronic illnesses that forced me to re-evaluate the foods I consumed. The first, Celiac Disease, is a condition of the small intestine that requires gluten-free eating. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and a litany of processed foods and if I ingest any of those I feel like I’ve swallowed glass… and I’ll be sick for days. As thousands of others are diagnosed with this autoimmune condition, I started to believe there’s a big problem with our food supply.

As time went on, I began to see two types of foods in the grocery store: organic, and everything else. I would see organic oranges on one side of the aisle, and conventional oranges on the other. Eventually, I began to ask myself why there are two different standards for our food.

The more I bought clean, organic foods as a lifesaving step towards healing, the more I was intrigued. At some point, my perspective started to change. I realized a shocking truth: organic foods are the standard, and everything else is simply grown, or raised, below these internationally recognized standards.

Fruits and vegetables not grown organically have residues of the pesticides and fertilizers they were exposed to during the growing process. While occasional on-farm application of these chemicals may be determined to be safe by government standards, repeated exposure through the foods we eat on a daily basis, from the time we are a child, has been shown to have negative health effects.

Now, in addition to chemical exposure, we are faced with the increasing presence of genetically modified organisms in our foods. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) actually entered our food supply in the 1980’s with the introduction of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready herbicide containing Glyphosate.

Corporations have been taking advantage of foods that they can produce larger, faster, and cheaper than ever before. This is a result of the same genes being cloned over and over again. In essence, your body begins to think it’s eating the same plant, or animal, each time. This is how food sensitivities begin to develop.

The clean food and organic market doesn’t just represent fresh produce. It includes meat, dairy, eggs, grains, and legumes as well. Everything given to the animal, from GMO feed to antibiotics and hormones are passed to you through the meat. When you buy organic, you take a big step toward protecting you and your family from harmful substances.  I always kept this in mind as I chose foods that would help my digestive system heal.

In more recent years, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a condition of the nervous system known for persistent and widespread pain, fatigue, and stiffness. While there is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, I have found that I am able to achieve my best health while following an organic diet, rich in whole foods.

One of the challenges I face each day in choosing organics over conventional food is the higher cost.  There were times when I had to humble myself and apply for food stamps, or donate blood, to make end’s meet. I know what it means to struggle financially.

Though I’ve never had an abundance of money, I’ve had to make my food budget my highest priority, ahead of entertainment, travel, or anything else. I make these sacrifices because I need to do whatever it takes to get stronger and heal.

In my next post I’ll share with readers some useful tips for healthy eating on a budget.

Image: shaughnhalls.flickr