Harmful Food Chemicals
Do you eat a healthy diet? Everyone thinks they do, even me. But when we really look at what’s in our cupboards, on our plates, and entering our bodies through our mouth or our skin, we ingest and absorb more harmful chemicals than we think!
Lots of the harmful chemicals in processed foods are really harmful - particularly in large quantities. And particularly when we combine one chemical with another. This exacerbates the chemical reaction in our bodies called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and it’s making us sick!
One of the problems with the Standard American Diet? Large quantities of processed food.
According to EWG, “Almost 99 percent of food chemicals introduced since 2000 were greenlighted for use by food and chemical companies, rather than properly reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration. Many of these widely used chemicals are associated with major health harms, including increased risk of cancer, developmental harm and hormone disruption.”
Regulatory agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have set limits on the use of food chemicals and consider them safe within those limits. However with our over-dependence on processed foods, who is watching the intake of each consumer?
We can't break down, digest and absorb the nutrients from food chemicals because they are unrecognizable to the body. There is literally no nutritional value to many of the ingredients in processed foods - they are there for color, mouthfeel, or as a preservative.
Today, we are looking at just three of these food chemicals - there are literally hundreds - to watch out for (and avoid) in your food, drinks, body products, and more.
Sodium benzoate is a food preservative that is commonly used in processed foods, beverages, and skincare products. While it is approved by the FDA at very low levels, there have been concerns about its potential health effects, especially in certain conditions:
For example, when sodium benzoate is combined with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or citric acid, benzene can form. Benzene is a known carcinogen and long-term exposure to high levels of benzene has been associated with an increased risk of cancer.
Furthermore, some individuals may be sensitive or allergic to sodium benzoate. Allergic reactions can manifest as hives, itching, swelling, difficulty breathing, or gastrointestinal distress. This is hugely problematic as it is an ingredient in lots of skincare products! And could be contributing to your rosacea, eczema, or other skincare problems.
Lastly, sodium benzoate can react with certain ingredients, such as artificial food dyes, to form additional compounds that may have negative effects. Some studies suggest that the combination of sodium benzoate and artificial food dyes may exacerbate hyperactivity, particularly in children.
A food chemical to leave behind if you read it on the label!
BHA and BHT
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are terrible food chemical cousins and are on the EWG’s dirty dozen - a list of top chemicals to avoid in your products.
Both have been studied for their potential to act as carcinogens and animal studies have indicated potential for tumor promotion in organs. Other research suggests that they may generate free radicals under certain conditions, potentially contributing to physiological oxidative stress and cellular damage.
These food chemicals have also been found to have estrogenic and anti-androgenic properties, meaning it may mimic or interfere with the body's natural hormone balance, including the production of testosterone, estrogen, and things like sperm count.
PFAs, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of food chemicals that have been found to be dangerous for several reasons.
First, they are highly persistent in the environment, meaning they do not break down easily. This characteristic allows them to accumulate over time in soil, water, and the food chain, leading to widespread contamination.
Studies have linked exposure to PFAs with a range of adverse health effects in humans. Some of the known health risks include developmental and reproductive problems, liver damage, immune system dysfunction, hormonal disruptions, and an increased risk of certain cancers, such as kidney and testicular cancer.
Due to their persistence, many countries and regulatory bodies are implementing measures to restrict or ban the use of certain PFAs and reduce human exposure to these harmful substances. In the US, some companies still report their use.
Working with a Functional Health Coach (Avoiding Food Chemicals)
It is my job to teach you why and how to eat whole foods. Foods that come from our Earth.
And even those are lacking nutrients - imagine ingesting harmful food chemicals instead! In the interim, we have done damage to our bodies. So we need to fix our bodies, our habits and our thoughts.
Let’s dive deeper into some of the symptoms you’ve been having, and discuss your health goals in a no-obligation Discovery Session. This is a great way to decide whether we might be a good fit.
And there’s no better time to go from normal to optimal.
In good health,