Pesticides in Food

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What’s the concern about pesticides in foods?

When I started this journey of making lifestyle changes in an effort to relieve the symptoms of hypothyroidism, I started doing some research about food. One thing kept coming up: it’s best to eat organic in order to avoid exposure to pesticides in foods.
Until I started researching, I really hadn’t thought about what effect the pesticides in food could have on my health. I’ve always been ultra-sensitive to hormones, which I discovered when I started taking birth control pills. Almost immediately I felt the effects – mood swings, weight gain, brain fog and depression. They always lifted when I stopped taking the pills. What does this have to do with pesticides? Read on to see what I found.

What are pesticides? Most of the pesticides used in the US are either neurotoxins or endocrine disruptors. Neurotoxins need no explanation, but endocrine disruptors are not as obvious. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, “an endocrine disruptor is a synthetic chemical that when absorbed into the body either mimics or blocks hormones and disrupts the body’s normal functions. This disruption can happen through altering normal hormone levels, halting or stimulating the production of hormones, or changing the way hormones travel through the body, thus affecting the functions that these hormones control. Chemicals that are known human endocrine disruptors include diethylstilbesterol (the drug DES), dioxin, PCBs, DDT, and some other pesticides. Many chemicals, particularly pesticides and plasticizers, are suspected endocrine disruptors based on limited animal studies.”

With the use of genetically modified organisms (aka GMOs), pesticide use has skyrocketed. Crops become resistant to pesticides, so more has to be used to accomplish the same amount of control. Many pesticides are systemic, which means you can’t simply wash them off. While the amount of pesticide on the food is minute, it’s the cumulative effect that is of concern. When you consider the fact that we eat multiple times daily, every day for as long as we’re alive, that’s a LOT of exposure to low levels of toxic chemicals over the course of a lifetime. Personally that’s not a risk I’m willing to take with my health.

What to do? Ideally, the solution is to only eat organic foods. In reality, this can be very expensive. If you can’t afford to buy everything organic, what you can do is buy the dirty dozen in organic and the clean fifteen can be non-organic. Another way to buy organic on a budget is to buy from your local farmers markets. Many local farms use organic methods even if they’re not USDA certified. Just ask questions to be sure they’re not using synthetic  pesticides.

The Pesticide Action Network of North America is a great resource for more information about pesticides.

As always, thanks for reading!

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