Thursday, 17 July 2008

Disordered eating

Pregnancy, nuts and asthma

The guy who wrote the story above must have had a confusing time of it. Three health hot topics, Nut allergies, the effects of mothers diet on the foetus, and childhood asthma. Although admittedly, Asthma seems to have something of an 80's feel these days, it's a bit simplistic in these days of ADHD and MMR-Autism hysteria. It's a well understood disease that affects the lungs, and lungs are boring, right? Everyone knows about them, mental disorders are where it's at in the new millennium. I imagine a modern mother would be embarrassed if her child had asthma, sneaking them out of the playground after school, as all the other trendy mums laugh and scoff at her offspring with the outdated illness, as their own children stare into space in a Ritailin induced semi-coma.
(Ritailin is the most commonly perscribed drug for treating ADHD, it curbs the main symptoms such as lack of attention and impulsivity, and if you up the dose it can even get rid of some of those annoying habits children have like curiosity, playfulness and free will, and it can't do any harm surely as it's all medicine, medicine is good for you, right? And you can leave the child staring at the wall while you go off and get your nails done and do some shopping, and all those other things you can do now that you don't have to waste all that time doing actual parenting!)
You may have guessed, I'm not a big fan of medicating children with powerful stimulants, particularly as their brains are still developing. I'm sure there are plenty of occasions when it has to be done, but it's surely a last resort, not a first one, and I can't abide it when a parent says 'my child is out of control' when they actually mean 'my child has an illness that cramps my lifestyle, can't we tranquilize him or something?' You people know who you are!
Where was I?
Ah, right. Asthma, nut allergies and pregnancy. Three health concerns rolled into one. Apparently, if pregnant women eat nuts they risk giving their children asthma. I'm not sure how that works, but it's probably a very convoluted process. But do you remember when peanut allergies were weird? I remember hearing about it for the first time as a child, and it sounded very odd. Now they're everywhere, I know several people who suffer from serious nut allergies. Has it always been like this? Were there always many peanut sufferers who were too afraid to come forward? If so, why? Or is there an increase in allergies as time goes on.
Western living is, apparently, largely to blame. You don't get many peanut allergies in Africa, and they eat copious amounts. It's because their immune systems have more important things to do. (An allergic reaction is caused by the immune system responding rather overenthusiastically to an essentially harmless substance, by the way, in case that didn't make any sense). People in Africa have, on average, a much lower standard of living and their immune systems have to fight of germs and disease all the time. We in the west have a habit of sterilizing everything. My own mother did it, when I was born she went hygiene crazy, even sterilizing the phones, although who she expected to be calling a 2 week old baby I never established. So our immune systems get bored and twitchy, and allergies occur. Peanuts seem to be especially prone to causing a bad reaction.
I remember reading an article in New Scientist about this, where a woman died after eating peanuts at a party. Her husband said she must have eaten a peanut that "was hiding in a bowl of mixed nuts". It's a terrible tragedy and my sympathies go out to the guy, but if someone said to me 'find me a peanut', a bowl of mixed nuts would be the 2nd place I'd look. The 1st would be a bowl of peanuts. Why was she eating nuts if she had an allergy? Was this 'Russian roulette: The Christmas party edition'? Maybe she didn't know she had an allergy, but in that case, why blame the peanut? It could have been any other nut*, they were mixed. I've always been wary of Walnuts. All crumpled up like that, what are they hiding?
But this sort of story gets lost in the tide of articles and programmes about 'Food is bad for you!' There's nothing we can eat any more without some self-confessed expert lecturing us like idiot children or sifting through our bowel movements for some undisclosed reason. Jamie Oliver was practically Knighted for trying to stop kids eating 'junk', Gillian McKeith is a millionaire thanks to the nonsensical guff she spouts about nutrition, all because people are so paranoid about what they eat, and everyone seems hell bent on making it worse!
A lot of people don't trust GM food. Why? As if all other produce hasn't been cultivated and designed for maximum output over decades/centuries. But no, speed the process up in a lab and you can't trust it. 'Organic only' sections in Supermarkets annoy me, if they're going to have those, they should have 'GM only' as well. Discriminating against something because of its genes is otherwise known as racism, and I want no part of it!
There seems to be some sort of bandwagon, and everyone wants to jump on. Apparently, Janet Street Porter has recently been criticising smoothies and fruit drinks because of all the natural sugar they contain. never mind the vitamins and all that, it's the sugar that's important apprently. That just makes me want to consume smoothies until the stuff starts dripping from my ears, if Janet Street-porter is against it, I'm all for it. She's just massively infuriating.
But think about it. Red Meat = Very bad for your heart. Chicken = Probably Chemically enhanced, and they make Hugh cry. Fish = Heavy metal poisoning. Carrots = Possible vitamin A overdose. Citrus fruits = Too much sugar and acid damages your teeth. Other fruits = Sugar again, and don't forget pesticides and germs etc. Potatoes = too many carbs. Rice = Not enough carbs. Pasta = Too many carbs. Broccoli = High in carcinogens. Nuts = Fattening, too many oils. Mushrooms = Fungus? Eeeurgh. Sausages = Do you know what they putin that stuff? Eyes and anus and stuff! Curry = too many colourings. Smoothies = Janet say NO! Salad = Is it fresh? negative calories you know, if you eat it too often you might die. Coffee= Do you know what's in that? Tea = And that! Pizza = They spit in it you know, my mate saw them do it. Chinese food = All that MSG damages your eyes, you could go blind.
It goes on. There's literally nothing we can eat any more which doesn't maim or kill us in some way. Just be responsible, don't overindulge but don't starve to death either. Everything you do damages you in some way, that's life. For some people, a perfect world would be one where everyone just stays indoors hooked up to an IV drip and staring at the wall. If we're lucky, maybe they'll add some garlic to it, because there's nothing wrong with that. Yet.

* I am aware that a peanut is a legume. To anyone who was compelled to write to me to point that out, I'd advise you to go outside and talk to someone. Anyone, as you clearly need to.


Benjamin said...

That was awesome. You hit the mark on every issue.

Chris said...

nice one, some proper laugh out loud comments.

Oh and good luck finshing the phd... been there, done that and just about lived to tell the tale!!

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