Sandra Robertson on What does “Processed food” really mean?

Sandra Robertson is a Practitioner of Chinese Medicine in Victoria, B.C., Canada. She is the author of Treating Children with Chinese Dietary Therapy. You can find more information at Nourishlifemedicine.com.

Food awareness

I recently spoke on a podcast and the subject of “processed food” came up frequently during the interview. After we had concluded I realized that I could have elaborated on the different levels and methods that are utilized in the processing of food. Not all processed food is unhealthy and in our often-busy lives, it’s helpful to make a distinction so we can choose efficiently and wisely for our health. Nowadays our grocery store aisles contain food products that have been hugely altered from their original states in ways that would have been unimaginable 100 years ago. Many staples such as bread, yoghurt, cereal, and baked goods have gone from being just simple processed food items to becoming ultra-processed food (UPF). Awareness and education of what we think we are eating and what we are actually eating is crucial not only to our own health but for the health of our children and grandchildren born into this world of quick, easy and addictive food products.

Processing foods

The processing of foods means any alteration from their original state such as cooking eggs, baking bread, freezing meat, grinding grain, or roasting vegetables. These are common ways in which we process our food on a day-to-day basis. There’s also fermenting, drying, and salt preservation; these methods were used in the past to help feed our ancestors through the winter and during times of food scarcity. Processing foods in these ways is still be considered natural and, in most cases, healthful.

Processing was taken a step further in the early 1900s. Napoleon’s government in France needed to figure out a way to preserve food for the sustenance of French troops. Napoleon devised a contest- whoever could come up with the best preservation method would win a cash prize. Canning came out as the winner, and this was the beginning of processing foods for the masses. Over the next 100-plus years, mass production of foods has ballooned. The addition of sugar, salt, and preservatives have made it possible to significantly increase the shelf life of packaged foods. These products now number in the thousands and line our grocery store shelves, cafeterias and vending machines. Essential vitamins and minerals are stripped from the original foods through harsh processing and restructuring while unpronounceable and unrecognizable ingredients are added in. The final product of this processing can hardly be called food anymore.

The Nova food classification system

I came across the NOVA food classification system that divides all food into four separate groups. It was pioneered by public health nutritionist Carlos Monteiro from Brazil to better help us understand the different levels of processing so that we can make better meal choices. Optimally, children and adults would only be eating foods from groups 1-3 and very occasionally or never have items from group 4.

The 4 classifications:

  1. Unprocessed or minimally processed foods. Unprocessed foods are obtained directly from plants or animals with no alteration done to them such as a raw carrot or apple. Minimally processed comes from food that is unprocessed and might include drying, crushing, grinding, freezing, pasteurization, roasting, non-alcoholic fermentation, etc. such as dried apples, frozen peas, etc.
  2. Processed culinary ingredients. Ingredients such as oils, fats, sugar, and salt that come from the first group of unprocessed or minimally processed foods. They are used to help cook and season foods in group 1. The products are extracted by grinding, pressing, refining, milling, and drying. Examples are honey, maple syrup, butter, olive oil, white sugar, and coconut fat.
  3. Processed foods. Manufactured with the use of salt, sugar, oil, or products from group 1 or 2. They do not contain a lot of ingredients (unlike the ultra-processed products below), anywhere from 2-4. Examples of these foods are freshly made breads and cheeses, tomato paste, salted nuts, canned fish, etc.
  4. Ultra-processed foods (UPF’s). These are the “foods” (food should not be in the name of these products as they are far removed from the original group 1 and 2 foods) to be wary of and optimally “ultra-avoided”. They are industrial formulations that do not contain ingredients you would use when cooking at home. They often utilize chemical processes in the manufacturing and use flavour enhancers, food additives, and colours to make the food hyper-palatable. Hyper-palatable foods by-pass your body’s full signal and are overeaten. These non-foods are made to be branded, highly profitable, and convenient. They are marketed to children with the use of cartoon characters, bright colours and advertising. They fill us with empty calories that not only replace fresh unprocessed foods but are deleterious to our health.

Labels

The companies that produce UPF’s are allowed to use words like “natural”, “healthy”, and “organic” in their marketing and on the packaging which can be misleading to consumers. The ingredients may have started out as natural or healthy, but after stripping the fiber, bleaching the flour, and adding in high amounts of sugar and preservatives, it is nothing of its original nature. Organic Doritos™ does not suddenly make Doritos good for you because they are organic! Smart bread™ is not a wise choice and fits into group 4 above. Reading labels is the only way to find out what is mostly living inside the package. “Mostly” since ingredients such as “spices”, or “natural flavours” do not require any further explanation.

Gut microbiome health

When we eat, we are not only feeding ourselves, but we are also feeding the trillions of different bacteria that reside in our gastrointestinal tract. Since the role gut microbiota have on our health has been discovered (1) many studies have been done linking how our diet affects our microbiome. (2) (3) (4) (5) Dysbiosis-an imbalance in the gut microbiome- has been found to be indicated in chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and more recently mounting evidence to increased COVID-19 severity. (6). Dysbiosis occurs when there is a decrease in microbial diversity. The good bacteria in our gut help us to digest our food, produce vitamins, regulate our immune system, and protect against the bacteria that cause disease, so we want to keep them happy.

Eating a varied diet is one of the ways we can increase our microbial diversity. Lots of fiber, probiotic, and prebiotic-rich foods will feed the “good” bacteria. Ultra-processed foods that are basically sugar, refined wheat, corn, oil, and soy, feed the “bad” bacteria. Diversity is severely lacking in these products as they are all essentially made of similar ingredients. The “bad” bacteria then take over and can cause cravings for sugar and more of the same unwholesome foods. Young children are particularly vulnerable as the assembly of microbial communities is taking place in their guts from the time they are born and is established by the age of three. They acquire a taste for UPF’s, and it can be challenging to introduce new flavours and textures into their meals. Over time, our guts and tastebuds become hijacked by these unnatural foods.

Ultra-processed food concerns

There are real consequences to eating UPF’s aside from the obvious lack of nutrients, minerals, and fiber. A recent study done at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem discovered that eating UPF’s (even in reduced amounts) may harm young children’s skeletal development. They found that UPF’s can cause reduced bone quality. This is especially concerning for children as their bones are in the developing stages and are continually growing and reshaping themselves. (7)

UPF consumption has also been linked to rising childhood obesity rates into adolescence and early adulthood. (8). Obese children face complications such as breathing difficulties, increased risk of fractures, hypertension, insulin resistance, early markers of cardiovascular disease, and psychological effects. [i]

Insulin resistance- one of the complications of obesity- leads to type 2 diabetes. This disease used to only be seen in adults but is now on the rise in children. It is much worse for a child to develop Type 2 diabetes than for an adult. Diabetes-related complications- eye disease, kidney disease, nerve disease, strokes, heart disease, toe, and foot amputations- develop rapidly in children and will negatively affect their quality of life into adulthood. (9)

[i] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight

Awareness for better health

As they say, knowledge is power. Becoming more mindful of what we are buying and which companies we choose to support will be a huge step in the direction of wellness. Reading labels will help guide us to avoid and minimize group 4 UPF’s in the diet. Even if the packaging states it is natural and healthy, the ingredients might prove otherwise. If the list of ingredients is long, this is another clue to its increased processed nature.

There is no arguing that processed foods have made cooking easier, more efficient and extended the shelf life of many different foods for us. UPF’s on the other hand are unnecessary, insidious dietary additions that only seek to create profit for the food giants, leaving us and our children sick and malnourished.

You can learn more about and get your copy of Treating Children with Chinese Dietary Therapy, here.


References

  1. Sekirov I, R. S. (2010 Jul). Gut microbiota in health and disease. Physiol Rev., 90(3):859-904.
  2. De Filippo C, C. D. (2010). Impact of diet in shaping gut microbiota revealed by a comparative study in children from Europe and rural Africa. doi:10.1073/pnas.1005963107. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A., 107(33):14691-14696.
  3. Mokkala K, H. N. (2020 Apr;). Interactions of dietary fat with the gut microbiota: Evaluation of mechanisms and metabolic consequences. Clin Nutr, 39(4):994-1018.
  4. Ruiz-Ojeda FJ, P.-D. J.-L. (2020). Effects of Sweeteners on the Gut Microbiota: A Review of Experimental Studies and Clinical Trials. Adv Nutr, S31-S48.
  5. Zmora N, S. J. (2019). You are what you eat: diet, health, and the gut microbiota. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol., (1):35-56.
  6. Yeoh YK, Z. T. (2021). Gut microbiota composition reflects disease severity and dysfunctional immune responses in patients with COVID-19. Gut, 70:698-706.
  7. Zaretsky, J. G.-F. (2021). Ultra-processed food targets bone quality via endochondral ossification. Bone Res, 9-14.
  8. Chang K, K. N. (Published online June 14, 2021). Association Between Childhood Consumption of Ultra processed Food and Adiposity Trajectories in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children Birth Cohort. JAMA Pediatrics.
  9. University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. (2021, July 28). New study reveals serious long-term complications in youth-onset type 2 diabetes. ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/07/210728201347.htm

Using Raw Herbs in Chinese Medical Dermatology

Sabine Schmitz (M. Med. TCM) is a graduate of the Zhèjiang Chinese Medical University in Hángzhou, China where she majored in Chinese medical dermatology. Her enormous knowledge treasures from China as well as her many years of experience benefit many patients with chronic and complex skin diseases – such as psoriasis and eczema – but also many other patients with various diseases. Sabine has a busy TCM practice specializing in skin diseases, gynecological disorders and infertility treatment. Her first book with Singing Dragon, Treating Psoriasis with Chinese Herbal Medicine (Revised Edition) was published in 2020 as part of a new dermatology series. Her second book with us, Treating Acne and Acne Rosacea with Chinese Herbal Medicine, will be published in November 2021.

When I look at social media these days, I see more and more reports from patients describing improvements in their skin diseases by using Chinese herbs. That is a good thing because it spreads awareness of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and gives other patients, who might currently be looking for a suitable therapy, options and ideas. Sometimes, patients upload pictures of granules, sometimes raw herbs or, in rare cases, I see pills. However, today I would like to discuss why raw herbs are best in the treatment of chronic and complex skin diseases from a therapist’s point of view, who sees difficult skin diseases every day.

Using decoctions as treatment

The wide variety of treatment options developed over the centuries and the extensive range of internal and external applications TCM offers are a direct response to the flexibility required in curing complex disease patterns. When talking about raw herbs, I am referring to “decoctions”, in Chinese this is called jiān jì (煎剂). As seen in practice, decoctions, or teas, of raw herbs are the most effective form of treatment. They are easy to prepare and drink. And when I say easy to prepare, I mean boiling raw herbs up for a couple of hours a week – it’s not rocket science and most patients will do this when the benefits are properly explained to them. Continue reading

A Natural Approach to Treating Psoriasis with Chinese Medicine

Sabine Schmitz

Sabine Schmitz (M. Med. TCM) is a graduate of the Zhèjiang Chinese Medical University in Hángzhou, China where she majored in Chinese medical dermatology. Her enormous knowledge treasures from China as well as her many years of experience benefit many patients with chronic and complex skin diseases – such as psoriasis and eczema – but also many other patients with various diseases. Sabine has a busy TCM practice specializing in skin diseases, gynecological disorders and infertility treatment. Her first book with Singing Dragon, Treating Psoriasis with Chinese Herbal Medicine (Revised Edition) was published in 2020 as part of a new dermatology series. Her second book with us, Treating Acne and Acne Rosacea with Chinese Herbal Medicine, will be published in November 2021.

Change is the only constant in life – a popular quote by the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus. And it is true, in life ups and downs alternate, joy and sadness, and so on. This is normal. Life is not a constant continuum of ongoing happiness and living on the bright side as the current pandemic shows us. All of us are facing difficult times right now. In my practice, I observe the longer difficult times like this pandemic for instance lasts the more problems the patients have. Patients get tense, stressed or anxious depending what kind of type of person they are. They either develop new symptoms or, and that’s quite often, old processes flare up again and worsen. As I do specialize in TCM Dermatology and Gynaecology I see this to be true for many skin diseases every day. Chronic skin diseases like psoriasis are good examples of this.

We all know that skin diseases in general are often complicated and neither easy nor fast in their treatment. Stress and emotions like frustration, anger as well as anxiety definitely need to be taken into account. In my practice, I frequently observe in patients with psoriasis who have had episodes of severe stress or periods of recurring frustration and anger a worsening of their skin condition. Thus, we need to take the patients’ emotions and circumstances into account. It would be a mistake not to do this – to not consider the obvious which is often the root cause of the disease. Saying this, I really think that right now our wonderful medicine is needed more than ever! Continue reading

Clouds Over Qingcheng Mountain: Testimonials from Wang Yun’s Students

Immersing the mind with the concepts of the Daoist path of health and immortality, Clouds over Qingcheng Mountain – the new book by Daoist master Wang Yun – invokes the sacred birthplace of one of China’s mystical mountains that has stimulated both mind and body for generations.

Whilst the first volume, Climbing the Steps to Qingcheng Mountain, invited the reader to travel across time and through the history of China and Daoism, Clouds over Qingcheng Mountain is more focused in the book’s purpose. Wang Yun places special focus on relaxation and the breath through five sets of foundational yet all-encompassing practices, such as posting, to deepen both themes. He offers tales from his life and journey, along with accessible tools to strengthen both body and qi.

Bridging the gap between practical experience and philosophical background, Clouds over Qingcheng Mountain simplifies the complex practices of Daoism handed down by generations of accomplished Masters, and gifts the reader with its most valuable aspects for a modern world.

In these videos, students of Wang Yun give testimonials on the master’s teaching, and how they benefited from practising the exercises in the book on a regular basis.

 

Announcing our Acupuncture Webinar Series: Join us on our Facebook page every week

We are delighted to announce that Singing Dragon is launching a new Acupuncture Webinar Series.

Starting on the 15th of September, join us every Tuesday and Thursday at 8pm BST/3pm EST on our Facebook page for a new webinar by renowned acupuncture professionals.

You can join in the discussions, and our authors will be on hand to answer any questions or comments you may have on the day.

You can also submit your questions for our authors ahead of time by emailing hello@intl.singingdragon.com.

Click here to visit and follow our Facebook page!

 

Our Acupuncture Webinar Series schedule so far features:

  • CT Holman – 15th September – Applying Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches to Chinese Medicine Treatments
  • Rebecca Avern – 17th September – Why do children become ill?
  • Mary Elizabeth Wakefield & MichelAngelo – 22nd and 24th September – Vibrational Acupuncture: Integrating Tuning Forks with Needles
  • John Hamwee – 29th September – Amplifying the Power of Treatment
  • Hamid Montakab – 6th October – TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) versus CCM (Classical Chinese Medicine)

We are in the process of confirming many more events with our authors. Follow our Facebook page to stay up to date with upcoming events!

Please note: webinars will be available for 24 hours, after which they will be available for purchase through the Singing Dragon Library for a small fee.

 

Continue reading

Treating Psoriasis with Chinese Herbal Medicine

We are thrilled to announce that the new, revised and updated edition of Treating Psoriasis with Chinese Herbal Medicine, the wonderful book by Sabine Schmitz, is being published by Singing Dragon in July 2020.

In this video, Sabine introduces her book, the first comprehensive English-speaking guide to treating psoriasis with Chinese herbal medicine.

We have implemented some exciting changes into this edition:
  • We’ve vividly enriched the book with illustrations, photographs of both the skin and the tongue (including a tongue atlas), as well as in-depth case studies and new information based on the latest research.
  • It is beautifully designed and type-set – readers will now find it much easier to navigate and dip in and out of the text as needed.

The perfect resource for Chinese medicine practitioner or student interested in treating skin conditions, this is the first ‘Western’ Chinese medicine publication dedicated specifically to psoriasis, and it takes a modern, practical approach to treatment, looking at the root cause of the condition from a Chinese medicine viewpoint, examining the most common Chinese medicine syndromes and formulas that have been proven to be most effective, and discussing the role of environment and emotional health.

New TCM Dermatology Series with Singing Dragon

This book is the first of a new TCM dermatology handbook series that Sabine is working on with Singing Dragon, with practical books about the most common skin diseases.

We’re creating the ultimate resources for practitioners to use in clinical practice – easy to read, use and navigate in day-to-day practice, and based on her many years of experience in treating skin conditions with Chinese medicine.

To keep an eye out for upcoming books in the series, subscribe to the Singing Dragon mailing list by clicking here.

Experiencing Acupuncture: An Introduction by John Hamwee

John Hamwee is an experienced practitioner and teacher of acupuncture and zero balancing, with over twenty-five years’ experience in practice.

He is the author of Experiencing Acupuncture: Journeys of Body, Mind and Spirit for Patients and Practitioners, which was published in April 2020, as well as Acupuncture for New PractitionersIntuitive AcupunctureThe Spirit of the Organs and Zero Balancing.

In this article, he briefly explains why he decided to write his latest book, and how he hopes it will help both acupuncturists and their patients.

I am often puzzled and regularly find myself faced with difficult choices in my acupuncture practice. How many times in the treatment room have I thought – I wish I could talk to one of my teachers right now. I know they wouldn’t tell me what to do but they would make suggestions based on their deep knowledge and long experience. They’d say how they managed when they struggled with diagnoses which were convincing but didn’t work, when they found the  messages of pulse, tongue and symptoms contradictory, and when they too had patients who somehow seemed to resist treatment. Continue reading

Rebecca Avern: Supporting Children and Teens in Lockdown

Rebecca Avern is a traditional acupuncturist and founder of The Panda Clinic, a children’s acupuncture centre in Oxford. She is also author of Acupuncture for Babies, Children and Teenagers, writes a blog at Nurturing the Young, and is senior lecturer and clinical supervisor at the College of Integrated Medicine, Reading, UK.

In this vlog, Rebecca discusses the effects and impacts of the current lockdown on children, and what parents can do to help them through this difficult period – whether they’re primary school-aged or teenagers – from both a Chinese medicine and a parenting perspective.

 

To read more about Rebecca’s background and motivation to write her book, read our #MeetTheSDAuthor interview with her by clicking here. 

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Chinese Medicine Psychology: Applying classical ideas to contemporary clinical settings

By Dr Mary Garvey

Our new book, Chinese Medicine Psychology: A Clinical Guide to Mental and Emotional Wellness, is the culmination of many years of clinical work, teaching, research and collaboration. It includes and expands upon some of our previous conference and published papers. It also contains a lot of new material to provide a more complete guide to Chinese medicine’s practice response, management and cultivation of mental and emotional well-being.

What does the book cover?

The book applies classical ideas to the contemporary clinical setting, modern disease categories and individual patient presentations, and is in two parts. Continue reading

Meet the Singing Dragon Author: Z’ev Rosenberg

As part of our Meet The Singing Dragon Author series, we speak to authors to discuss their motivation for entering their respective industries, inspiration for writing their books, what challenges they faced, and who they would recommend their books to. Is there a specific Singing Dragon author you would like to hear from? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation using #MeetTheSDAuthor.

Z’ev Rosenberg, author of Ripples in the Flow: Reflections on Vessel Dynamics in the Nàn Jing

How did you become interested in Chinese medicine and acupuncture?

My interest in Chinese medicine began in my teen years, when I started practicing yoga and macrobiotics at seventeen years old in New York, to which I continue to practice both disciplines today. This was in part to the “sixties revolution” where consciousness and ecology came in on the boot heels of the Beatle’s personal explorations. I took classes in shiatsu with Shizuko Yamamoto in New York and Boston, and opened macrobiotic centers in Boulder, Colorado and Santa Fe, New Mexico after a stint in the natural food business in the early 1970’s. Continue reading