Food-junk and some mystery ailments: Fatigue, Alzheimer's, Colitis, Immunodeficiency.

Years ago, I noticed that Oregon was one of the few states that still had real whipping cream and cottage cheese without additives, so I have been trustingly using cream in my coffee every day. Last week, I noticed that my cream listed carrageenan in its ingredients. Over the years, I have avoided carrageenan-containing foods such as apple cider, hot dogs, most ice creams and prepared sauces and jellies, because they caused me to have serious allergic symptoms. Carrageenan has been found to cause colitis and anaphylaxis in humans, but it is often present in baby “formulas” and a wide range of milk products, with the result that many people have come to believe that it was the milk-product that was responsible for their allergic symptoms. Because the regulators claim that it is a safe natural substance, it is very likely that it sometimes appears in foods that don’t list it on the label, for example when it is part of another ingredient.

In the 1940s, carrageenan, a polysaccharide made from a type of seaweed, was recognized as a dangerous allergen. Since then it has become a standard laboratory material to use to produce in-flammatory tumors (granulomas), immunodeficiency, arthritis, and other in-flammations. It has also become an increasingly common material in the food industry. Articles are often written to praise its usefulness and to claim that it doesn't produce cancer in healthy animals. Its presence in food, like that of the polyester imitation fat, microcrystalline cellulose, and many other polymers used to stabilize emulsions or to increase smoothness, is often justified by the doctrine that these molecules are too large to be absorbed. There are two points that are deliberately ignored by the food-safety regulators, 1) these materials can interact dangerously with intestinal bacteria, and 2) they can be absorbed, in the process called "persorption."

The sulfites (sodium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, etc.) have been used as preservatives in foods and drugs for a long time, even though they were known to cause intense allergic reactions in some people. Fresh vegetables and fish, dried fruits, ham and other preserved meats, hominy, pickles, canned vegetables and juices, and wines were commonly treated with large amounts of the sulfites to prevent darkening and the development of unpleasant odors. People with asthma were known to be more sensitive than other people, but the sulfites could cause a fatal asthma-like attack even in someone who had never had asthma. Even when this was known, drugs used to treat asthma were preserved with sulfites. Was the information just slow to reach the people who made the products? No, the manufacturers knew about the deadly nature of their products, but they kept on selling them. The FDA didn't answer letters on the subject, and medical magazines such as J.A.M.A. declined to publish even brief letters seriously discussing the issue. Obviously, since many people died from what the drug companies called "paradoxical bronchoconstriction" when they used the products, the drug companies had to be protected from lawsuits, and the medical magazines and the government regulators did that through the control of information.

I think a similar situation exists now in relation to the effects of carrageenan.

Stress and anxiety sharply reduce the circulation of blood to the intestine and liver. Prolonged stress damages the ability of the in-testinal cells to exclude large molecules. Local irritation and inflammation of the intestine also increase its permeability and decrease its ability to exclude harmful materials. But even the normal intestine is able to permit the passage of large molecules and particles, in many cases particles larger than the cells that line the intestine; this persorption of particles has been demonstrated using particles of plastic, starch grains which are sometimes several times larger than blood cells, and many other materials, including carrageenan. One of the reasons it has been easy to convince the public that persorption doesn't happen is that there is a powerful myth in our culture about the existence of a "semipermeable" "plasma membrane" on cells through which only certain specific substances may pass.

About 30 years ago some biologists made a movie of living cells under the microscope, showing an ameboid cell entering another cell, swimming around, and leaving, without encountering any perceptible resistance; persorption of food particles, moving in one side of a cell and out the other, wouldn't seem so mysterious if more people had seen films of that sort.

Also in the 1960s, Gerhard Volkheimer rediscovered the phenomenon of persorption, which had been demonstrated a century earlier. Starch grains, or other hard particles, can be found in the blood, urine, and other fluids after they have been ingested. The iodine stain for starch, and the characteristic shape of the granules, makes their observation very easy. The absorption of immunologically intact proteins and other particles has been demonstrated many times, but myth is more important than fact; all of my biol-ogy professors, for example, denied that proteins could be absorbed by any part of the digestive system.

The accepted description of the absorption of chylomicrons, tiny particles of fat, helps to understand the way medical professors think about the intestine. These particles, they say, are disassembled by the intestine cells on one side, their molecular parts are taken up by the cells, and similar particles are excreted out the other side of the cells, into the lymphatic vessels. As they visualize one of these cells, it consists of at least four barriers, with each theoretical cell surface membrane consisting of an outer water-compatible phase, in intramembranal lipid region, and an inner water-compatible phase where the membrane rests on the “cell contents.” Endocytosis, for example the ingestion of a bacterial particle by a phagocyte, is described in a similar way, to avoid any breach in the “lipid bilayer membrane.”

This mental armature has made it essentially impossible for the biomedical culture to assimilate the facts of persorption, which would have led 150 years ago to the scientific study of allergy and immunology in relation to the digestive system.

Volkheimer found that mice fed raw starch aged at an abnormally fast rate, and when he dissected the starch-fed mice, he found a multitude of starch-grain-blocked arterioles in every organ, each of which caused the death of the cells that depended on the blood supplied by that arteriole. It isn’t hard to see how this would affect the functions of organs such as the brain and heart, even without considering the immunological and other implications of the presence of foreign particles randomly distributed through the tissue.

In 1979 some of my students in Mexico wanted a project to do in the lab. Since several traditional foods are made with corn that has been boiled in alkali, I thought it would be valuable to see whether this treatment reduced the ability of the starch grains to be persorbed. For breakfast one day, they ate only atole, tamales, and tortillas, all made from the alkali treated corn. None of the students could find any starch grains after centrifuging their blood and urine. That led me to substitute those foods whenever possible for other starches.

I have written previously about some of the environmental factors, including radiation, estrogens, and unsaturated fats, that are known to damage the immune system and the brain, and that we have been increasingly exposed to since 1940.

To better understand the nature of the diseases that are now becoming so common, we can look at them in a series, from the bowel, to the liver, to the immune system, and to the brain and hormones.

The incidence of several inflammatory diseases, for example Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammation of the intestine, has been increasing during the last 50 years in the industrialized countries, and at the same time, the incidence of several liver diseases has also been increasing.

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