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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How some organically grown plants might actually not be vegan

I see a lot of vegans go a step further and set more dietary rules for themselves like for eg. How they are only going to eat locally grown food and how they are not going to buy from companies that hire cheap labor and exploit them and such. One resolve I commonly see in vegans is that many of them insist on buying only Organic food.
What exactly is organic food?
Organic food is food that is grown using Organic raw materials. Yes, the term organic is used quite differently is the world of chemistry and Biochemistry where It could actually even include petroleum and other products. Any compound that technically has Carbon and Hydrogen could be organic. Also, did you know that petroleum products are also actually derived from highly compressed plant or animal material over centuries and centuries?
Anyways,nowadays, when we say organic food, we actually don't mean it the Biochemistry and organic chemistry way. We mean it in a different way . The term 'Organic food' is essentially used to indicate that while growing the plants, no chemical fertilizers were used. Only non chemical manures were used. Non chemical manure is mostly derived from compost .

Why is NOT USING chemical fertilizers very important?
Chemical fertilizers are chemicals which can alter the pH of the soil (i.e, make it either more acidic or more basic) over the long run and sometimes make the soil worthless for future cultivation over years .

How does this happen?
Well, for one, You must remember that a lot of microorganisms live in the soil. These microbes are the ones that are responsible for breaking down large biological matter added to the soil to smaller easily absorbable nutrients.
Who absorbs these nutrients you ask?
Well, the plants do. Thus the lovely food chain continues.The plants use minerals from the soil and use the sunlight energy and with chlorophyll(the green pigment of plants) synthesize various compounds that enable the plants to grow. We as herbivores(yes , being a vegan myself now, I am sticking to the theory that we are herbivores and not carnivores.Read my previous entry for more details as to why I believe so) eat these plants and plant products.We grow big and live long and finally die. We are buried or cremated . The microbes then act on us and break us down into smaller particles which then are reused by the plants.
So yeah, coming back to the question of the organic food. Technically, any manure that is not a synthetic chemical qualifies as organic. Due to this misling definition, many farms which also have associated animal dairy farms not only use the animals fecal matter as organic manure, they sometimes use the slaughter house meat offal as manure too. It is documented that a lot of fish wastes in fillet manufacturing units are also ground up and used as certified organic manure.

Why is animal slaughter house offal and ground fish not safe as organic manure?
In the past few centuries ever since man started eating more and more animals as part of his regular diet, newer group of parasitic infections have started appearing in humans which previously  were only known to occur in animals.
You see, even hundred years ago, not that many people were eating squid or lobster on a regular basis as they are now.
Sure, some coastal communities used to eat them , but thanks to faster refrigerated transport means available now which is often called as the COLD CHAIN, A lot of supermarket shoppers have started consuming such sea animals at a larger AND faster and alarming rate . So yes, Now we have a whole new group of parasitic and non parasitic infections that have started appearing in human patients that were never commonly found in humans earlier , all thanks to this change in diet pattern where we are eating things we are NOT supposed to eat at all.
Coming to vegans and organic food, Vegans per say by their clever Dietary choice to avoid animals or animal products in their diet are smart enough to circumvent exposure to aforementioned parasitic infections and other such rarely occurring microbial infections as well. UNLESS, unless ,of course the vegetables they eat are somehow coming in contact with fish or meat of some sort like when
a/meat being placed next to or touching vegetables on stall shelves,
b/Same person handling both vegetables and meat at the supermarket without washing hands
c/tainted sewage water touching low branch vegetables in fields being irrigated with kitchen waste water/bathroom waste/sewage water)

How exactly can such cross contamination of vegan food with animal parasites occur?

yes, this is where organic farming figures. If you remember right, there have been far too many episodes of salmonella infection/e coli infections  due to contaminated tomatoes or contaminated pistachios and what not? Salmonella is supposed to be transmitted to humans only from animal products.E.coli by the very definition of its name comes from the intestines of animals (coli?) . The only way plant products can acquire salmonella is when they have been in contact with other contaminated animal products, be it contaminated eggs or contaminated cheese or what I suspect organic manure made from ground up fish or animal offal from meat curing plants or slaughter houses.

Therefore, I think it is time vegans think twice prior to being too keen on organic food. The organic food you purchase might not really be vegan after all, what with all the ground fish and meat offal that come  in close contact with your tomatoes that were hanging too low to have touched the soil. Ya know, think about it !
What is the solution to this?
For one, if you live in the suburbs, you could try composting your own organic wastes and then using that compost to feed your own lil kitchen garden.

Secondly, when buying locally, you can ask your grower if they use ground up animal offal as manure. I am sure your local grower will be happy to provide your this information if you sound really interested. Research your food before you eat that is all I am saying.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hormones and Hormonal disturbances

I am making this blog entry because of one of my blog readers wanted to know about them.
I am going to try to keep it very very basic and simple giving you very basic details and thus letting you know what symptoms might be serious enough for you to go pay a visit to your family general physician .
What are hormones?
The body has different organs that perform different funtions and all these organs are well connected and function like a well oiled machine with independently functional parts that also need to function as a single unit. Hormones are the substances are produced by various body organs in response to a particular body state. Most of these hormones are released upon higher orders by the brain as and when the brain senses the need for this and this hormones to be released.
What are the hormonal imbalances to look out for and How can I recongnize that something is wrong?
I am not going to go into the details of the various hormones and their functions. I am just going to explain it like I would as a physician would to a layperson. I am gonna give you a list of symptoms and what these symptoms might mean in terms of hormonal disturbances.

1/Excessive loss of weight or Excessive thrist or excessive need for urination -
There just might be a problem with Insulin levels in your blood. Again, loss of weight could be due a thousand other causes including cancer or AIDS or tuberculosis etc, but then this blog entry is all about hormones , so let us stick to that.
An excessive loss of weight could also be thyroid related especially if you see yourself getting angry really frequently, stressed out or have hand tremors and such.

2/ Abnormal gain of weight or abnormal increase in appetite --
There could be a thyroid or insulin or andrenal hormones abnormality.
Please remember that gaining weight is bound to occur if you eat more than you require and there might infact no other abnormality except for the fact that you are just eating too much. Again, there are a thousand coumpounded explanations for basic symptoms like these, but yes, if you are eating moderately and yet are putting on weight , just visit your doctor .

3/Abnormal growth of facial hair along with gain of weight and inability to conceive while trying without contraception -
This i specifically mention because the person who wanted me to write this blog entry was looking hormonal disturbances seen in women and what they must look out for . So yes, If you as a women have had irregular or no periods and have noticed increased facial hair, Might as well be a good idea to go visit your OBGyn to check yourself out for Polycystic Ovarian disease. I am not going to go into hormonal details but it would suffice to say that your ovary(one or both of them) are not ovulating on a regular basis which they should as a rule once every month.

4/Irregular periods or excessive bleeding during periods could be a sign of hormonal imbalance-
A normal bleeding will last from 3-5 days every 28 days. Anything more than or longer than that that or anything more than the normal or usual no. of pads or tampons you used to use before is a sign that something in not right. However, some women might have regular periods that occur for normal number of daysbut every 30-34 days or upto 7 days and such, which could still be normal . Now that we are talking about female sex hormones, I am gonna add a brief note about various hormones produced during a mestrual cycle of a woman. Please note that what I am about to describe are hormonal changes that are NORMAL, they are not abnormalities but just normal hormonal changes that occur in a female body.There are a lot of science and medical website that will provide more scientific explanations , but as I have mentioned before, this blog is about making everything very simple and very basic . Here goes
First five days are going to be the time when the inner lining of your uterus sheds its old lining and gets ready for the next cycle where a brand new inner lining starts growing. So essentially the menstrual blood is not pure blood but the sloughed off innner layer of the uterus. This seems to be nature's way of making sure that inner lining of the uterus is healthy enough to hold on to the zygote and allow it to grow and nurture it if at all a fertilization and conception might occur in the coming cycle.
The first 14 days after bleeding
As I already mentioned, the inner cavity of the uterus is very naked since all of the inner lining is shed out. During the first fourteen days, the ovary is maturing follicles so that eventually one ovum is released on the 14 day. During this time, the inner lining of the uterus or womb starts to grow back and starts to increase in thickness. During this time, hormones like FSH is at play which helps the ovum or egg to be mature enough before getting released. Estrogen is another hormone very important these first fourteen days.
Ovulation or 14th day
This involves releasing of the mature egg. Please remember that if a couple has sex without protection during this day or three days before or after, there is a very high degree of pregnancy. Having said that, if a woman has irregular periods as in she doesn't have a typical 28 day cycle, the day on which she ovulates becomes difficult to predict and thus there is no way to calculate what are the right dates to have safe sex.
A hormone called LH is responsible for release of this mature egg.
Proliferative phase Next 14 days prior to bleeding occurs again
Now this phase is essentially designed to support a zygote(the future fetus) if at all the woman manages to conceive during pregnancy. Which is why, the inner lining gets thicker and gets more glands growing in the inner lining just incase a zygote gets attached. During this phase the predominant hormone that is present is Progesterone which will continue to be on high levels all through pregnancy if at all a pregnancy occurs. Both estrogen and pregesterone are high which prevent new ovum from maturing during this period. Please note that it is during this period tha tmany women experience that there is thickened vaginal secretions instead of water secretions from the vagina if any. Many women also experience water logging and some weight gain due to water retention during this time. Some women might experience breast engorgment too(breasts get slightly painful and heavy ).

I just mentioned all the above because , any abnormality in any of the above mentioned hormones can lead to prolonged or excessive bleeding or bleeding mid cyles etc. Visiting an Obgyn would be a great idea.

5/Abnormal protrusion of eyes almost something that looks like the person is staring constantly , loss of weight, stress,tremors
All these are typical symptoms of thyroid excess. On the contrary weight gain and depression cna be seen with throid undersecretion.

So , in short, abnormal weight gain or less, increased or reduced appetite, abnormal facial hair, abnormal weight gain in all wrong places --especially if a feminine weight distribution starts occuring in man could be a problem with adrenal hormones (which there are many),abnormal periods or inability to conceive etc are all common symptoms that might require your attention. This blog entry is just a simple article to help people wanting to find out basics. Though I am a physician, This blog entry is NOT meant as medical advice, since it is absolutely necessary for a physician to examine you in person and look up some blood tests prior to diagnosis.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Microwave or stove top?Also,tips on energy efficient cooking

well, someone reached my blog asking the question of
"whether a microwave saves more energy than a stovetop.?"
They reached my other blog entry where I talk about
'How A Microwave is better than both an Oven and a stovetop'.
I didn't compare the merits of Microwave over the stovetop in that blog entry as much as I did as to how a microwave is better than an oven.
Well, the thing is, a microwave works on a principle of using microwaves to shake the particles in your food and thus heat up your food.
Stove top uses electricity to heat up a coil (if it is a coil stove top) and then that heats the vessel in which you are cooking and thus heat enegry is transferred to your food through the vessel and then it cooks.
At the end of the day both of them do use electricity unless you are using a gas based stove top in which case, combustion of gases produces heat and that then heats a vessel and then the food.
Well, energy cosumption depends on
1/cooking methods,
2/the time you use to cook foods and
3/the vessels you use too.

So comparing just the methods of cooking without telling you about cooking utensils and cooking methods will be like telling you only half the truth.

COOKING UTENSILS--Use good conductors as cooking utensils. Copper is the best vessel to cook in . Copper heats up quickly, heats up evenly and so yeah, good. But then, If you are cooking acidic foods like tomato and what not, There is a possibility for the vessel reacting with the food. Stainless steel is great for cooking also. Iron is a good conductor also, also actually good if the iron keeps getting added to your food, especially to prevent iron deficiency anemia .
Anyways, Using a good conductor vessel on a stove top prevents wastage of heat.
Speaking of which,
A gas based stove is better than a coil stove.

1/Better heat control,
2/lesser wastage of heat,
3/quick heating and quick cooling down preventing wastage again.

Which is the most efficient for heating up foods?

Definitely the microwave, coz it uses a different principle to make the food hot and it doesn't waste heat due to that very reason.
Better than the stovetop coz when heating on a stovetop you have to stir and ofcourse you cannot stir up your apple or carrot cake, can you?
But having said that, If you are using a coil stove or a microwave,
Please take note of the various details on the back of your equipment.
When you know the volts and the watts, you can calculate the the electricity units that this appliance will consume per minute .

Which is where the duration of cooking plays a major role in which appliance is energy efficient!
You see, crock pot recipes use up hours and hours of cooking and well, end up wasting shocking amounts of energy. Here again, You could very well use a pressure cooker to get the same texture you could get out of four hours of slow cooking.A pressure cooker would make lentils in 15 minutes while a crockpot will in four hours. So yeah, choosing the right cooking utensil is also a key factor in determining which appliance will save energy.

Please note that
different micowave ovens have different wattages sometimes.
Why use a large watted microwave when all you are doing is heat a cup of coffee? yeah?

I shall write another blog entry where I teach you how you can calculate the power consumed by your appliance .
For now, I hope this kinda helps whoever wanted to know if a microwave is better than a stovetop.
My answer,
"a low wattage microwave cooks faster than a stovetop and by the virtue of the fact that the shorter time of use of appliance pretty much saves energy".
yes. Please send in more queries if you want to know more

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