Eat Organic – Stress Less?
So, if you’re new to healthful eating, or even if you’ve been nourishing your body with nutrient-dense foods for a while, you may wonder just how important the title “Organic” really is, or if it’s something you need to be concerned with. Sadly, many people see the organic stamp an an excuse for pretentiousness and even write it off as simply an excuse to pay more for the same thing. However, for those experiencing stress (ahem, all of us), and especially those feeling burned out, eating organic foods can make all the difference in your health.
The human body is fascinating. Every second of every day, your innate intelligence is working hard to keep you alive and well. From your expanding lungs and pumping blood to your beating heart and hydration system, you’ve got thousands of processes taking place that you most likely never think about. One of the organs we’ll talk about today, which carries out over 300 bodily functions every day, is the liver. Now, you might be wondering what the liver has to do with you feeling stressed about your never-ending, always growing to-do list, but stay with me here.
The Role of Your Liver in Feeling Stressed
The liver is a powerhouse organ that plays a starring role in your blood sugar management. If you’ve been here a while, you’ll know just how important blood sugar balance is to maintaining low stress levels, but if you’re new, we’ll do a little recap. Low blood sugar is registered as an emergency by your body and brain. After all, the sugar circulating around in our blood is what fuels all these innate bodily processes, so without it, things start to slowly run out of fuel and eventually shut down. Yes, low blood sugar eventually causes death – this is what we call starvation. At the sake of sounding grim, keeping blood sugar levels steady and even is incredibly vital to your body’s sense of safety. So, when those levels dip, a whole host of emergency protocols get triggered in order to get blood sugar back up into the safe zone. One of the ways your body does this is through the liver.
The liver has the ability to mobilize stored sugar and send it out into your bloodstream to keep levels steady between meals or when you don’t have access to food for several hours. Pretty cool right? It’s like your own little food storage/emergency preparedness center. Unfortunately, this process only happens when the liver clean and clear and ready for action… Can you see where we might be headed here?
A congested, stagnant liver cannot mobilize glucose effectively and must call upon it’s pal Cortisol (your stress hormone) to do its job. Sort of like calling your coworker to fill in for you when you’re having a sick day. When cortisol spikes to raise blood sugar, so do all your other stress hormones like adrenaline, making you feel jittery, anxious, stressed, irritable and even angry in some cases. If this cycle goes on multiple times throughout the day, you can see how your life might appear to feel pretty stressful!
So, now that you understand that cycle, the question remains, “Well, what causes a congested liver?” I’m glad you asked.
Organic vs. Conventional Foods
Our liver’s other highly important job is to filter out the chemicals and toxins we come into contact with everyday. Some of those we find in our environment and some are made by the body, but both must be broken down by the liver in order to be carried out of our body through our waste. However, the liver, like any hard-working organ, has a breaking point. It can only do so much, and in our modern environment, we are pushing it to the limit.
Everyday, fruits, vegetables and grains around the world is sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, growth stimulants and other hormone-disrupting toxins. The animals we source for meat and eggs are given antibiotics and growth-hormones, fed grains they can’t digest and are forced to live in conditions you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy. Our fish and seafood are exposed to heavy metals and petrolatum every single day – and then, we eat these foods. When we ingest all these harmful, synthetic and toxic chemicals, guess who has to clean it all up? Yep, your liver.
In small doses, the human body is capable of dealing with outside stressors like these. But, just like a tuna fish accumulating mercury, your liver and other tissues will accumulate toxic build up when exposed to low-level amounts day in and day out through your food. This congests the liver as it tries it’s best to filter out and break down all these outside stressors leaving it unable to perform its other functions well, again, calling upon cortisol to lend a hand.
Not only does organic food contain up to 80% less of these harmful toxins, but it also hasn’t had its healthy bacterial balance upset by all the chemicals and antibacterial agents. So, while organic foods are helping to de-load the liver and clear up congestion, they are also adding healthful bacteria to our body that will help balance our health in many, many ways.
But, Organic Food Is So Expensive...
So, if you’ve hung around this long, chances are stress plays a pretty big role in your life and you’d like some help. But, I can hear you now – “I get it, organic food is important, but it’s just too expensive to eat that way all the time.”
Well, while I understand your fears, I’m here to talk you out of them. Eating organic can be incredibly expensive yes. But it can also be incredibly cheap, in fact, even cheaper when you consider how much you’ll be saving per year on things like doctors visits and medications you can throw out. Here are 10, yes 10, ways you can work the system to make eating organic not only a regular part of your life, but an affordable, fun part as well.
1. Shop at Farmer’s Markets in the spring and summer months. Even the smallest of towns are starting to hold good quality markets and the produce and meats there are usually half the price of going to a grocery store like Whole Foods. Secret Tip: Go early for the best pick on fresh produce and call the farmers ahead for the cuts of meat you know you’ll be using in the month ahead.
2. Eat in season. Foods that are in season will always be cheaper than trying to buy them when they aren’t. Not only is growing them cheaper, but so is shipping for the growers, so they can charge you less. If you’re not sure what’s in season when, Google it. Take some initiative, there are resources everywhere!
3. Go in on a meat-share. Get some family members or friends together and buy an entire animal to split. You can easily find cow and pig shares from tons of local farmers just by doing a quick Google search. Just make sure you find animals that have been pasture-raised and humanely-slaughtered for the best health benefit to you.
4. Find a local farmer or butcher who will sell individual cuts of meat and eggs. Better yet, get a separate freezer and fill it up with your favorite cuts. You can usually buy in bulk like this from local farmers for half the price of store bought meats and eggs.
5. Use coupons from organic, real-food grocery stores. This one doesn’t need a whole lot of explaining, but can save you tons of money on pricier organic items.
6. Make your own organic foods at home. For example: Buying a good quality sauerkraut at the store can cost upwards of $8.00 per bag. Making your own kraut out of organic cabbage will cost you around $2-3 dollars after you’ve bought your storage jars. If you have a little extra time, making expensive items can save you hundreds of dollars over the long term.
7. Implement the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen. Not all produce items are equally sprayed or at risk for toxic build up. The EWG (environmental working group) has created a document which lists out the Clean 15, produce which you can safely buy conventional, and the Dirty 12, produce which should always be bought organic. Using this guideline, you can save a little extra splitting between organic and conventional.
8. Join an online organic store like Thrive Market. Thrive has made their entire platform about cutting the cost of organic food and making it more accessible to the masses by cutting out the store front. You can easily order items you know you eat regularly from Thrive and save TONS of money avoiding high priced items in the store.
9. Buy in bulk at stores like Costco or Trader Joe’s. As people become more and more aware of the benefits of organic food, larger chain stores are beginning to keep up with demand. You can pretty easily find organic, clean foods in places like Costco for cheap. Stock up on the foods you eat most there and then save smaller stores for special items or foods you might waste in larger quantities.
10. Start your own garden! The best way to know exactly what’s on or in your food is to grow and harvest it yourself! If you live in a nice climate and love spending time outside, a garden might just be your new favorite hobby. There’s nothing quite like the reward of self-sustainability.
Overall, eating organic, real foods is nourishing to our bodies for many reasons. Our human body is a unique and complex organism with thousands of different pathways and systems, all intertwined with each other. Giving ourselves the most nutrient-dense, fresh and natural foods we can find will not only lessen the burden on our organs, but also provide us with all the building blocks we need to regenerate and repair day after day as we live our lives.
*If you’re not sure where to start or have questions about a certain health issues you’ve been experiencing, feel free to schedule a free consultation with me by calling or texting 435-680-3850. I take on a limited number of clients per month for my 1:1 coaching program, but would love to speak with you about whether or not your case would be a good fit.