I was born with Cystic Fibrosis and lost my younger brother to this life threatening genetic condition. For over quarter of a century I was a mind numbing robotic disciple of Western medicine, bowing to the latest wonder drug to improve aerosol respiration to improving my weight levels to staving off infections. I was a walking pharmacy. I complied with everything the CF team presented me with and duly embraced their treatments of Cystic Fibrosis without thought or question. Just thinking that it will keep me strong and good life force, gave me no reason to rock the proverbial boat. As I got older though, I started to become prone to more and more chest infections, no longer were oral antibiotics hitting and nipping the infection in the bud. From oral medications, I was now being treated more and more through the use of Intravenous antibiotics. The use of intravenous medication started becoming a bi-annual affair.
The last hospitalised episode along the conventional route for me was over eight and a half years ago. After failure to treat a recurrent chest infection with oral meds, the doctors took concern and looked at home IV treatment. After two unsuccessful weeks on home IV’s, there was still no improvement in my situation. After returning for a check up at the end of the IV treatment, I was quickly admitted into the environs of St. Vincents’ (the top Cystic Fibrosis unit in Ireland for adult CF patient’s) for a new course of IV treatment and what turned out to be an elongated, endurance-testing period in hospital. Over the three-week time period it was like a scatter shot approach to medicine. A faint hope, a glimmer of light that one of the prescribed tablets would hit the infection and bring my body back to health. In the end, I felt dejected and down at the lack of compassion and care shown. I reached my nadir with conventional medicines when the head Consultant referred to me as “twiggy” while on one of his rounds in front of his entire CF team. The sheer ignorance and blase stingy remark resonated throughout leaving me empty and devoid of hope that this man or his team were ever going to do anything for my health. No longer would I put this team of negative brow beaters’ at the center of my health.
I knew a change of cataclysmic proportions was needed. To Brazil and the Miracle Man. The change and direction needed was there. My challenge and change was to my health and my approach to it. I was now captain of my ship. The rudderless days were relegated to the dustbin of the past.
Since my first visitation to the healing environs of Brazil, many wonderful opportunities have and continue to bless me. On countless occasions courses, books and people would be brought into my life leading me to piece together a complementary jig saw puzzle to aid my healing. The changes have been immense bringing a spiritual aspect to understanding illness and see it not as a foe but a friend here to teach me about myself and bring me a closer union with my soul’s journey.
One of the reasons for penning ‘A Path Less Conventional’ and ‘Prisoner of Words’ was an important lesson I have learned. Nobody other than me will cure me. The journey may be a little longer and less traveled but the “straight roads are the roads of progress; the crooked roads are the roads of genius”. I have had my ups and downs on this journey but the decision has been mine and I hope others from reading this will learn to stop abdicating control of your health to others’ and grasp the reins of life and steering their way onto the healing highway.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I have a Bachelor of Business degree from the University College Dublin; a Masters’ of Business Studies in Marketing Management from Smurfit Business School, Blackrock, Co. Dublin. I am a qualified practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming; an Electromagnetic Stimulation Therapist and I have completed Touch For Health training last year. And on the path of constant learning to better my health and quality of life.
Thank you, Michael E Morrison.
Michael’s books are available from amazon and his personal website is:
Ever find yourself in the produce section at the supermarket staring down two colorful apples wondering which one is worthy of making its way into your grocery cart? Both apples look the same but one has that familiar USDA Organic sticker plastered on it. One things for sure they definitely aren’t priced the same.
With an average cost of 10%-40% higher are organic foods worth it? Do they have more nutritional value? And does this make a difference to your overall health? I invite you to read further as I help you get to the bottom of all this organic talk so that you can make the decision that feels the best for you.
What Deems a Food To Be Organic?
The U.S. government establishes strict standards to be met for farmers before they can use the USDA Organic seal on their food products. A product can use the USDA Organic seal if it contains at least 95% organically produced ingredients.
The following chart shows the differences between organic vs. conventionally farmed food:
organic vs. conventional
Does Organic Food Contain More Nutritional Value?
This question has created a lot of controversy over the past few decades as organic food has become increasingly more popular. More and more studies have been conducted in recent years factoring in things like farming methods, climate variability, food formulations, and harvest rates among other things to assess the nutritional content of our food in terms of its vitamin, mineral, phytochemical, antioxidant, and toxin load. Here’s a few of the findings below.
● A study looking at organic and conventionally grown pears and peaches found that the organic fruits had an improved antioxidant defense system (higher levels of polyphenols, PPO, vitamin C, & vitamin E) in comparison with their conventionally grown counterparts . Another study found that organically grown strawberries have more antioxidant activity and anti-cancer effects than conventionally grown strawberries . Scientists suggest that this data shows that organically grown food is in effect “beefing up” its own defense mechanisms to protect itself in the absence of pesticides.
● A review in 2006 showed that organic foods had significantly higher amounts of antioxidants (vitamin C, polyphenols, & flavanoids) and minerals in addition to lower levels of pesticide residues, nitrates, and some heavy metal contaminations than conventionally grown crops. They concluded that because of this organic crops had a higher nutritional value and a lower risk of causing disease due to contamination .
● A number of studies have shown that organically grown food contains more dry matter (less water) than conventionally grown fruits and vegetables [5,6]. An increase in dry matter means that there are more nutrients per unit weight of food.
● One study looked at the nutrient content of eggplants cultivated over two successive years by both conventional and organic methods. The study found that the organic crop was higher in potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper, and phytochemicals called phenolics .
● Whole wheat production was studied over a 3 year period comparing organic and conventional crops. The study found that there was no difference in concentrations of the phytochemicals (carotenoids & phenolic acids) between the two groups. Instead, improved climate factors produced a 55% increase in phytochemical composition in year to year production .
The best overall review to date of the nutritional value of organic vs. conventionally grown crops was published by The Organic Center in March of 2008. In this review they assessed the results of 97 peer-reviewed studies published over a 27 year period comparing the nutrient levels in organic and conventionally grown foods . To determine the nutrient quality of the food they focused on 11 different nutrients using matched pairs which is defined as “crops grown on nearby farms, on the same type of soil, with the same irrigation systems and harvest timing, and grown from the same plant variety”.
What they found was that organically grown crops had a 25% overall higher nutrient content than conventional crops. A little over 60% of the organic crops had higher levels of a disease fighting flavonol named Quercetin. Vitamin C was found in higher concentrations in approximately 50% of the organic crops compared to conventional crops. And to top it off they also found that 80% of the organic crop samples had a higher total antioxidant capacity than conventional crops!
The organic world is not without its critics though. An article titled “Nutritional quality of organic foods: A systemic review” published in 2009 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition claims that there was no evidence suggesting organically grown foods were nutritionally superior to conventionally grown foods. Come to find out this article originated as a report commissioned by the Foods Standards Agency (FSA) out of the UK. According to Paula Crossfield (co-founder and managing editor of civileats.com) the report was heavily biased and heavily tied to special interests of agribusiness, the dairy industry, Sarah Lee Corporation, and one of UK’s biggest grocery chains. You can read Paula’s full review here about the misleadings in this article.
Does Organic Food Significantly Improve Your Overall Health?
It is clear from the scientific literature to date that organic food is certainly more nutritious and less toxic than conventional food but does this equate to better overall health and a lower risk of chronic diseases? You might be surprised by the answer to this as you’ll soon find out.
Much of the published data on pesticide exposure and disease does show an increased risk in some cases. The biggest fear of many people is cancer. The National Cancer Institute states that “studies of people with high exposure to pesticides, such as farmers, pesticide applicators, manufacturers, and crop dusters, have found high rates of blood and lymphatic system cancers; cancers of the lip, stomach, lung, brain, and prostate; as well as melanoma and other skin cancers”. Another study performed a meta-analysis on 40 case-controlled studies and found that exposure to pesticides for greater than 10-20 years was associated with a higher risk of Parkinson’s disease but several other risk factors such as rural living, well-water consumption, and farming played a part as well . Another study showed an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease in occupational workers exposed to pesticides .
So while there is a link to pesticide exposure and disease it appears that the highest risk is in those who have the greatest exposure (farmers, workers, etc.) and only after being exposed to high amounts over long periods of time. The amount of pesticide residue left on the food you buy is much lower than what these studies elude to.
An even more important aspect of this topic in regards to pesticide exposure and your overall health is what you can do to prevent the risk of disease from occurring. A large body of evidence points to the fact that consuming a nutrient dense, plant-based diet and avoiding processed and animal-based foods reduces your risk not only of cancer due to pesticide exposure but also many other chronic diseases (heart disease, diabetes, dementia, etc.).
The CDC actually reported in 2009 that the primary source of exposure to organochlorine pesticides was from fatty foods such as dairy products and fish . So just by avoiding fatty animal-based foods you are already decreasing your exposure to pesticides.
The most influential evidence to date concerning diets relation to cancer has been conducted by Dr. T Colin Campbell who has spent over 40 years in nutritional research. Dr. Campbell conducted several studies on a known potent carcinogen called aflatoxin. In animal studies he was able to show that the cancer causing effects of aflatoxin could be “turned on” and “turned off” simply by how much protein was consumed. When more than 10% of the total calories were consumed as casein (animal based protein found in dairy) then cancer growth was ignited and tumors began to form . He then conducted a similar experiment testing both animal protein (casein) and plant proteins (wheat and soy). This time he fed 3 different groups of lab animals a 20% protein diet (far exceeding the 10% needed to cause cancer growth) that consisted of either casein, wheat, or soy protein. Remarkably, the 20% wheat and soy groups had no signs of cancer growth while the 20% casein group all developed cancer .
Dr. Campbell’s work is further validated by Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s review of the scientific data on the benefits of eating a plant-based diet to reduce your risk of cancer as seen in the video below.
Organic foods have clearly been shown in a large body of scientific studies to have a higher nutritional value than their conventionally grown counterparts. However, even though eating non-organic foods increases your exposure to pesticides it doesn’t mean that you’re on the fast track to develop cancer and other debilitating diseases. What is more important is that you eat a diet that contains large amounts of nutrient dense, health promoting foods such as fruits & vegetables as well as legumes, whole grains, & nuts/seeds. By doing this you are arming yourself with an excellent defense mechanism against so many of the chronic diseases that we’re experiencing today in our society. You’re best bet is to eat a diet that consists 100% of these foods with the highest emphasis on fruits and vegetables. You can learn more about how to do this by visiting my website.
I’d also like to mention an excellent resource from the Environmental Working Group which publishes a list of foods from best to worst in relation to their pesticide exposure. I think you’ll find their list very helpful if you’re wondering which foods have higher amounts of pesticides compared to others.
In the end, I would say that if you can buy organically grown food products and they are readily available at a price that you can afford then you should absolutely do it. But more importantly, you should eat a nutrient dense, plant-based diet and stay away from processed and animal-based foods regardless of their organic or inorganic nature if you want to do what’s best for your overall health.
Now I’d love to hear from you…
Do you buy organic?
If so, what are the reasons for doing so?
Do you have any other resourceful information for your fellow readers on this topic?
1 Winter, C. K. and Davis, S. F. (2006), Organic Foods. Journal of Food Science, 71: R117-R124. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2006.00196.x
2 Carbonaro M, Mattera M, Nicoli S, et al. Modulation of antioxidant compounds in organic vs conventional fruit (peach, Prunus persica L., and pear, Pyrus communis L.). J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Sep 11;50(19):5458-62.
3 Olsson ME et al. Antioxidant levels and inhibition of cancer cell proliferation in vitro by extracts from organically and conventionally cultivated strawberries. J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Feb 22;54(4):1248-55.
4 Györéné KG, Varga A, Lugasi A. A comparison of chemical composition and nutritional value of organically and conventionally grown plant derived foods. Orv Hetil. 2006 Oct 29;147(43):2081-90.
5 K Woese, D Lange, C Boess, KW Bogl, A comparison of organically and conventionally grown foods: results of a
review of the relevant literature, Journal of Science, Food and Agriculture, 74, 281-293, 1997.
6 V Basker, Comparison of taste quality between organically and conventionally grown fruit and vegetables, American
Journal of Alternative Agriculture, 7, 129-135, 1992.
7 Raigón MD, Rodríguez-Burruezo A, Prohens J. Effects of organic and conventional cultivation methods on composition of eggplant fruits. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Jun 9;58(11):6833-40.
8 Stracke BA, Eitel J, Watzl B, Mäder P, Rüfer CE. Influence of the production method on phytochemical concentrations in whole wheat (Triticum aestivum L.): a comparative study. J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Nov 11;57(21):10116-21.
9 Benbrook C, Zhao X, Yáñez J, Davies N, Andrews P. State of Science Review: Nutritional Superiority of Organic Foods. 2008 March. Available: http://www.organic-center.org/reportfiles/5367_Nutrient_Content_SSR_FINAL_V2.pdf. Accessed 7 Jan 2011.
10 Brown TP et al. Pesticides and Parkinson’s Disease-Is There a Link? Environ Health Perspect 114:156-164 (2006).
11 United States Center for Disease Control Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals: Organochlorine Pesticides.
12 Dunaif GE, Campbell TC. Dietary protein level and aflatoxin B1-induced preneoplastic hepatic lesions in the rat. J Nutr. 117 (1987): 1298-1302.
13 Schulsinger DA, Root MM, Campbell TC. Effect of dietary protein quality on development of aflatoxin B1-induced hepatic preneoplastic lesions. J Natl Cancer Inst 81 (1989): 1241-1245.
14 Hayden KM, Norton MC, Darcey D. Occupational exposure to pesticides increases the risk of incident AD. Neurology.2010 May 11;74(19):1524-30.
This year has being a whirlwind of new & old events for the Tracie Lawlor Trust for Cystic Fibrosis. A few new events went a head this year, Olive McGrath’s “Tracie’s walk” in which 70 people walked from Castlebridge to Wexford town, along it’s beautiful Quays & half foot-paths on the way in. Looked like it would be an awful day but the clouds cleared & blue skies prevailed leading to a relaxing, enjoyable stroll into Wexford. Then came a 24 hour spinning bike challenge, I mean how hard is it to pedal really? Oh my, did many of us eat our words, as we sat on what was possibly the worst shaped, least comfortable saddle I’ve come across, if I hadn’t of popped all them bubbles in the bubble wrap I would have had it wrapped around it! Well at least we all had the same pain, some more than others as Mike & Paddy decided to race each other in the first two hours of the challenge! Mike, a CF parent organized what was a brilliant day & night overall but I don’t think we’ll be so enthusiastic the next time with those saddles!
The kick off to the year was our annual cabaret & dance again a great turn out from the people of Wexford & Tracie’s home village of Castlebridge. Annual events from last year such as Ann’s Angel’s Holistic day, the Bridges Charity Challenge & Mick & John’s soccer tournament, were certainly as exciting & enjoyable as previous years.
A head-shave in Roscea in Co. Tipperary which obviously gave them good look for the All-Ireland win, as they learned a lot from the model county! MUFC table quiz was an enjoyable night with Brendan & co. putting on a good show, pity United can’t do the same at the minute. And finally a mention must go to two super athletes who ran the Dublin City Marathon for Miss Snead & Mr Matt :). Thank you!
All money raised has lead to purchase of more Chi, FIR machines & more recently finger pulse oximeter’s that can give accurate heart & oxygen saturation (within the blood) to a CF at home within seconds. Extremely useful during exercise to make sure there is not a dangerous drop in stats & if so they may need to see their doctor, all to catch an infection earlier! Also the money is used for the hours looking into research journal papers online & forming an opinion on the best form of diet, exercise, lifestyle, supplements etc. for CF & all the info will be made available free on our websites blog. Finally a proposal for a study has been submitted to European Federation of Complementary & Alternative Medicine (EFCAM) into the viability of a 3-6 month study of the effects of Buteyko Breathing on Cystic Fibrosis patients. Thus far we have spent in excess of €30,000 on the above & more!
Merry Christmas everyone, have a lovely holiday & a happy new year!!
This year’s charity challenge took place on the 25th of April. Nine teams of four set out on this gruelling run, row & cycle. Spirits were high before the teams set off, a few kind words of encouragement & indeed a few pranks as one girls team decided to “jock” the opposing boys team member before they set off! The poor lad took off & kept pulling up his shorts almost to chest hight, just to be sure they weren’t going anywhere this time.
The run around Wexford town hill’s seemed to go down well as most past the first hurdle with rosey red cheeks, before hopping into the boat & setting off on the row under Wexford bridge & back around to yanky slip. As the boats came in it was a mixture of go, go, go, & I don’t want to get too wet. As one team member from Limerick hopped out of the boat & then got dunked but still came in with a big smile, as everyone tried to hold their laughter in!
The Bridges brothers & one other stormed through the run & row. Not showing any signs of their age, as it would probably accumalte to more than your weekly dole! They burst off on their bikes & even though one bridges had their thigh muscle give in they still came in second place. The winners from Enniscorthy Edermines rowing club powered their way throughout the challenge keeping a consistant pace & each taking the lead at different points in the run, row or cycle.
The spectacle on the day was truely something for the on-looker or indeed the amateur photographer, especially the row with all the boats taking different lines, the power & flow needed for these small boats to speed across the Slaney.
All this was of course for a good cause in the end, the jokes, the banter, the sweat & thankfully no tears! Was in aid of the Tracie Lawlor Trust for Cystic Fibrosis. All monies raised will go towards research & to help Cf patients in Wexford & the SouthEast. A special thanks to Richie, Victor & Paul Bridges for their work again this year. Thanks to Ferrycaraigh rowing club & to all those who took part hopefully see you again next year for round 3!
We organized a fundraiser in the Stand Pub Roscrea Co. Tipperary on the 16th of April 2010. It consisted of five people getting their head shaved, 3 lads & 2 girls took part. A man who hadn’t shaved his beard in 22 years also decided to give up his hair & go bare for a great cause! On the night there was spot prizes & a signed Tipp. jersey was auctioned. There was fun, music & lots of laugh’s in what ended up as a chilly night for those with bare heads or chins!
In the end it was a fantastic night in our local pub, with all our family & friends that I would like to thank very much for their help & thanks to those who attended & took part. Much needed money was raised for Cystic Fibrosis patients in the South East in what was a very enjoyable night! Pictures to come soon!! 🙂
Darragh and six of his friends set off on their bikes from their apartments in Shenzhen at 5:30am for the first train to Hong Kong at 6:30. They made their way through the crowds, drawing much attention sporting spandex padded bicycle shorts, and as they arrived on HK soil we realized we were one man down. 45 minutes later their fellow cyclist emerged from the interrogation room bemused by accusations of pro-Tibetan activism and questions about his “real reasons” for border crossing that Saturday….somehow the get-up and bicycle didn’t give it away. Needless to say they missed the first train and arrive in HK just before 8am where their chaperone for the day, Dan was waiting for them on his motorbike.
Off they went on a route straight from Google earth, untested unknown they had no idea it was not flat! Temperatures started off kind as they cycled through the suburbs to their hilly destination. After 3 hours they were low in 30 degrees heat and rising with 90% humidity…it was getting difficult. They pushed on deep into the hills of the new territory and encountered a climb that defeated all but 3 out of 7 of them. The hills were so steep they travelled at a speed of 65km per hour coming down!
Darragh assures us that the photo’s don’t do justice to the scenery, it was spectacular in places and worth the effort to get there. They cycled 7 hours and 120Km in total, it was a great day and they all felt great accomplishment uponcompletion.
Later that evening they dragged themselves back to SZ and had a BBQ to raise some more cash, about 40 people came to support and over 600 euro was raised there.
It was difficult to calculate exactly how much they raised as they all encouraged people to donate throught the website but they estimate the total to be between three and four thousand euro. Shenzhen Celts donated $500, and the Shenzhen Dragons donated €100.
All in all it was a great day for a great cause and Darragh is extremely happy that he could chip in to the great work that is going on at home. We are all extremely proud of and grateful to Darragh for the time and effort that was put into this event.
Pictures from the cycle in China have been added to our photo page if you would like to check them out
Cathal Beale, a close friend of Tracie Lawlor who tragically passed away in November 2007, was crushed when he could not partake in the cycle from Dublin to Wexford on April 5th this year but his disappointment soon turned to inspiration to organise a cycle in Kentucky where he is currently on a scholarship with Darley Flying Start. He convinced five of his new found friends to put together an event that would mirror the charity cycle in Ireland.
On Sunday 27th April 2008, six young men began their six and a half hour journey from Churchill Downs to Keeneland to raise money and awareness for Cystic Fibrosis. They set off with months of training behind them to cycle the 125km route. The road was long and steep but the wind and rain kept their distance as the boys pedalled their way through the small towns and villages of Kentucky. They all finished the journey without too much struggle and in keeping with the spirit of the Irish cycle, they received medals on their return for their fantastic achievement which were sent over by Tracie’s parents.
They were welcomed to their final stop to a well deserved barbeque feast and twenty to thirty people who applauded each one as they passed the finish line. The sponsorship raised together with the money raised from the charity tablequiz they organised on Wednesday 23rd April came to a total of over $1,500 which will be sent over to Wexford to be added to the €55,000 which was raised from the Irish cycle.
Tracie’s parents Ian and Philomena Lawlor are eternally grateful for all the work that has been put into these events. A trust has now been set up called the Tracie Lawlor Trust for which many more events will take place to raise money in the future. If you would like to donate to this charity please click on the donate page.