Friday, July 12, 2024
Chris Judd

We are what we eat

An old German saying is “ve get too soon olt and too late schmart!” and dad used to say “every day that you don’t learn something, is a lost day!”
Last week, even though I’ve been around for many, many years, I had the privilege to attend a short two-hour session which addressed mental health and learned many new things.
There were three short presentations to introduce us to the subject. When Dr. Chambers explained how the food we eat could affect our mental health, I became quite attentive. I had been told numerous times that over-processed foods that are made in a factory are not as good for you as the food that grandma cooked up in the kitchen a century ago. We had been told over and over that junk food contained too much salt, sugar, preservatives and additives that we cannot even pronounce. When she mentioned that our deteriorated gut biome could not only affect the health of our digestive tract, but also our mental well-being, I became very interested.
Many of the methods used by today’s farmers involve commonly-used seeds that are modified in a factory to survive being sprayed with herbicides sold by that same company. Those same weed killers are also registered as bactericides, and that got my head spinning. I had known for years that some bactericides greatly depleted the number of beneficial gut bacteria that can repair small imperfections in our gut, but I didn’t know that could affect our mental health. I knew that maintaining and improving the health and number of gut bacteria in a cow’s digestive tract could increase the cow’s efficiency in digesting roughage and all feeds that a cow eats, and hence have more efficient milk production. I then began to wonder if the reduced health of a cow’s gut biome could lead to a reduced desire to live when she got sick.
Sometimes animals only get moderately sick and never recover even with the best medical treatment. Once gut bacteria die off, unless you change the diet to one that is agreeable to those gut bacteria, any new gut bacteria will also die. I have watched our old veterinarian steal a cud that is full of healthy bacteria from a healthy cow to push down the throat of a sick cow to try to get her own bacteria active again.
So what did grandma cook or serve? Even though she baked her own bread with regular old wheat flour, we never heard of anyone being celiac. We ate real butter, meat, fish, chicken on Sunday, if we had visitors, lots of garden vegetables, fruits, whole milk, eggs, bacon, fermented foods like sauerkraut, lots of preserves and pickles, unpasteurized honey, maple syrup, homemade pies and homemade ice cream. (The boys worked off any sugar that was in the ice cream by cranking the old ice cream maker). Junk food like potato chips and candy bars were very scarce and were out of the price range for most families anyway. Fast-food restaurants and all the additives that they now use didn’t exist then. All sugar then was either honey, maple syrup, or sugar and molasses made from pure cane sugar. Liquid corn sweetener was not invented yet. Candies were something kept in glass dish in the living room for visitors.
Yes, we need to socialize more with our neighbours, learn more about what signs of mental fatigue to watch for in our own family and everyone we meet, learn how to talk to someone with mental fatigue, remember the emergency number “988” to ask what we should do if we are near someone in distress, or maybe even ourselves, and know what is in that food that we eat.
Remember that old advertisement on TV that was to encourage us to do regular maintenance on our car? “Pay me now or pay me later” when there is a major breakdown. Use good, real food or be prepared for lots of trips to the doctor’s office, and use up the money you saved on cheap food for trips to the pharmacy.
If you ever have an opportunity to attend a session on “mental fatigue” and suicide prevention, please go. The future of our families is at stake.

Chris Judd is a farmer in Clarendon on land that has been in his family for generations.

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