kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

The term, environmental illness, is generally used to describe a number of mild to severe health responses to the environment, whether it be to food, plants, animals, smoke, smog, chemicals or electromagnetic fields.

Environmental diseases (ENVDs) are non-communicable diseases that result when people are chronically exposed to toxic environmental chemicals. Other contributory causes of ENVDs include radiation, pathogens, allergens and psychological stress.

ENVDs are generally late-onset, appearing only after numerous toxic exposures. In recent years, however, the age of onset has been trending lower. Often genetic as well as environmental factors contribute to the onset of these diseases. It has been shown that incidences of ENVDs are intensified by exposures to toxic environmental chemicals and more than one exogenous agent may trigger any given disease. The World Health Organization estimates that as much as 24% of global disease is caused by environmental exposures. It has also been shown that 40% of cancers world wide can be prevented by lifestyle choices.

Most people are familiar with allergies to our surroundings that can range from mild seasonal allergies to trees and grasses to severe anaphylaxis to peanuts. Asthma is a closing of the airways that can be triggered by many different substances. Others may experience or know someone who has negative, physical reactions to such things as cigarette smoke, diesel fumes, solvents, paints, bleach, strong perfumes or standing in the laundry isle too long.

Even so, many seemed perplexed by the millions who also report various adverse health effects when being exposed to pesticides, new furniture, carpet or clothing, as well as lower levels of chemicals in cleaning products, perfumes, fragrances and everyday products. In fact, we often do not realize how pervasive synthetic fragrances can be when they are not only used for perfumes, candles and air fresheners, but also personal care products such as laundry detergents, fabric softeners, dryer sheets, shampoo, soap, lotion, hair spray, shaving cream, deodorant and many more.

Millions have reported living with various environmental illnesses, often called Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), Toxic Injury, Chemical Injury and/or Toxic Encephalopathy.

People who are affected report multifaceted complaints ranging from physical to emotional. Some people are triggered by many different chemicals and, unfortunately, there is often a cumulative effect. These people are often more susceptible to endotoxins like viral, bacterial or fungal toxins.

These chemical sensitivities restrict life making people unable to walk into stores like Sears and Home Depot. They cannot tolerate the off-gassing of new carpet, paint, hand cream, or upholstery. People experiencing these symptoms can be made to feel like outcasts. But, it is important to understand these are REAL and often dangerous reactions.

The risks are for everyone, not just people who immediately react. Pay attention to the dose, duration and frequency that you are exposed to harmful chemicals:

  • Pesticides and household cleaners
  • Body and hair products
  • Air pollution and cigarette smoke
  • Artificial clothing material
  • Electromagnetic radiation (cell phones, cell towers, electronics – take a break occasionally)
  • Furniture and carpet
  • Paint
  • Cosmetics and synthetic perfumes
  • Inks and dyes
  • Mold
  • Office supplies
  • Dental fillings
  • Heating and AC units
  • Cookware and utensils – ditch your non-stick for glass and ceramic
  • Medications and laxitives
  • Drinking water
  • Auto exhaust and gasoline fumes
  • Hydrogenated oils
  • Food additives and preservative

Reactions can be mild including occasional appetite loss or constipation to more significant immune system repercussions like flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes, complete exhaustion, poor memory or irritability.

To address Environmental Illnesses reduce your total load:

  • Keep NO chemical compounds that produce vapors. Included here are synthetically scented candles, potpourri, vinyl blinds, air fresheners, and cleaning solutions.
  • Store what you must have in the garage in airtight containers.
  • Avoid ALL plastic!
  • Avoid Foam rubber
  • Car exposures: Close the intake valves and use the HEPA filters in your cars’ system. Avoid vinyl or plastic upholstery and floor mats

NASA says certain plants detoxify the air:

  • Spider plants
  • Heart-leaf philodendron
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Gerber daisy

Invest in 3-phase air filters for your house. These get rid of particulate with charcoal and HEPA filters. Use water filters with an activated carbon and reverse osmosis system. You can also find a relatively inexpensive shower filter to reduce the amount of chlorine or you can get an under the sink or a full house water purifier.

Create a safe bedroom by investing in 100% organic sheets, like cotton or bamboo. If you cannot fund a new environmentally sound mattress, top it with cotton or wool pads, preferably two. Replace carpeting with tile, stone, or wood flooring. Use cotton or wool throw rugs. Avoid particle board because it will off-gas glues for a long time. Don’t use synthetically fragranced laundry detergent or dryer sheets on your bed clothes (or anywhere!).

Metal toxicity will happen if you have been exposed any amount of metals that have accumulated in the body. They are stored in fat cells, the central nervous system, glands and bones. No amount of metal is acceptable and peoples’ tolerable limit differs. The most common metal toxicities are:

  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium
  • Nickle
  • Aluminum

Detox from metals by eating high quality protein foods. Optimal protein aids the liver’s detox pathways. High sulphur foods like lentils, seeds, nuts, fruits, sea vegetables and cruciferous vegetables alkalinize and support detoxification and chelation. Chelation is the process of binding to certain molecules (such as metals or minerals) and then removing those molecules from the body.

Good fats are also vital to detoxification. Where there is metal toxicity, there is an imbalance in fatty acids. Deficiencies in 3, 6, or 9 omega fats acids render the nervous system more vulnerable to metals. Extra virgin olive oil is good because it is loaded with polyphenols which are antioxidants, block the formation of carcinogens and modulate hormone receptors. Chia seeds, walnuts and flaxseeds have all three omegas.

Fresh, not dried, cilantro reduces the uptake of heavy metals if ingested during exposure. Use it often as a seasoning. The sulphur in garlic is great for detoxification. Use it raw or in garlic oil capsules.

If you are feeling unwell and suspect environmental toxins are to blame, up your flavonoid intake. Flavonoids help regulate cellular activity and fight off free radicals that cause oxidative stress on your body. They help your body function more efficiently while protecting it against everyday toxins and stressors. Flavonoids are also powerful antioxidant agents. Add berries, apples, onions, grapes, red wine, chocolate, teas, cruciferous vegetables, herbs and spices.


Pecans grow on a type of hickory tree. The tree is cultivated for its seeds in the southern United States, primarily in Georgia, New Mexico, and Texas, and in Mexico, which produces nearly half of the world’s total pecan harvest. Pecans are technically a fruit rather than a nut and are a good source of fiber, copper, thiamine, and zinc.

One ounce (28 grams) of pecans contains the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 196
  • Protein: 2.5 grams
  • Fat: 20.5 grams
  • Carbs: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 2.7 grams
  • Copper: 38% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1): 16% of the DV
  • Zinc: 12% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 8% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 6% of the DV
  • Iron: 4% of the DV

Copper is an important mineral involved in nerve cell function, immune health, and the production of red blood cells. Thiamine, or vitamin B1, is essential for converting carbohydrates into energy to help fuel your body. Thiamine and copper found in pecans work together to stop free radical damage in the brain and can delay the rapid onset of Parkinson’s disease.

Zinc is another key mineral found in pecans, and it is necessary for immune function, as well as cell growth, brain function, and wound healing. Manganese also stabilizes the brain’s synaptic process. Mood swings, learning disabilities, and epilepsy are affected by low manganese levels, making pecans good brain food.

Pecans are about 60 percent monounsaturated fatty acids, a type of fat that may benefit heart health. Of the remaining 40 percent, pecans contain 30 percent polyunsaturated fats, with about 10 percent or less of saturated fats. Eating foods with monounsaturated fat instead of foods high in saturated fats can help lower levels of LDL cholesterol. Keeping your LDL cholesterol low cuts down your risk of having a stroke or heart attack.

Monounsaturated fatty acids are also linked to decreased mental decline and reduced inflammation. A large study in over 15,000 women lasting over 40 years linked a higher consumption of nuts with improved long-term cognition. Similarly, a study in 4,822 older adults showed that those who ate at least 1/3 ounce of nuts per day were 40% less likely to have poor cognition.

Diets high in monounsaturated fats can significantly reduce blood pressure. They’re also proven to decrease coronary heart disease, coronary artery disease, and other cardiac-related deaths, especially those linked to cardiovascular disease.

One study in 204 people with coronary artery disease, which is characterized by the narrowing of arteries, found that eating 1 ounce (30 grams) of pecans daily for 12 weeks improved the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol in the blood. An older study in 19 people with normal cholesterol levels found that those eating 2.5 ounces (68 grams) of pecans each day had significantly lower levels of LDL cholesterol after 8 weeks, compared with those in a control group who didn’t eat any nuts.

Other research shows that an increased intake of tree nuts, including pecans, may be linked to reduced levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides – all of which are risk factors for heart disease.

The fatty acids and healthy fats supplied by pecans are vital to weight loss. These healthy fats signal to the grehlin hormone that the body is full and satisfied. The nuts also produce oleic acid, which lowers blood pressure.

Pecans have a very low glycemic index, which means that eating them does not cause a spike in blood sugar, even in people with diabetes. Eating pecans can even offset the effects of higher glycemic index foods when eaten as part of the same meal.

An ounce of pecans provides about 10 percent of your Daily Recommended fiber intake. Research suggests that pecans may promote better blood sugar control, which may be partially due to their fiber content. Although nuts contain mainly insoluble fiber that doesn’t dissolve in water, they also contain some soluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forming a gel-like material that moves through your body undigested and slows the absorption of sugar into the blood.

One small study in 26 adults with overweight or obesity found that eating a pecan-rich diet for 4 weeks improved the body’s ability to use insulin effectively. Insulin is the hormone that transports sugar from your bloodstream into your cells.  Pecans improve the function of beta cells in the pancreas, which are responsible for insulin production.

A rich source of antioxidants, pecan prevent oxidative stress or an imbalance between free radicals in the body and their harmful effects. Oxidative stress becomes a factor in developing cancer and diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart failure, chronic fatigue syndrome, and depression.

Researchers, in a study from Loma Linda University in California, pointed to pecans as being able to introduce antioxidants into the bloodstream within 24 hours of eating them.

The manganese in pecans promotes energy and eases the effects of mood swings and cramps when taken with calcium during PMS. The dietary fiber also promotes healthy digestion, an essential body function during PMS. Oleic acid, found in abundance in pecans, has been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Because pecans are high in phosphorous, the nuts can reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis, especially in women. Phosphorus maintains your body’s waste system, reinforces your bones, and can prevent muscle pain and cramping from exercise.

How to Buy

When buying pecans, look for plump pecans that are uniform in color and size. If you are buying pecans in bulk, be sure there is plenty of turnover and you are getting fresh nuts.

Roasted pecans sold as prepackaged snacks are often coated in unhealthy oils and sugar, adding empty calories. Be sure to read labels and choose raw pecans when possible.


How to Store

Keep your pecans in airtight containers and store them in the refrigerator or freezer. When you are ready to serve, you can bring them up to room temperature or cook with them right away, no thawing necessary.

Pecans can be thawed and refrozen repeatedly during the two-year freezing period without loss of flavor or texture.  After removal from cold storage, pecans will stay good for an additional two months.


How to Cook

  • Raw pecans are delicious on their own.
  • Pecans are buttery and sweet. Their high-fat content in them makes them good additions in recipes like pecan caramel rolls, pie, fudge, baklava, and muffins.
  • Pecans are delicious sprinkled over salads.

Sweet Potato and Onion Dip with Pecans

Nicole Taylor/ Photo credit: David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews

4-6 Servings


  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 3 medium)
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • ½ medium white onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small fennel bulb, sliced (about 1/3 cup), fronds reserved for garnish
  • ½ small jalapeño, finely chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
  • cup grated Vegan Parmesan (about 1 ounce)
  • cup raw pecans, chopped
  • cup vegan cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (from 1/2 lime)
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • piece whole fresh nutmeg, grated (about 1 teaspoon)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil and crispy fried onions (optional), for garnish
  • Tortilla chips or celery sticks, for serving


  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Using a vegetable brush and water, scrub the sweet potatoes to remove dirt, then place them on a sheet pan.
  2. Bake the sweet potatoes on the top rack until soft to the touch, about 1 1/4 hours. Let cool for at least 1 hour.
  3. Add grapeseed oil to a large skillet and heat over medium. Add sliced onion, fennel and jalapeño to the skillet and sauté for 15 minutes or until onions are soft and slightly browned. Set aside and let cool room temperature.
  4. Using your hands, gently peel the sweet potatoes and discard the skins. In a large bowl, use a potato masher to mash the potatoes until you see tiny chunks. (The texture shouldn’t be ultrasmooth.)
  5. Using a spoon, stir in the cooked onion mixture along with the vegan cream cheese, vegan Parmesan, pecans, lime juice, maple syrup, salt, onion powder, vanilla and nutmeg. Store the dip in an airtight container, and place in the fridge until ready to eat. (If you have the time, the flavors are always better the next day.)
  6. Just before serving, stir to combine and season the dip to taste with salt. Drizzle it with olive oil, then top it with the reserved fennel fronds and crispy fried onions, if you like. Serve with any combination of gluten free bread, tortilla chips or celery sticks.

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