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Can Eating in Europe Cure Some Health Problems?

We just returned yesterday from a 3 week trip to Germany. We ate a LOT of food, more than we would usually eat back home. Breakfast was always crusty rolls (broetchen), wurst, cheeses, cooked eggs, fruit. We had cake and coffee everyday. Coffee in Germany is much stronger than in the US, and cakes use real whipped cream, lots of butter, etc... Some dinners were typical (schnitzel, bratwursts, potatoes); others included pizza and pasta. And of course, there are the ice cream cafes that we couldn't pass up.

My husband and I experienced absolutely no heartburn the entire trip. Also, my husband usually has a slightly irregular heartbeat, for which he drinks a little red wine every night. We didn't have red wine and he didn't have heart problems. My gall bladder tends to act up a bit but I had no problems at all on my trip.

I'd like to know if the processing of the food in Europe had anything to do with our good luck. We ate almost every meal in a hotel or restaurant. I have heard that Europe will not import our flour because it doesn't meet their standards.

The sodas were different too. I have heard that Coke in the US is made with high fructose corn syrup, while in Mexico it's made with sugar; a difference you can taste. The Coke in Germany tasted slightly different too.

Any thoughts?

Posted by
416 posts

I would say that it was probably a combination of eating less processed food and exercising more. Cokes in Europe use sugar, not corn syrup.

Posted by
2297 posts

I agree with Nancy. You probably walked much more than you would at home. And highly processed food would have been rare during your trip. Looking at the ingredient list of your average American ice cream package any Italian gelato maker (and most ice cafes in Germany are run by Italians) would start to throw up ...

Posted by
23432 posts

I am suspicious that you looking for support to deduct this trip as a medical expense. Good luck. We will all cheer for you. You probably would have the same results in the US if you exercised more, had less tension or stress and ate less processed foods. A European cure is a stretch.

Posted by
2297 posts

Frank has a point in that it is possible to continue living somewhat the lifestyle you had while travelling through Germany. It may be a bit more difficult but if you look you will be able to find less processed foods at home as well. You're in California, one of the best places to be to indulge in fresh fruit and veggis!

My pet peeve is the American love for non-fat yoghurts. The amount of starches and artificial stabilizers needed to produce a firm non-fat yoghurt is horrible. With just a bit of fat you don't need those extra chemicals and have a nice tasting natural yoghurt. I've never met an obese person who put on the weight because of eating too much full-fat yoghurt ... When I immigrated from Europe it was very hard to find and I started to make my own yoghurt. But these days it's available almost anywhere.

Posted by
485 posts

Wow Frank, that thought never crossed my mind, but thanks for the suggestion. ;)

It's true that we did walk much more than we usually do at home, but my husband and son go to the gym regularly (swimming and treadmill). I would like to research differences in processing of food. A lady who sat next to me on the plane outbound enlightened me to the fact that typical American baking powder has aluminum in it; I should buy baking powder at Trader Joe's, which has none. I think even the fruit juices are processed differently. Apple juice usually gives me heartburn, but not on this trip.

Posted by
172 posts

I always feel much better after a few weeks in Europe, and by the time we leave after spending 2-3 months there I feel great. I am allegic to many, many additives, which are used in foods in North America, but which are apparently banned in the European Union. Google MSG (known by many other names) for an example of an additive found in almost everything in our food that I think is doing us alot of harm. Another problem with our food supply here is genetic modification, something else the Europeans are very suspicious of (and rightly so)(and I am a farmer!!!). I am very active at home so it is not so much the added walking that is making me feel better.

Posted by
12040 posts

I doubt the food had much difference. Impossible to say why you didn't have your usual health problems on your trip, but there isn't a whole lot of difference between the "processing" of food in the US versus Europe, with the exception that the sanitary standards for handling dairy products aren't as strict in much of Europe. The biggest difference probably is the dearth of large chain restaurants in Europe. Chain restaurants in the US, because they buy food in such bulk and can't be as selective in their purchases, tend to mask the poor quality of their food under a mountain of salt, cheese and butter, all of which in excess can make health problems worse.

But as the husband of a European physician, I can tell you that there is no shortage of Europeans who suffer from the common medical problems that you have identified.

Posted by
2733 posts

Interesting question. I suspect the lack of stress is a factor. I am usually much more relaxed on vacation than I am at home. It is such a joy to be away from the constant deadlines and long to do list. That has to be good for your health.

Posted by
576 posts

"But as the wife of a European physician"...

Tom, you are the wife of a European physician?

Posted by
262 posts

I never gain weight in Europe. I eat whatever I want
because of all the walking we do, maybe 3 to 5 miles a day as well as all the hills and cobblestones we walk on! We live for all the incredible desserts and pastas we eat. We can diet at home.

Happy Travels!

Posted by
873 posts

I don't know about curing any ailments, but last time I was in Russia, I ate probably 3 times as much food as I normally did here, and just walked instead of spending an hour at the gym every day. And I came back 3-5lbs lighter. By the way, I'm not sure this extends to other parts of Europe, but the dairy products in Russia were AMAZING.

Posted by
14580 posts

I find as a generalisation the food in Germany and France (can't say about other countries) is different from here. The Wurst, cold cuts, cheese, broetchen--all seem to me to contain less sodium than what we get here. The pork in Germany tastes different ( which is ok), and,yes, Coke in Germany has a different taste. The coffee is not only stronger--another reason why I like the coffee in France and Germany--but also the roasting is different. Simply put, I find the food easier to digest, whether it's in the preparation, production, or something, in France and Germany. And, we know the beer is way different because of the Purity Law.

Posted by
313 posts

That does it! I can tell I need a trip to Europe to recover! ;>)

All kidding aside, I think more exercise and less food processing could only be good.

Posted by
12040 posts

"And, we know the beer is way different because of the Purity Law." Except that the Reinheitsgebot is mostly a meaningless marketing gimmick these days. Besides some specialty beers (many from Belgium) the overwhelming majority of beers in the world contain only water, grain, yeast and hops (some don't even use hops). Berliner Weisse is just one example of a German beer that wouldn't be allowed if the Reinheitsgebot still had any legal standing.

Posted by
9429 posts

I agree that more walking and being on vacation (so less stress) could account for you feeling better. But learning about healthy eating here would be good too. I've been shopping at Whole Foods for over 20 yrs and there's a HUGE difference between the quality of food there vs. Safeway types of grocery stores. And Barb is right about MSG and many other additives, like BHT.
I also suggest renting the movie "Food Nation". Eye opening and life altering info.

Posted by
800 posts

I think Europe is good for my health too! Have been trying to treat my TMJ for the past year as it has gotten progressively worse. 10 days in Spain this last month and it is completely gone! Combination of no stress & good red wine?

Posted by
881 posts

Ive had the same thing happen, Alexandra. When living in England, without walking any more than I do in the US (the bus to High Street was at the end of my block. LOL /admit to laziness), and without eating any less or any better (british candy hear I come), I was consistently dropping 10lbs a month. I'm convinced that it was the lack of chemicals in all the food.

We ate processed food, but it was a lot a less processed than in America. That's for sure!

Posted by
9004 posts

The walking makes a huge difference. One item I food item that I found a huge difference in, are the fruit juices and wines. They have some sort of preservative in them in the US that makes them taste so awful, that I simply cannot drink them. It leaves a nasty sort of afertaste.

Another difference if you are staying in a hotel, B&B, or having coffee in a restaurant is that the milk they are using will probably be H-milk. This has been flash heated so that you can keep it on the shelf without refrigeration. This seems to do something to the hormones in it. When my daughter goes to the states, drinking the milk there makes her face break out. When she stops, it clears up right away.

The lovely dark bread in Germany is wonderful and will also assist in keeping one healthy.

Posted by
1358 posts

As far as the yogurt goes, I like that you can buy yogurt in Europe with less sugar. I buy lowfat yogurt here not because of the less-fat factor, but because of the less-sugar one. Have you seen how much sugar is in a regular yogurt here? You could eat 2 pop-tarts and have less sugar!

I do wish the US would offer more affordable foods that had less sugar in them WITHOUT putting artificial sweeteners in as a substitute.

Posted by
951 posts

I eat like a queen in Europe, including at least 2 bars of chocolate, loads of bread, ton of cheese, buckets of nutella, and always come home 2-5lbs lighter.My acid reflux does not flare up with wine from France, but it sure does here in the states.

It has to be the lack of preservatives, lack of chemicals, lack of hormones, lack of antibiotics, etc. The American meat industry is ruining everything with factory farming. I am just afraid that Europe will catch on and go with that method as well, if it hasn't happened already.

Posted by
1319 posts

This is a great thread and it's so interesting how you noticed how much better you felt on your trip. I absolutely agree with all the replies about less processed foods being healthier. You can eat fresh food here too and avoid all the processed junk that fills up most supermarkets here. I also endorse Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, although you still have to read labels, as both have processed foods with bad ingredients or lots of sugar and salt. You have to educate yourself and read labels.

Coke has different formulas in different countries. My friend said she much prefered French Coke to American Coke. I love going to a cafe in France and finding a glass of house wine is less expensive than a Coke! Healthier too!

Posted by
485 posts

I live in California and have fresh fruits and veggies available year round. I'm thinking more and more it has to do with things like flour, yeast, and whatever they use to make the wonderful sausages and other cold cuts. In the US those items are full of nitrates. And I'm sure (as others have mentioned) that the poultry, pork, and beef are vastly different, from what they are fed to how they are butchered.

Posted by
15565 posts

Even at Whole Foods and Trader Joes, where combined I do about 95% of my food shopping, you have to read the labels.

Earlier this week, I found a product at Whole Foods that contained---High Fructose Corn Syrup. I asked a manager about it and she said they were discontinuing the product but there might be some others still with it. They also now allow some preservatives. While their meats and poultry cannot be factory farmed, they no longer have to be organic (at least at the meat counter.) I have found organic meats in the packaged section--but no "marked" free range chickens.

As far as yogurt goes, once I tried Greek Yogurt, I refused to go back to anything else. I do eat a lower fat Greek Yogurt but it has no chemicals or sugar, just made with lower fat milk.

I also noticed my local "regular" supermarket has been increasing the number of natural and organic foods it carries--although at higher prices than anywhere else.

Sadly, American made "convenience" foods, full of extra sweetener and chemicals, is making its way to Europe.

Posted by
12040 posts

"Sadly, American made "convenience" foods, full of extra sweetener and chemicals, is making its way to Europe." They've been there for years and it's been a two-way exchange. For example, Nestle introduced the world to solid milk chocolate back in the 19th century, which wouldn't be possible without the addition of emulsifiers.

Go to large European supermarket (like Carrefour) and read the labels. The food is almost identical to what we eat here.

The only reason that European food companies use more sucrose than high fructose corn syrup is because beet sugar is cheaper there than HFCS, whereas the opposite is true here. But if you look at the food labels, they still put plenty of sugar in things where you wouldn't think it belongs, like tomato sauce, bread, etc.

Posted by
790 posts

I can't speak to the processed-foods discussion; we don't eat many processed foods at home (or on vacation).

We do eat a lot more, and richer food, on vacation than at home. It doesn't bother me.

What I do notice is that I can drink more wine on vacation without noticing any effects, than I do at home. At home, after one glass (or less) of wine, I'm sleepy. Not so in Europe! I attribute that to being more relaxed and well-rested on vacation than I am at home. And definitely, we walk a lot more on vacation than at home, so that probably helps with digestion.

Posted by
71 posts

My husband and daughter are lactose intolerant (he more so than she). On our recent trip to Paris they were both eating cheese like there was no tomorrow. Nothing bothered them, even brie which is really a problem at home. My best guess is that the cheese we were eating was unpasteurized and that is a big part of their problem with dairy. We're still experimenting but thank god they didn't have to miss French cheese!

Posted by
32244 posts

Alexandra,

It's likely that several factors contributed to the change of your health conditions while in Europe. Increased walking, less stress and better food are likely the main reasons.

I don't have specific information on Germany, but some European countries have soundly rejected the aspect of "Franken-foods" so the quality of the food is better. As I recall, the Swiss voted in the last year or so to reject genetically modified foods. I believe the processed meats in Italy (ie: Prosciutto) contain no chemical preservatives.

I tend to always feel better when travelling in Europe (possibly due to the food), but unfortunately I never seem to lose any weight, even with the increased walking.

Cheers!

Posted by
1035 posts

I also have an occasional irregular heartbeat (Lone Atrial Fibrilation). There is strong evidence is is caused by heartburn and agitation of the vagus nerve. One of the biggest triggers that exist for people with this condition is alcohol -- red wine being the worst of all due to the tannins.

I am not a doctor, nor do I play on one TV, but I will bet his relief during your trip was avoiding red wine.

If you google "heartburn red wine" you will see the plenty of info on this topic.

I can share some resources on this topic if you PM me.

Posted by
115 posts

I came home from Germany two years ago astonished at how much better I felt. I have an irregular bowel problem and can be bloated and irregular when stressed. I was quite worried about how that problem would show itself overseas. And I think you CAN be stressed on vacation when trying to see everything and keeping on schedule. We took it relatively easy tho' and did not rush but sat and enjoyed our meals and the places and people there. But I noticed that the breakfasts that I got with hotels in Germany were the major thing I did there that I did not here. I felt great, no bloating etc., I think a major thing was having a small amount of yogurt with a touch of granola or fruit every day....I may have just had a few ounces along with bread and even the cold cuts and rolls they give you there....but I felt no need for a large lunch afterwards, and felt wonderful. I came home with a respect for yogurt and eating a good breakfast (and for German food)...even tho I can't say I have kept up with a good breakfast part consistantly I can truly say I can tell the difference when I don't. But have you noticed the new ads for the activia brand of yogurt? There must be something to the cultures in yogurt and less processed dairy goods, because it is true for me. (when I stop with yogurt...I don't feel as good).

I may have to try Whole foods more after all I have read here (Trader Joe's food is superior)

Posted by
2297 posts

Love hearing about your great experiences with yoghurt ;-)

While I'm all about experiencing the local food while travelling I really really try to stick to my favourite breakfast of yoghurt and muesli. And muesli is the one food I carry along to places where it might not be the norm to find. I usually don't get the quantities of yoghurt that I eat at home (minimum of 2 quarts per week, usually more), as long as I have a bit I'll be fine.

As a result, only once in my life I've actually gotten sick to my stomach while travelling: from eating ice cream from street vendor in Poland. It wasn't refrigerated properly.