The “Buzzword” Vitamin

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When I started my nursing career in 1973, I was taught very little about nutrition. Vitamin D was to help calcium into the bones for growth and strength and really, it had very little other use. Also – it was called vitamin D only – not D2 or D3 as you may have heard more recently.

This is yet again, the problem with science – it seems helpful until the next bit of science comes along and changes everything. So at this time we are aware that there are two forms of vitamin D that have some importance for us as humans – D2 and D3. D2 is present in plants and not as bio-available to us as D3, which is obtained from animal sources and the sun. Another recent discovery is that in order for vitamin D3 to be used properly, vitamin K2 needs to be present. And vitamin A. And several minerals..

I named my business “Your Good Health – Naturally” for a very specific reason which I am sure you can guess. If we eat the diet we are programmed for and emulate (impossible to live the exact same life) the lifestyle we evolved with, we get what we need for life, health and reproduction. And this is in spite of the constantly changing “evidence” that science brings us.

I suspect that over the next decade, we will see vitamin D split into other analogues. New science is already showing that vitamin D from the sun is water soluble and can travel easily in the blood, but vitamin D from food is fat-soluble and in fact, needs fat for its absorption if it is contained in non fatty sources (eg. vegetables). I wonder how long it will take before science shows us that it is also used differently in the body!

It wasn’t so long ago in our history that we spent a great deal more time outside. Children played outside in all weathers. When I was young, we had two TV channels and no computers to keep us indoors. We saw the sun at all times of the day and no sun-screen was applied, since it hadn’t been invented. Sun-tan lotion (to attract the sun to make tanning quicker) was around in the 1960s as I remember and we were encouraged to be in the sun as it gave us vitamin D. What on Earth has gone wrong? People of the western world are now vitamin D deficient – to epidemic proportions.  If we are to remain disease-free, things have to change.

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So why do we need vitamin D? Before I address that, I must first emphasise that nutrients work together, not in isolation. The trouble is, when we hear that something is good for us, we then overdo it – “if some is good, more must be better”. We often buy supplements. but please, get professional help with this if you intend to take them. Vitamin D3 on its own can be harmful. Vitamin D3 helps the absorption of calcium but is is vitamin K2 that directs it to bones and teeth – away from arteries where it causes damage.

We now know that vitamin D3 (which is the form our bodies use easily) is needed for countless processes in the body. In fact, the bottom line is that we cannot live without proper levels of vitamin D.

(The UK RDA for vitamin D will protect against bone diseases but we need far more than this for optimum health. If half an hour in the sun can produce 20,000 units of vitamin D in our skin, the UK RDA, at a mere 2-400 units, is woefully inadequate.)

Children and babies have died from this deficiency and adults become ill and die from the diseases that are associated with the deficiency – but their conditions are rarely attributed to it as blood levels of vitamin D are not routinely tested. Due to all the known processes in the body where vitamin D3 takes a part, it is not difficult to imagine what might happen if it is not present in the needed amounts.

Immunity is compromised along with all that this entails: pathogenic infections are not effectively fought; potentially cancerous cells may not be destroyed; asthma and eczema are more prevalent as are other allergies; incidences of gut problems such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are more evident as are the symptoms in established disease.
Interestingly, the incidence of malignant melanomas (which some authorities believe to be due to the sun’s rays) are less common in those with optimum levels. There are about twenty different types of cancer that are known to have a connection with vitamin D deficiency.

Bone density is severely compromised without adequate levels of vitamin D.  Rickets is the name for this condition in children and osteomalacia in adults. Babies have been known to be born with the condition and their bones remain fragile instead of being strengthened by mineral deposits. This condition at its worst is incompatible with life. The condition is evident as the legs become bowed in children and adults. Osteoporosis is also a bone thinning disease where vitamin D deficiency may at least in part, be implicated. Don’t forget the K2 too!

It is now thought that vitamin D3 is involved with cholesterol regulation, the occurrence of mental disturbances such as dementia and depression, heart disease and the onset and progression of multiple sclerosis.

Such terrible consequences from a deficiency that is entirely preventable – for free. In Britain, during the months of April to September the sun rises high enough in the sky for the UVB rays (which are the ones needed to form vitamin D3 in our skin) to reach us here in the Northern Hemisphere. UVB rays are short in comparison to UVA rays – which are available from dawn to dusk. The easiest way to gauge if the sun is right is to look at your shadow. If it is shorter than you are tall, the UVB rays are present and you can strip off! Be sensible here – if your skin is fair, five minutes a side is sufficient. If you have black skin, you must start with about thirty minutes a side. Unfortunately, black-skinned people suffer the most in the Western world as it takes that much longer for the UVB rays to penetrate. It is none-the-less, absolutely vital they sunbathe if they are to stay healthy. The amount of sunshine needed to be effective, also depends where you are. The more northerly the position, the longer it will take and if you are on holiday in the Med, less time will be needed. Your skin should be slightly pink, not red. Do NOT go to sleep in the sun – you are very likely to burn! After this time, it is best to cover up or sit in shade but if you must, use a sunscreen that is as natural as possible. The usual sun-screens have many unpleasant and damaging chemicals in them. Your skin will quite happily absorb these into your body where they have absolutely no place. (Best to use water only for showering after sun exposure, to prevent washing away those precious skin oils.)

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If your ancestors were from the Northern Hemisphere, you are adequately equipped for life here. The fact that our livers can store huge amounts of vitamin D means that even though there is no UVB sunlight during the winter months, we will be fine if we have adequate stores. If we haven’t, maybe a D3 and K2 supplement would be useful for a few months. Please seek advice regarding this.
People whose ancestry is nearer the Equator should take extra care. The storage space for vitamin D may not be the same as people from more northerly climes, due to the intensity, frequency and duration of sunlight in equatorial countries.  Nature doesn’t change what it does very quickly, meaning that we have to.

There are many foods that contain vitamin D. D2 is present in leafy green vegetables but some people have trouble converting it to the D3 that is needed for humans and some other mammals. To maximise the absorption of D3 from plants, serve vegetables with a knob of butter or in a creamy sauce. Animal foods that are rich in D3 – eggs, full-fat dairy, offal, shellfish and other surface swimming fish. Meat (and especially offal) that has the highest levels of D3 will be from animals that are reared outside on pasture where they can eat grass and weeds that contain abundant D2 which they will convert to D3. These are foods that are nutrient-dense all round and should be included in our diet anyway.

In 2012 we had a lousy summer. During the winter of that year, I dropped my “no supplements” rule and took a D3/K2 supplement until April. Maybe there are some occasions when it is a good idea, as the above, but also you might want to do this if you have dark skin or if you have not been able to sunbathe much when the sun was out. To me though, ”naturally” is always the best.

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Walking Barefoot, Grounding or Earthing

This word “grounding” has meant many things to me over the years but recently (in the last few years) has come to mean a specific and deliberate action to improve health. It is also known as earthing – which makes sense as we are talking about electricity.

We lose sight of the fact that we don’t just live in the world; we are a part of the world. We are influenced by so many things – all our food comes from the earth one way or another, the sunshine (without which, life as we know it, would not exist) creates a valuable nutrient in our skin and determines our circadian rhythm. The menstrual cycle is also governed by the universe – the words month and moon having the same origin.

file7411336412042So, if we accept that we are here courtesy of the world and universe, it makes sense that these entities look after us too or what is the point of existence? This could get deep so I’ll move on!

We are electrical beings. Without electricity our hearts would not beat, our muscles would not contract and our senses would not work. In order to maintain these important functions, we are dependent upon certain minerals that have negative and positive charges – potassium, calcium, sodium and chloride. For various reasons, (radio waves, certain foods, body functions and more) we end up with more positive ions than negative therefore the equilibrium is upset. Excess positive ions can lead to many health problems – both   physical (resulting from inflammation) and mental, such as depression.

Earth – the planet – has a negative charge and if you walk barefoot on the ground, you can absorb huge amounts of negative ions. Think about it; how much better do you feel after a holiday? We are often barefoot much of the time, we also boost our vitamin D levels (possibly less so if you are skiing!) and we relax more. We return feeling revitalised. These ions also have a great anti-inflammatory effect – thus protecting us from many ills.

So – how to do this. Kick off your shoes and wander around in the garden. Damp grass is a good conductor as is sand. Concrete is OK as long as there isn’t a “skin” under it. Leather-soled shoes will keep you in touch even if you are out and about, but rubber soles will not. Wood will not allow the ions through and neither will roads and pavements. If you are wearing leather-soled shoes, cut across the park to work!

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The Importance of Digestion (From Top to Bottom!)

file3011257997439 In my view, even if you smoke or are obese, the food you put into your mouth is the most important factor to determine your overall health. If you eat well your health improves; if you eat badly, your health deteriorates. Simple.

 

 

Well it should be simple but food and nutrition have become complicated over the last century. When we “process” food it can become difficult or impossible to digest. Add to that these other factors – we now eat foods that are not from our evolutionary diet, foods are often genetically modified, traditional food preparation has been replaced with super-fast methods and in many instances, cookery skills have been lost. Probably the most important is learning to cook from scratch using tried and trusted traditional methods and starting with the best ingredients, preferably organically produced.

We eat because we need nutrients which our bodies convert to compounds which are used in the hundreds of body processes that go on every second of our lives. Even if the food is the best, we still have to absorb and utilize these nutrients – and therein lies the rub!

Nutrition is not just filling our stomachs with any old food or a few vitamin tablets. Nutrition encompasses all of the following – the correct food being chewed, swallowed, digested (see below) absorbed and utilized. When any of these stages are omitted either within our control or without it, proper nutrition is forfeited. Let me explain.

When we anticipate or smell food, already our bodies begin preparation for digestion. We salivate, our stomachs rumble which indicates that the digestive juices are being produced. This enables various digestive enzymes to do their work before the next stage can commence.

Chewing food begins the digestion of carbohydrates and it is made more liquid. giant_panda_eatingThis is necessary if all nutrients are to be extracted. Swallowing begins the muscular wave (peristalsis) throughout the intestines to push food to the next stage of digestion. When food enters the stomach, protein is broken down by the hydrochloric acid contained in the digestive juices. The enzymes present continue the digestion of carbohydrates and begin the break-down of fats and proteins. When this is achieved, the small intestine continues the process using bile from the gall bladder and enzymes from the pancreas. Providing there is no disease in the small intestine, many nutrients and water are absorbed here. As the process continues into the large intestine, more fluid is absorbed and some of the B vitamins are created. The end of the scenario is a trip to the loo! This removes that which cannot be digested and other unneeded substances.

As you can see, there are many stages to digestion – which means that there are many ways for things to go awry. The food you eat makes the enzymes, saliva and gastric juices, so if your diet is poor, the situation moves from bad to worse.

Addressing the stages -
In the mouth:  If teeth are bad, the mouth is sore, dentures are poorly fitting, food may be poorly chewed or even avoided altogether.
In the stomach: Too little acid, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), ulceration of the stomach lining, frequent heartburn or a hiatus hernia and many more conditions can interfere with the initial break down of foods. This is especially true of vitamin B12.
In the small intestine: Food insufficiently digested in the stomach will be problematic, poor microbial mix or insufficient beneficial bacteria, Crohn’s and celiac disease, duodenal ulceration, poor bile and pancreatic enzyme production and other diseases  and insufficiencies will produce incomplete digestion here.
The large intestine: Diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis (IBD), poor muscle tone (from years of the wrong diet), insufficient good bacteria, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) will all disrupt the final stages of digestion.

There are all sorts of ways that we can become mal-nourished, even in our land of plenty. Of course, if there was nothing you could do about it, I wouldn’t be writing this! There is plenty you can do to optimise your nutrition.

  1. Choose the best food you can afford and learn how to cook it. (This book is an excellent start!) I won’t go into the minutiae of as there is lots of advice in my other blogs.
  2. Ensure your teeth are in good condition.
  3. Eat slowly. Chew thoroughly and don’t drink much with food as this dilutes the needed acid in the stomach. People who suffer indigestion and GERD should not drink half an hour before or an hour after meals.
  4. Eat fermented foods sometimes – sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables, kefir, yogurt.
  5. Practice relaxation. Stress is very damaging on the digestive system at every stage.
  6. Ensure that meal times are just that. Make time to sit down and enjoy your food. I absolutely believe in chatting over a meal as this slows things down and is conducive to good digestion and not overeating.
  7. When you first feel the urge to go to the loo, please go!  Putting it off is damaging to the muscle tone of the bladder and the rectum.

There has to be at least one thing you can do to improve your digestion. One step at a time..

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Granola Made With Soaked Oats

As you are probably aware, I am not big on carbs. Granola – as it name tells you – is usually made from grains – very high in carbohydrates! However, on occasions, I think it is perfectly OK to eat relatively high carb foods as long as they are nutritionally sound – which frankly, is a rarity in pre-packaged foods. I would not recommend grain foods for someone with tummy problems. Even so, some of the substances that are contained in grains that upset digestion have been neutralised in this recipe by overnight soaking of the oats with yogurt.

The granola (“crunchy” oat cereals) available in supermarkets, is very basic. Oats, sugar and vegetable oil with a few raisins and a few nuts. PLEASE do not buy this! The sugar will far exceed what is healthy and the vegetable oil will be rancid and is just unhealthy full-stop. The granola below is far superior. It has healthy fats, loads of bio-available nutrients and a much higher protein content. It tastes better too. I’m sorry – I have used “cups” measures – it is just so much easier than getting the scales out. Please use organic ingredients in the recipe and please make it this way before you play with it!

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4 cups rolled oats
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1/2 cup melted coconut oil and butter (in total)
3/4  cup plain full-fat yogurt
1/2 – 3/4 cup water

1/3 – 1/2  cup organic maple syrup or honey
1 or 2  egg whites (I use 2)
1/2 tsp salt (Himalayan crystal or Celtic sea)
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 – 1 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup sunflower and pumpkin seeds (in total)
1/2 cup chopped pecans or other nuts
Handful each chopped dates, apricots and raisins

Mix the first 5 ingredients adding enough water to make all ingredients damp. This serves to increase the availability of present nutrients and de-activate the anti-nutrients. Cover and leave somewhere cool.

The following day, tip the next five ingredients into the oat mixture and with your hands, mix very thoroughly.

Spread mixture out over two parchment paper-lined baking sheets, about 1cm thick. Bake at 90 degrees for 2 hours, turning once and breaking it up a bit at the same time, until granola is crisp. (It is a good idea to wedge a tea towel in the oven door whilst it is cooking so that the steam can escape.) If you prefer your granola softer, cook for less time.  Allow to cool and then break into smaller chunks or give a short blitz in a food processor. Take care with this or you could end up with a pile of crumbs!

Mix in the fruit, seeds and nuts. (If you intend to eat this more than once in a while, I recommend soaking and drying the nuts and seeds as well as the oats. Store in an airtight container. Serve for breakfast or scatter over a baked apple and add a dollop of cream!

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Dietary Madness

­Is it really so surprising that people have lost faith in dietary recommendations from the government? I am constantly hearing “They keep changing their minds” and “eggs are full of cholesterol” and “I have to eat five-a-day”. The latest of course, butter is good, margarine is not.

 

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The bee in my bonnet keeps on buzzing. My aim is to help people stay healthy by thinking for themselves and not just going along with the latest food guidelines. I’m hearing arguments based on the government recommendations or even quoting programmes on the television. Even my son told me I should rethink some of my recommendations based on a TV programme he’d seen!

Let’s take this point by point:
“They keep changing their minds.” When I was pregnant with my son twenty-seven years ago, I remember sitting in the waiting room at my doctor’s surgery. As a nurse, I interestedly read the leaflets and posters that were displayed. One poster was about what you should and shouldn’t eat for your heart-health. Now I’m not talking about a long time ago, but the advice then was all about cutting down on fats generally and the fat you should have if you have any, was polyunsaturated – the vegetable oils. So included in the list of no-nos was avocados. AVOCADOS!! Avocados are very rich in monounsaturated fat. Also, all meat must be trimmed of visible fat and actually, just reduce red meat. Don’t eat butter – eat margarine and use polyunsaturated vegetable oils for cooking. All dairy products must be low-fat. Of course, it is not just fat about which advice has changed – there are many other foods too.

Recent reports that have hit the newspapers and TV news, (a review of available research), show that there is absolutely no hard evidence that saturated fat from animals contributes to heart disease or illness of any sort. It also showed that added polyunsaturated fats have never been shown conclusively to protect from heart disease or illness of any sort (and there are many studies that show quite the reverse). The polyunsaturated fat contained in foods such as nuts and seeds, is fine in moderation as these foods also contain other valuable nutrients. Monounsaturated fat is still there in the middle but should stay as it occurs naturally in some foods. Unsaturated fats are unstable when heated and can become toxic. Saturated fats are much more stable.

“Eggs are full of cholesterol.” When I was young, the advert was “go to work on an egg”. Enter the “cholesterol” buzz-word and “salmonella in eggs” scandal of the 80s.  In my view, this did untold damage. Families went from serving a nourishing and sustaining breakfast, to serving cereals with skimmed milk and toast (which are nutrient-poor) which would probably last until mid-morning when hunger would again, kick in. If I told you that there was an article in the Nursing Times (info reaches the NT after the British Medical Journal) about ten years ago, telling health professionals that eggs are no longer a food which contributed to high cholesterol, would you be surprised? This is a great article from the doctor who really knows about cholesterol. Doctor Malcolm Kendrick celebrates the passing of the  Cholesterolasaurus. Worth a read!

“I have to eat five-a-day.” Well, to start with, other countries have different guidelines – some say six, some ten, some separate the veg and fruit – so who’s right? This recommendation came about in the early nineties in an attempt to improve the nation’s nutritional status. Not a bad idea but this pushed people to more poor nutritional behaviour. Three bananas and a pint of orange juice? A can of baked beans and smoothie? A large jacket potato with tomato sauce and sweetcorn? I could go on. The five-a-day recommendation was not based on good science.

“Mum, you need to rethink the advice you give.” Please, when you watch a television programme about diet, nutrition or any other health issue, you need to think about why the programme was made in the first place. Does it benefit anyone in particular? (Think food manufacturers, programme makers etc.) Is it good viewing – after all, who wants to sit and watch a dry documentary? Television programmes are sound-bites and cannot possibly show a balanced view of the subject in the given time frame. Unfortunately, many TV programmes about health are sensationalist at best and exploitation of unfortunate human beings, at worst.

The advice I give wavers very little as it is based more in history (and pre-history) than science. Science can be so amazing and illuminating but it can also be poorly carried out or interpreted and the results of poor science can often influence our whole lives. This is very much what has happened with conventional nutritional advice.

My advice is, eat real food. Grow fruit and veg yourself or buy organic. There is absolutely no point in eating five-a-day if you are eating genetically modified food or that grown with the use of pesticides, in fact you will be doing yourself more harm than good. Buy meat from animals that have been reared the way they are supposed to live – on grass, in forests, trees and fields, living outside for the most part. Organic meat producers only administer medication if their animals are sick, unlike the conventional farming methods which see the animals given cocktails of drugs on a regular basis. Eat organic eggs from hens living in a pasture. Dairy food is wonderfully nutritious but buy raw milk products if possible or at least organic.

Spring LambsThe other requirement is cookery skills. Please learn to cook and ensure that your children do the same. This is the only way that we increase our chances of living healthy, disease-free lives and ultimately, survive a bit longer as a species.

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The low-carbohydrate diet and cardiovascular risk factors: Evidence from epidemiologic studies.

I am not blogging this week but I implore you to read this short summary of recent research on low-carbohydrate diets. Print it off and show it to doctors who tell you to eat a low-calorie diet to lose weight and improve your heart health. Start from today – eat proper nutrient-dense food, like that below!

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What’s in Your Shopping Basket?

We all know a bit about how to eat properly don’t we? The trouble is that when we are faced with doing the food-shopping, it is tempting to go for the foods that are quick and easy or cheap. The pennies have to be watched, but please, not at the expense of health!

A few tips for sensible healthy shopping – some you will know and some you won’t.

  1. Animal fats contain the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K2. These are vital for good health but miss out on them as we believe fat is bad for us or that vegetable fats are healthier. These notions are absolutely untrue. Animal fats are the way to go in order to keep hunger under control. (After all, how much butter can you eat before feeling full up?!) Fatty cuts of meat are cheaper than lean and satisfy much quicker. Try a slow-roasted pork shoulder – delicious, filling, healthy and leftovers for sandwiches or salad the next day.
  2. Buy fruit and veg in season and preferably not in big supermarkets. Kale is in season now and is one of the most nutritious vegetables. Cook until fairly soft – it has a better flavour at this stage – but use the cooking water for gravy or soup.
  3. Plan your meals for the week ensuring there is little or no waste. This I cannot stress enough. Throwing food out is just not an option. If you see that there are a few vegetables looking past their best – make minestrone, serve it with some grated cheese on top and scrumptious bread on the side!
  4. Look for meat on its sell-by date. Use it on the day or freeze straight away.
  5. Don’t be tempted to buy ready-meals. They are cheap and often nutritionally poor foods made palatable by flavourings, sugar and salt. Make your own “ready meals” by doing a mammoth (get the kids involved) cooking session and dividing into portions for times when you really can’t be bothered to cook.
  6. Learn to cook offal. It is cheap and wonderfully nutritious, but always buy organic. If you are unused to liver, try making pate – there is a recipe in Food for Thought on the website.
  7. Use butter and cream in cooking. This enhances the nutritional profile of food but also adds a luxurious taste. Put butter on your veg to increase the uptake of vitamins.
  8. Use tinned oily fish for lunches and salads. Lots of calcium (as long as the fish is not filleted) and omega 3.
  9. If you don’t already, learn to cook!

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To summarise, these are some of the foods you should have in your basket for nutrients and your pocket.

  • Butter
  • Cream
  • Vegetables – especially the green leafy ones and salads, avocados
  • Fatty cuts of meat, chicken on the bone (make stock from the bones) and offal
  • Tinned sardines and wild salmon
  • Eggs – lots of them!
  • Natural cheeses – not processed. Gouda has good levels of vitamin K2.
  • Bread but not the cheapest please! Spend a little more and buy sourdough/pumpernickel/ or organic seedy breads. Better still, make your own sourdough – recipe on the website.
  • Fruit in season
  • Natural whole milk yogurt
  • Organic, unhomogenised milk or better still, find a local raw milk supplier for the best nutrition.

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Of course it is best to buy organic but if you really cannot afford it, please buy the best you can afford. Farmer’s markets are a good place to buy real food. Wash fruit and veg thoroughly if they are not organic. In fact, fruits are best peeled.

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The “Wise Traditions” Conference Part 2

Beverly Rubik PhD is a US doctor whose main interest is research into the subtle energies of living systems, including the human energy field and whole-person health and healing.

I found her talk “Health Under the Microscope” absolutely fascinating. She has spent much time looking at human blood microscopically and how it changes with the diet taken. She showed us slides of blood taken from people eating the standard “healthy” organic diet. This meant that their diet was largely composed low fat meats, bread, cereals, margarine and other refined vegetable oils, soya and other beans, fruit and vegetables. Not bad you might think considering this food was organically produced.

file931348057842The second set of slides showed the blood from largely organic foods as recommended by the Weston A. Price Foundation. Broadly, this means the diets consisted of eggs, natural meat with its fat and organs from animals that have been pasture fed, raw dairy including butter, fresh fruits and vegetables in season,  nuts, seeds and grains that have been properly prepared.

The people that were studied were split into the two groups as above and the ages in each ranged from young adults to early old age. All participants had been on their diets for several months to many years. The results were startling.  From the Weston A. Price style diet, slide after slide showed – in Dr. Rubik’s words – perfect blood – even the older participants. The different cells could be seen clearly and there was no clumping.  There was also a rather strange – and as yet unidentified – cell which is thought to be a beneficial microbe of some sort. This was very odd as up until now we have believed that our beneficial microbes do not live in the blood stream, but in our gut and on our skin.

In the group consuming the standard healthy, organic diet, the blood slides were very different. The cells appeared sticky and they clumped together. It is thought that this is not in any way beneficial to our health and as well as in the obvious problems within the blood stream there will be knock-on effects in other body systems. Interestingly, there were microbes in the blood of these people too, but they have been identified as pathogenic not probiotic. There is more on this research here.

I have seen Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride speak at several conferences diet and her enthusiasm never wavers. She is the doctor who devised the GAPS diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome). The diet has become very popular as it works. Very basically, she has determined that dysbiosis  (the wrong mix of gut microbes) in the gut affects our mental and physical health. At this conference she spoke about GAPS but also about immunity.

Our immune systems are determined at birth and during child hood. Dr. McBride outlined the importance of the childhood illnesses – to allow a child to develop fevers is to educate the immune system. Babies can often be sickly after birth as they become a dumping ground for toxins that a mother has in her body! Maybe this is why some babies develop skin rashes for no apparent reason. Autistic children are often the first-born in the family and it could be partly due to this phenomena. During pregnancy, the hormone progesterone suppresses immunity so that the baby is not rejected, but it too has a suppressed immune system making it vulnerable to infective agents. Coupled with the toxins from the mother’s body (from hair dye, make-up, household cleaning products, showering/bathing products) creates problems for new-borns. Some of the chemicals present in these products can attach themselves to tissues in the body causing the typical symptoms of diseases such as Ehlers Danlos syndrome (joint hypermobility) and this is very common amongst autistic children.

Children living in “unhygieneic”  surroundings are usually more robust that those file0002010398688children living in “germ-free” surroundings . Gut parasites are part of our normal gut flora and are important. Whilst our immune systems are busy controlling pathogens, they are far less likely to attack healthy tissues as in some auto-immune diseases such as Crohn’s disease. Candida is a yeast that is found in the human gut where it belongs. It provides a great service to us – absorbing mercury which can be toxic to humans. Too much mercury being ingested, invites candida to overgrow and create problems such as IBS. Mercury is a component of dental amalgam fillings and in some people the mercury can leak into the gut causing gut (and other) disturbances. So much of that which we take for granted can be detrimental to our immunity.

Another thing I learned, is that the appendix is a vital part of our immune system. For years it has been taught that the appendix is a “left-over” from when we were herbivores but modern research shows that it is a “bank” for beneficial microbes. This sounds reasonable to me. If we are affected by a holiday-tummy bug, much of the gut microbiota will have been flushed out. The appendix then releases a new colony and you get better! The body is an amazing thing and has a trick up its sleeve for all eventualities.

In her closing talk, Sally Fallon gave us her personal health tips. She believes in eating regularly, three times daily. This is how it used to be! Grazing is a current fad – no doubt born from our “on-the-hoof” lifestyles. In my view, there are few people who would benefit from a grazing diet and it can contribute to insulin sensitivity. She also outlined the importance of a big breakfast – not just a piece of toast or a bowl of nutrient-poor cereal. Meats must be eaten with their natural fats, we should consume broths made from meat bones and natural salt is very important for many functions in the body. (Himalayan crystal salt or Celtic grey salt are both good.)

I hope at least some of this makes sense. It has been rather a difficult task trying to decipher the hieroglyphics I managed to scribble down during the talks!

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The “Wise Traditions” Conference Part 1

After the two days at the Weston A. Price “Wise Traditions” conference, my head was buzzing – so much information to assimilate and figure out how to use this in my practice. Some of the topics discussed reassured me that I am on the right path with the treatment I advise. The “usual suspects” for disease came up often – low blood vitamin D levels in the western world, low-fat diets contributing to poor health, the detrimental effect of polyunsaturated oils and of course, the importance of a good microbiota – the colony of microbes in your gut. All the things I bang on about constantly!

DSC_6904Chris Masterjohn, talked about the importance of “Meat, Bones, Organs and Skin for Mental Health”. I am far from being a scientist so I won’t go into details here for fear of getting it wrong! Suffice it to say that there are substances in these foods that work together and in a domino effect, promoting the proper function of brain chemicals – proper functioning brain chemicals – proper functioning brain!
He also highlighted, chemically, what can go wrong for vegetarians. He was vegetarian/vegan for many years, believing that this was the healthy way to eat. His health suffered and his teeth began to rot due partly to the lack of fat soluble vitamins and the amount of grain he was eating. He began researching and came upon the Weston A. Price Foundation. Read more about this here.
There is some evidence that vegetarians suffer mental disorders more frequently than meat-eaters.
His second lecture was about how heart disease and degeneration are related to the nutrients in food. The most important message was about anti-oxidants. Most of us have heard this term and understand that they are needed to help our health, but I think the main message for me was that yet again, they do not work alone but need other compounds to do the job. I feel justified in my stance – I very rarely advise supplements for just this reason. If you take a supplement in isolation, at worst it could be dangerous and at best it can be pointless. More about supplements here.

file9121341856730Philip Weeks gave a talk about adrenal exhaustion, brought about by chronic stress. We all know that it is damaging, but even I was shocked at just how badly the body can be affected! Rather than summarise the talk, I found this on his website which explains.

Next week I will conclude this blog.

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Weston A. Price and the “Wise Traditions” Conference

I feel enlivened and motivated by the nutrition conference I attended recently. The Weston A. Price Foundation is a non-profit organization devoted to the dissemination of good nutrition research and much of this is available for free on their website. This is no-nonsense, easy to understand information which is based upon the traditional growing of food and its preparation. It is about real food – meat and eggs from pasture reared animals, fresh vegetables grown in properly nourished soil and without pesticides, naturally fermented foods and lots of wonderfully rich dairy products from cows fed their proper diet – grass.

file000121540238Weston A. Price was a Canadian dentist during the early years of the 1900s. His interest in health grew from peering into people’s mouths. He became aware that some people had crowded teeth and narrow dental arches (thus requiring a brace – see left) and others had wide arches and flat uncrowded teeth (see below). These dental arches also determined the shape of the face – narrow and pinched or wide and open. He began his research by travelling the world and interviewing primitive people about their diet and lifestyles. Whether it was the North American Indians, the people from isolated villages in Switzerland, the Inuit or the New Zealand Maori, his findings were very similar. These people had happy dispositions regardless of their relative poverty, had wide faces, good teeth free from cavities, bodies free of chronic illness and were resistant to infectious diseases. All of this gave him the basis for his book – Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

Cutting a very long story short, he learned how vital it is for the diet to be rich in the file00051763508fat-soluble vitamins A and D and K2 (although K2 was named much more recently – he called it  X -factor.) These are vitamins that are abundant in butter, fish eggs, shellfish, raw dairy and organ meats and the peoples that he studied always consumed large amounts of some of these – the Swiss mainly dairy and the Inuit, organ meats. The fat-soluble vitamins work together to build bones and tissues as they are meant to be and a lack of them causes structural problems. Another aspect which he observed was the correct preparation of grains and legumes. Without this preparation, they do not yield their nutrients effectively and can in fact, prevent the uptake of other nutrients. They can also cause digestive distress.

The Weston A. Price Foundation was set up by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig in 1999. Its intention is to build upon the knowledge of Weston A. Price and spread it far and wide. It is (in a very small way!) my intention too as you will see from my other blogs.

Next week I will tell you a little of what I learned at the conference.

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