A New Health Event for Reading – It’s Your Life! April 2015

All of my working life has been concerned with health. I spent over 40 years in nursing – the NHS, private nursing and a charity. Observing over this length of time makes obvious what poor diet and lifestyle can do to a body – and most of us are aware of this even if we don’t always live up to it.

The price we pay when we take prescribed drugs

file000237973770The other problems that I have witnessed have come from drugs – legally prescribed for some ailment. It has to be remembered that in order to bring about help for an ailment, drugs must (or it happens coincidentally,) “poison” another anatomical or physiological part of us. Take arthritis or other inflammatory conditions. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often used for pain relief and these damage the gastric lining. Antibiotics prescribed for an infection usually decimate all the bacteria living on and in our bodies, indiscriminately. Hence, the bacterium causing the infection is conquered – but so are our beneficial bacteria – leaving our immune system wide open to attack from opportunist micro-organisms, making us sick again.

There is a price to pay for having our ills treated. Don’t misunderstand me – I for one would not be here writing this if I had not had mega-units of penicillin after a cat-scratch hospitalised me! There is a place for medical intervention – as a nurse, I saw many lives saved.

Wellness not illness

Disease prevention is where I am concentrating now. I am not necessarily talking about early detection of ill-health – although some methods are a good idea. We are born to wellness (for the most part) – not a life of illness. What is needed is proper education to help people with this, hence the “It’s Your Life!” show at Rivermead Leisure Centre, Reading. Everyone needs to feel that there is choice when it comes to their health and I set about the organisation of the event with this is mind. Health education should be free so there was no charge for entry to the show and neither will there be in the future.

IYL 12th April 2015  172It was hard work looking for the right people to exhibit – but an absolute joy to feel people’s passion for it! What better way to spread the word about improving our chances of a long and healthy life than to have eighty stands, manned by knowledgeable and sincere people? The feedback from the public was extremely encouraging. Berkshire has obviously been waiting for this and we are going to deliver. Bigger and better next time!

The aims of the show

The main aim was to show healthier choices in Moving, Wellbeing and Nourishing – which all add up to our lifestyles. We had a yoga and dance demonstration; there was a Nordic Walking specialist; Rivermead’s gym manager was on hand to answer questions about their facilities. There were many natural and holistic therapists offering taster treatments; product exhibitors were many, selling natural foods, personal care and other products to help preserve and nurture our health and our planet.

Another aim of the show was, where possible, to find small local companies. It is good for the economy, the carbon foot-print, Berkshire dwellers and the businesses themselves. One of the new local businesses wrote a lovely review of the show and you can see it here. Those companies from further afield offered goods by mail order.

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This show will continue twice yearly for as long as I am able! There will be a Christmas show in November and you will see all the natural therapies and hear the health advice, but with the opportunity to do some shopping for gifts too. See you there!

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Photographs courtesy of Kathryn Fell Photography

A New Slant on Eating Disorders (And Other Conditions of the “Mind”)

I watched a TED talk yesterday about how specific bacteria within us, communicate with each other and different strains. This gives them information that they need to grow, reproduce and prosper. It is a fascinating subject. You may have heard me say, (because I say it frequently!) that in terms of cells, we are only 10% human. Bonnie Bassler says between 1 and 10%. It is so ridiculous for us to believe that we are “in charge”. We absolutely are not.

Think of it this way to get a handle on it. The world population is approximately 1.7 billion. The microbes on and in you amount to approximately 10 trillion! 1 trillion is 1 million times 1 billion in the UK – different in the US but still huge.  How is it possible that the 1-10% of human cells could possibly be ruling the roost? No, we live in a symbiotic relationship – we can’t do without them and they can’t do without us – but they call the shots! Our job is to keep our natural microbiome happy and healthy and then they will do the same for us.

This article from the newspaper a while ago talks of treating eating disorders with antibiotics in the future. For me as a natural nutritionist, I think that this maybe largely unnecessary. I have not as yet, treated anyone with an eating disorder, but I’m up for it, because the theory makes perfect sense. Our diets and lifestyles are responsible for the varieties and health of microbes that we are home to. Get these in order and our health should follow.

I have attended several conferences where Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride  has spoken. Her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) has become deservedly, very popular. She explains how the brain and gut (where most of the microbes hang out) are inextricably linked. Although it is not mentioned in the book, Dr. McBride has spoken of the connection between eating disorders and the disrupted microbiome – or dysbiosis. She firmly believes in this too. The connections made in the book are to ADHD, autism, schizophrenia, dyspraxia, dyslexia and depression.

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So, these critters might be in charge, but what can we do to make them work for us? My suggestions are here in Healthy Life, but if you have a specific health issue, why not get in touch?

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“Study Shows Healthy Food More Expensive Than Unhealthy Food”. Oh Really?

How can it be said that “healthy food” is more expensive than junk food? It’s enough to make anyone just give up trying to do the healthy eating thing.

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Whilst I don’t believe everything I read, I would have expected more from Science Daily – which I subscribe to. The articles here are summaries of research, but there is always so much to take into account. Is the research good – is it impartial or are the researchers being paid to show a specific theory? Has it been correctly carried out – was the sample big enough and were all the variables accounted for? There’s more. When you read a summary, it is common for the author to add their own slant or try to interpret findings.  All this (and more) can make reading research findings and the reports of research findings, a minefield of misinformation!

I’m not saying I am an expert here either. I have forty-plus years in health and nutrition and the experience I have gained has made me careful in what I say.  However, if it makes good sense to me then I will use it for sharing and in my blogs.

This report is ridiculous.

There is SO much that could go wrong with a subject this big. I’ll itemise a few of the problems:

1)      Whose “healthy food” idea has been used? The chances are it has been measured against government guidelines for a healthy diet. To my mind, this is not the healthiest diet. My recommendations are here: http://yourgoodhealth-naturally.co.uk/my-guidelines-for-health/

2)      “Healthy foods in 2012 are three times more expensive per calorie than less healthy foods.” This assumes that calories count – which, in the main, they don’t!

3)      In order that “healthy” and “unhealthy” foods can be compared, these must have been packaged. Food that isn’t packaged is usually healthier anyway. You don’t get ready meals unpackaged, but you can get a low-fat lasagne (“healthy”) and a regular lasagne (“unhealthy”). The ingredients list has been used to determine “healthy” or “unhealthy” and of course, government guidelines are used to decide..

4)      The article doesn’t say, but foods will almost certainly have come from supermarkets. Bet they didn’t buy from farmer’s markets!

5)      “The finding shows that there could well be merit in public health bodies monitoring food prices in relation to nutrient content..” The content is not the same as its nutrition. Content means that the nutrients may be present but it does not mean that they are bio-available to us. In other words, the nutrients may be in a form that is either difficult for us to absorb or even impossible. Nutrition takes account of these differences. For example, adding vitamins to food looks good, but they are often in a form that we have trouble metabolising. Also, when vegetables are incorporated, especially legumes such as peas and beans, they can interfere with how we absorb minerals as well as contain nutrients we may not be able to use!

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I have to refer back to my previous blog. This is all about what people are prepared to do – or not do – in the kitchen. If we can cook, we can produce nutritious food which is less expensive. Due to advertising, we believe that we are “worth it” and “deserve” the things that are perceived as more expensive and better. We think that meat means steak and other muscle meats. We think that fish means salmon and that fruit means pineapples and mangoes. Advertising has much to do with what we believe and we have lost sight completely of what is in season, now that most foods are available all the year round.

Just look at what this woman believes is “healthy”.

Here is another article regarding a woman who wants a cash incentive from the government to lose weight because she “can only afford junk food”.

These women just need cookery skills. Of course, motivation to be healthy would help. Blaming everything and everyone else for one’s own situation is misguided since the only person who can make a difference to your life, is you.

A few tips for eating well on a budget:

  • Learn how to make a stew or soup from cheap cuts of meat. Lots of recipes on the net. Get started with the basis for nourishing soups here - broth.
  • Learn how to make real porridge instead of “quick” oat cereals or cold cereals. These are expensive.
  • Buy seasonal vegetables and a little fruit (not essential to health but nice to include as a treat).
  • Grow something! Everyone has room for something.
  • Use eggs (even organic are cheap) and cheese for main meals. Great nutrition on a budget! No health problems associated with eggs now, so just go for it!
  • Learn how to use lentils and beans. Treated properly, they are great nutrition.
  • Shop around. It is just not the case that supermarkets are the cheapest – and they often don’t even sell the cheaper cuts of meat. Try markets and farm shops.
  • More advice here in my six part blog on healthy eating during a recession.

What price would you put on your health? Frankly, if you don’t have good health, you have nothing. You may not be able to work so outgoings will be a problem, your relationships will suffer and it could be physically, very uncomfortable for you. Chronic poor health leads to early death but the whole situation is up to you. Eat nutritious food and good health becomes the norm.

Nourishing November on a Budget is coming. Please join in! Follow me on Twitter and my Facebook page for more information.

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The Diabetes Industry – Laughing All the Way to the Bank

Of the UK population, we now have approximately 5% who have been diagnosed as diabetics, many more with pre-diabetic conditions and those who are as yet, undiagnosed. This includes both type 1 and type 2. Both types are growing exponentially and regardless of population increase. They are metabolic diseases.



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Novo Nordisk has set a long-term global target of providing quality diabetes care products (my emphasis) to 40 million people by 2020.”

“Providing” sounds so generous and altruistic doesn’t it? It’s meant to – we are supposed to believe in these qualities. The reality is that products are being sold all around the world, including to developing countries, where a large part of their diet comprises inexpensive carbohydrate foods. Since these countries are consuming the very foods that can bring about diabetes, it is a very profitable market.

Novo Nordisk is just one pharmaceutical company supplying insulin. Insulin and other diabetic drugs are needed by millions, so I am not dismissing them out of hand, but just pointing out that this is business. Diabetes is huge business so let’s look at this industry. Approximately 80% of diabetics are overweight or obese so I am going to include some of the “obesity industry” bullet-points in my list.

  • pharmaceutical companies make insulin and anti-diabetic drugs of several sorts. Insulin prescriptions cost £328 millions and Metformin (anti-diabetes drug) £81 millions
  • needles and syringes are needed
  • books about diabetes are written and sold
  • specialist nurses and doctors must be trained in diabetes and then salaried, therefore…
  • trainers are needed – and someone to train them!
  • bariatric surgeons to provide surgery for those who cannot lose weight. (This is currently being discussed for diabetics with a lower body-mass index than for those with obesity alone.)
  •  gastric-band manufacturers
  • manufacturers of bariatric beds, chairs, commodes, hoists and other equipment
  • “diabetic foods”
  • blood sugar monitors and a constant supply of “blood sticks”

 

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These points indicate the industry (and it is not an exhaustive list). These businesses would go out of business if there were no diabetics and obesity. The actual cost of diabetes is incredibly far-reaching. Since diabetics have much more chance of becoming ill due heart disorders, lower limb problems even amputations and blindness, or whether just from minor infections – diabetics have more absence days from work than healthy people. They cost the work-place money – 8.4 billion per year. )LINK) There is a government benefits cost too for those that can’t work. The fact is, diabetics usually die younger. Harsh I know, but true nonetheless. What about the NHS? Hospital beds and GP surgeries are full of diabetics, due to all the complications that can be encountered by suffering diabetes. A simple statement which costs billions.

“The cost of diabetes to the NHS is over £1.5m an hour or 10% of the NHS budget for England and Wales. This equates to over £25,000 being spent on diabetes every minute.”

This is a disease that is, in the main, both preventable and reversible. Why is the research funding not directed at causes and prevention instead of maintenance drugs and cures? You answer.

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Statistics are from diabetes.co.uk.

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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Alzheimer’s – the Disease That Wrecks Lives

file000691888818Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia which is characterised by poor short term memory, irritability, confusion and sometimes aggression. The condition wrecks families and care homes are now bursting at the seams with residents suffering this condirion. Something must be done and whilst the news tells us that a drug maybe on the way, it is prevention that will ultimately have the most impact.

 

In AD the brain shrinks and it is unable to utilize the glucose it needs to function. Plaques of amyloid, a protein, are evident in the brain and this may be associated with a poor diet as AD is more often diagnosed in people who are obese.

There has been much speculation on the origins of the disease, but that aside, as it is becoming more prevalent – even in middle age, it would be safe to assume that our modern lives have something to do with this. So what in particular could be driving this increase?

1) There is conflicting evidence regarding aluminium. Our bodies do not require aluminium so it would seem a good idea to avoid it wherever possible.
2) Look at these facts:
- There is evidence that the brain makes its own insulin
- Obese people are more likely to be diagnosed with AD
- An anti-diabetic drug has been shown to help dementia

It would seem that this brain change has, at least to some degree, a dependence on sugar. Sugar promotes insulin in the blood and if an excess is taken in the diet (that is, all carbohydrates not just the white stuff) over a lifetime, insulin sensitivity results and obesity and diabetes follow. Maybe AD too.
3) Continuing on from the previous point, since the other fuels that our bodies can use are fat and ketones (a fat bi-product and one that can be used by the brain), it is essential that if we cut one fuel source then we must give our bodies another. Animal fats and coconut oil should be included in the diet.
4) The B vitamins have much to do with nerve function and the most important of these (due to its complex metabolism in the body) is vitamin B12.
5) Vitamin D deficiency is at epidemic proportions in the Western World. This study shows that it may contribute to AD.
6) Insufficient exercise maybe a causative factor, but it is unclear whether it is due to its balancing effect on blood sugar or the exercise itself that helps.

The above are the most plausible possible causes of AD but this is not an exhaustive list.

To me there is only one way to tackle Alzheimer’s Disease and that is to prevent it in the first place. Here are my recommendations:

  1. To avoid an excess of aluminium, use steel or glass cooking pots and opt for a deodorant rather than an antiperspirant – or just use soap and water.
  2. To keep blood sugar down and balanced, cut carbohydrate consumption. Foods to limit are sweet foods, bread, cereals and other foods made from grains.
  3. Including plenty of animal fats in the diet will provide a good source of fuel, fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins. Yellow butter, cream, egg yolks, fatty cuts of meat and oily fish (for Omega 3) will provide this. Coconut oil is also helpful in not just warding off AD but as a treatment for it.
  4. Shellfish and offal are good sources of vitamin B12 but many people nowadaysfile0001122917150 do not consume these foods on a regular basis. Experiment with pates, adding a little chopped liver to casseroles and Bolognese sauce or just frying with onions in plenty of butter. Folate and B12 work together so serve that liver with kale, sprouts or cabbage! Organic, pastured egg yolks are good for B12 too.
  5. Getting out in the sun and eating animal fats will supply your vitamin D.
  6. Even just frequent brisk walking will do for exercise, but find something you enjoy doing and you are more likely to stick with it.

I think it is possible to reverse AD to some degree with the measures above, but by employing them now, you dramatically lower your chances of developing it in the first place.

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New Sleep Research

Sleeping is a battle for many people, but it is so important. This has been known for a very long time but this research report is new.

We know that the body detoxifies itself overnight – this is probably the reason we end up with “morning mouth” and needing the loo soon after waking. What about the brain file0001104767429though? Dreaming is how the brain sorts out and stores our thoughts, experiences and feelings but on a cellular level, little has been known until now. The brain is largely made up of fats and water and it is known that fats can store toxins. Fortunately, the water component helps with the detoxification process. The study shows that brain cells shrink during sleep allowing fluids (including cerebro-spinal fluid) to wash the cells and flush out these stored toxins. Certain proteins lodge in the brain of dementia sufferers and these (I would say in some cases) too can be washed away into the “glymphatic” system and returned to the blood stream to be excreted in the usual ways.

It is very important to address your sleep if you are struggling with it. Poor sleep is associated with numerous health conditions – causing them or making existing conditions worse. This is a pretty good list of dos and don’ts at bed time.

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“Treat” Recipes!

Treat recipes – but still really good nutrition!

Yes, the ice-cream is a treat food but you can enjoy it with a clear conscience – your heart is being looked after and you are getting lots of wonderful (almost magical) fat-soluble vitamins. Even the maple syrup is good for you in small doses!

Banana breadThe banana cake is a recipe I have messed about with for some time and now it is perfect!  It would be fine as banana bread too – just omit the honey. It would be a really good “quick meal” and it’s very portable. For me it is a change to eggs or a big breakfast but there are lots of other times to enjoy this. It’s great for taking with you as a late breakfast whenever you don’t want to eat or don’t have time first thing in the morning. Children’s and spouse’s lunch boxes can be made more interesting and nutritious with its addition (but include the recipe for children’s lunch boxes or you’ll be accused of providing poor nutrition for your child!).
Lastly, try changing the honey to molasses and the cinnamon to a tablespoon of powdered ginger..

 

Maple Syrup Ice-Cream (Makes 1 litre)

300ml whole organic milk
200ml organic maple syrup
500ml organic double or sour cream (preferably raw)
6 organic egg yolks (whisked)

Bring the milk and maple syrup to almost boiling point. Add a couple of ladles to the egg yolks and mix well. Add this slowly to the hot milk and over a medium heat, stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens slightly taking care that the yolks don’t scramble!). Strain into a bowl, cover, cool then chill until you are ready to complete the ice-cream.
Thoroughly mix the cream into the custard. Pour into an ice-cream maker and churn until partially frozen. Pour into a freezer container and continue freezing. If you do not have an ice-cream maker, pour the mixture into a freezer container, freeze until the edges of the ice-cream have frozen then turn out into a bowl and whisk thoroughly. Repeat this once more.
To serve, remove the container from the freezer about 15 minutes to thaw slightly before scooping. If this is not the best ice-cream you have ever tasted, I’ll eat my hat! Remember though, the best results come from the best ingredients.

 

Banana Bread

6 large eggs
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
¼ – cup honey (or a little more if you like “sweet”.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup coconut oil/butter, melted
¾ cup coconut flour (This is the one I use.)
½ cup almond flour (NOT ground almonds. This is the one I use.)
2  teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
Pinch salt
4 very large bananas or five medium ones frozen, defrosted and mashed (don’t drain them)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease and line a loaf pan.
Beat the wet ingredients together thoroughly then sieve in the dry ingredients. Beat until blended.
Bake for 40-55 minutes until the loaf has darkened to very deep gold and the loaf is fairly firm. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a rack and cool completely.
Butter thickly!

Can be frozen – in slices if you prefer.

These look expensive but remember, they are food – real nourishment and not just a snack.

 

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Frankenstein Food and How to Properly Feed the World

What on Earth are we doing? We have SO lost the plot! This starts out as being a bit of a rant blog, but I want you to see not only what is happening but what could happen.

574983_22667767Do we really want to be eating a lab created – anything? In an attempt to “feed the world”, a burger was lab-created in 2013 making the story appeal to more people – those that can afford to read newspapers or watch a television or buy a burger – but really, do the starving countries of the world want burgers? No – what they want is the wherewithal to produce their own food. And for that matter, so do we. This monster that was created starts out white in colour and needs colouring and flavouring (pretty much like most commercially produced burgers) before it is made into a patty resembling a burger. Antibiotics are needed all through growth to protect it from rot (according to Professor Hugh Pennington of Aberdeen University). It’s not meat, it’s just another invention to make money. There is no altruism here. This is a quote from the news story:

“The professor (Professor Mark Post, of Maastricht University) said the meat was made up of tens of billions of lab-grown cells. Asked when lab-grown burgers would reach the market, he said: “I think it will take a while. This is just to show we can do it.””

I am always saying this but I’ll say it again – just because we can doesn’t mean we should! No one knows what the long term problems will be but count on it, there will be some and they will be far-reaching. We and the rest of the inhabitants of the world got here due to evolution – not Frankenstein science. We will pay for this.

OK. Now back to what is real and practical and inkeeping and sustainable. This is for 1008594_80327405everyone not just news-making mad scientists – they probably wouldn’t be interested in anything this simple anyway. At the end of the day, you are responsible for you and your family and you don’t need a scientists brain (thank goodness!) to make a difference. Grow food, keep chickens, make bread, cook from scratch using quality ingredients. It doesn’t get any easier. The outlay is negligible and it doesn’t matter where you live, you can do something to feed yourselves.

Cue Pam Warhurst. Please watch this. An ordinary woman with extraordinary drive.

This woman had a vision that she had the guts to put into practice. It’s now a global phenomenon and with your help, by sharing the video, it will continue to be.

And last but not least, here is the video of a man who should be knighted. Allan Savory is a Zimbabwean biologist and environmentalist who has shown that the simplest of ideas are the ones that get the best results. This is due to the fact that it works with nature not against it. Again, please watch it and pass it on. Everyone should know and then the world can make an informed choice about what is right and what is not.

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Prostate Cancer Testing in the News.

Prostate cancer is no rarity nowadays. It always was a cancer of elderly men and it has been shown that most men in their late seventies and eighties have cancerous cells in their prostate gland. Cancer here is usually slow-growing and diagnosis often made retrospectively, as death can be from an unrelated illness. Today, it is a cancer that all men need to know about as, due to lifestyle and diet, it is being diagnosed at an earlier age.

Testing for prostate cancer has become quite sophisticated in recent years. However as this article shows  – the tests are not perfect. Here is a short extract from the report:
“Of around 500 of the cases in which significant disease was present, just 50 per cent were detected during the traditional biopsy, compared with 68 per cent detection rates using the MRI-guided technique, the study found.

Not great statistics are they? We all need to take more responsibility for our health and well-being including our sexual health.

Firstly a bit of anatomy and physiology: The prostate (men only!)  is a walnut-sized and shaped gland which sits underneath the bladder and around the urethra (the tube to the outside). Its function is to form part of the seminal fluid.

Diagram manThe most common condition of the prostate is benign enlargement (or benign prostatic hypertrophy) which to some degree affects all men as they age. Very often it is a minor irritation, not a big problem. This is not cancer but if symptoms are felt, medical advice should be sought to exclude it.

The most common symptoms are urinating more frequently, not fully emptying the bladder and when passing urine, the stream is slow or weak. Benign enlargement is as far as is known, not preventable but cancer especially before old age, often is.

The best option is to take action now by changing your chances of developing cancer in the first place. These are the tips I would offer:

Ill-health does not happen by chance.  Most illness is brought about by incorrect diet and lifestyle so what are you going to change?

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