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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Acne – The Most Common Skin Disease in the Western World

The skin problem Acne Vulgaris is another condition of several combined factors – hormones, diet, infection, over-production of sebum (our skin oil) and possibly the way we wash. There may be others too.

1146989_45040779It is probably brought about by diet (although there are drugs and medical conditions that can cause acne, but they are rare).  Your diet and your health are inextricably linked and just being told “it’s your age and you’ll grow out of it” – is nonsense. Also, people well into their middle-age can suffer from acne – including me. In fact I had acne well into my 40s. It disappeared when I drastically changed my diet and my skin

So what of these other factors? Testosterone over-production is one (men and women produce this hormone). As we know acne is common in teenagers and this is the very time when hormones are buzzing. Interestingly, teenage acne is uncommon amongst primitive people eating a natural hunter-gatherer diet and very common in the Western World and countries with similar lifestyles.

Another factor is the bacteria on our skin. We are absolutely heaving with bacteria – both inside and out! Normally these live in harmony with each other and with us in fact we would not live long without them. Unfortunately, antibiotics are often prescribed for acne and whilst these may help temporarily, the protective bacteria may also be destroyed ensuring the condition returns.

Since “we are what we eat” it stands to reason that if you are eating a lot of foods that are not ideal, that your body fluids and structures will alter over time. The sebum (oil) in your skin will be not only over-produced but chemically changed.  Opportunist bacteria – that is the ones that don’t contribute to our health – see their chance to move in and create havoc, in this case – causing acne.

Yet another factor is indirectly to do with the sun as we make vitamin D from skin oils reacting with sunlight (the UVB rays). You may not be surprised to learn that vitamin D is needed for our immunity and for the production of hormones! Just a few thousand years ago we lived pretty much outside and our vitamin D levels would always have been high, very similar in fact, to primitive people now. We live and work indoors, use cars for transport and slather on high factor sunscreen before venturing outside. The Western World now has an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency. There is also some evidence that shows that the action of a moderate amount of sunlight directly on to acne-affected skin can improve the condition.

There are many medications for acne, but in my opinion, they only work temporarily and can damage our gut bacteria. A natural approach is a better option and these are my recommendations:
1) Adopt a low-carbohydrate diet which contains animal fats and not seed oils. Eat plenty of vegetables and eggs too. A low fat diet will not help and may make the condition worse.
2) Wash your skin twice a day only with a very mild, preferably unscented and un-perfumed skin-wash or better still use jojoba oil to cleanse. Lightly massage in, remove with tissue then wipe gently with a clean, damp cloth. This is very effective, as jojoba oil has a similar chemical profile to sebum and can dissolve it and remove grime at the same time. Add a drop of tea tree oil to the jojoba oil sometimes.
3) Get some sun!

This is not an overnight solution but changing your diet will, within a month for most people, show real benefits.

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IBS – Host to a Host of Undesirables (IBS Part 4)

It is my belief that our gut microbes have a great deal to do with who we are as people. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Let me tell you how I see it.

We are literally heaving with microbes! We have trillions more microbes in our gut than we do cells that make up our bodies and they can weigh more than a kilo. We are not entirely  human!

As far as we are concerned, they come in three types:
1) The ones we need for our health.
2) The ones “passing by” (in quantity, some of these may also make us ill).
3) The ones that make us sick – the opportunists.

Now, if we have enough of the ones we need for health, they will ensure that the microbes in the other two categories don’t do us much harm.

The microbes needed for health help with many functions – including the digestion of food, protection of our gut wall and keeping all other microbes in check. In return, we feed them – a truly symbiotic relationship.

bacteriaAll living things need to take in some form of energy and as this is used up, waste products are created which have to be released. The waste products (or metabolites) of the “good guys” in our intestines are things we need such as B vitamins and enzymes. The metabolites of the passers-by are of no consequence in small quantities but then we come to the bully-boys. The metabolites of these can really make us ill – substances similar to opiates and others related to the tetanus toxin, production of horrendous gases such as hydrogen sulphide (the rotten eggs smell) are just a few of the effects that affect our health. Regrettably, our modern diets nourish these pathogens, perpetuating the problem.

Very often, these pathogenic organisms are left to dominate when we have been subjected to poor health over a period of time, repeated use of antibiotics, chemotherapy treatment for cancers and other continuous drug treatments for chronic illness. In order to colonise, some of these microbes have the ability to “anchor” themselves to the intestinal wall thus creating microscopic fissures in the delicate single-celled lining. This allows them, their metabolites and minuscule particles of undigested food into the blood stream. What happens then is another story but just consider what opiate-like substances might do to the brain if this can happen.

The most common opportunist microbe to invade the gut when conditions are right is candida albicans. This yeast acts as a fungus when allowed to overgrow. It needs another blog to describe the effects and this will be the subject for next time.

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“How Did I Get Irritable Bowel Syndrome?” (IBS Part 1)

IBS is at the top of medical reasons for absence from work, sharing the slot with the common cold. The impact on the workplace is not insignificant, but it can have a truly devastating effect on the individual.

Toilet road signIrritable bowel syndrome is a miserable condition as any sufferer knows. It can vary in how it presents itself, how uncomfortable it is, how long it lasts and how it affects individuals. Perhaps the most disruptive aspect – is that a flare-up can happen without warning. Plans for the day go out of the window as  a day in bed, near to the bathroom is all that is practical.

When I started nursing in the 70s, there was no such thing as irritable bowel syndrome. Even ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease were rarities. I do remember that there were a few cases of “spastic colon”, which I guess was the forerunner to IBS but again it was rare. What has happened since then to make gut problems commonplace now?

I have interviewed hundreds of patients during my career as a nurse and I have often been asked “how did I get irritable bowel syndrome?” Over this time I have been able to put two and two together and after considerable researching, reflecting and witnessing, have at last made four! For so long, the sums just made no sense. Why do some drugs cause diarrhoea? Why is it many people do not recover completely after a nasty bout of holiday tummy? Why is an upset stomach common after chemotherapy? Or more to the point, the question I eventually asked was – why is it some people are OK after these things?

Most of us have had antibiotics at some time, but for women in particular, a course of antibiotics means another problem – thrush – why? Or for anyone, antibiotics can cause diarrhoea – again, why?

There is a common denominator in all the above situations and it is candida. The ubiquitous yeast, candida.

The symptoms of candida infection (overgrowth), exactly match those of IBS. Bloating, stomach cramps, headaches, gas, constipation and diarrhoea and more. Can this be coincidence? I don’t think so and over the next few weeks, I want to answer some of the questions I have posed here.

 

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Breast Cancer and Diet

It is a sad fact that we are less healthy today than we were fifty years ago. Cancer, including of the breast, are diseases of ageing and waning immunity so why is it that it is being diagnosed in mid-life or even earlier now? The answer almost certainly lies in our modern diets and lifestyle.

Every day we all make cells that are less than perfect. This is not a problem for a healthy body – the immune system does not allow these cells to flourish. They will be dismantled and removed to ensure the body stays healthy. This protective action is seen time after time within the body. Think of the liver – it is probably the busiest organ in the body and is an expert at multi-tasking. It works tirelessly to make the nutrients we require and detoxify us of the substances we don’t need or could be dangerous. We constantly bombard our bodies with toxic chemicals – shampoos, shower gels, cosmetics and importantly in the case of breast cancer, antiperspirants. We also receive noxious substances in our food – antibiotics, hormones, chemical preservatives, colourants and flavourings. The liver has a hard time removing all this and if it can’t get rid of it, the liver will store some “out of the way”. This is not a good idea at all.

In order that these mechanisms work efficiently, the right diet in addition to avoiding the wrong one is of paramount importance. Why would you want to aim for anything else? Cancer is a horrible disease wherever it is, but for women breast cancer can change everything that is held dear and ruin confidence and self-esteem as well as health.

One of the most important aspects of the diet, are the choices we make choosing fats. Yes – we need fats and we need the ones that are loaded with the fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins that are essential for the correct functioning of cells, hormones and Salmonthe rebuilding of tissues. These must be the traditional fats including butter – the best ones are from organic and preferably pastured beef, pork, lamb, duck and goose fats. Also, two excellent vegetable oils are (again organic) coconut and olive oils. These are in addition to, not instead of the animal fats. Oily fish such as wild salmon, mackerel and sardines provide essential fats which are anti-inflammatory. We definitely do not want highly processed seed oils – either for frying or as margarine. These are very harmful to us and compromise our immunity.

A diet high in sugars and other carbohydrate foods will increase blood glucose and therefore insulin levels. There is a good deal of research to show that constantly high levels of insulin encourage the growth of at least some cancers – including breast. It is beneficial for your all-round health to adopt a low carbohydrate, organic diet.

It is also a good idea to forgo soya. Not only is it usually genetically modified, but it messes with hormones due to its phytoestrogen content. Our hormones are best left to their own devices.

Stress is a very significant factor. Any stress, be it physical or mental sets up the release of stress hormones from the glands. They are there for our protection – should we need it for instant energy to allow us to get out of danger. This is fine for a short period of short duration but long term, this is harmful for health. As the stress hormones release glucose into the blood, over time the blood vessels become inflamed. Our bodies hate inflammation and this is the cause or at least a factor in many diseases.

I couldn’t possibly write a blog without the mention of vitamin D! Whilst we are carefully staying out of the mid-day sun in order to avoid skin-cancer, we are inviting a whole host of other disastrous illnesses – including some types of breast cancer.

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The Resistance to Antibiotics

There is more news today about the dangers of antibiotic resistance. We shouldn’t be surprised by this. When we routinely use antibiotics (in animal farming and for some chronic illnesses) or occasionally use (for eg. a throat infection), we are just opening the door for the opportunist bully-boy microbes to get a foothold as we and the animals will have such poor immunity.

Antibiotics don’t just wipe out the pathogens – they also wipe out the very microbes that keep us healthy.

A short history lesson: Simple organisms such as bacteria and yeasts, have been around since life on earth began more than 3.5 billion years ago. All other life arrived long after this time. More animal and plant species have become extinct, than exist today and that is an understatement. When (not if) we die out, micro-organisms will still live quite happily. We are not in charge – they are.

However – we’re not going just yet! We have to learn to live with micro-organisms – and I say learn because, due to “products”, we have lost our natural ability to defend ourselves against pathogens. I have written many times on the different aspects of our immune systems so I will keep it brief here.

There are two classes of microbes that we have to manage. The ones that help us to live and the rest. If we concentrate on nourishing and nurturing the types that we depend upon for life and health, the others will (most often) stay in their place and be relatively harmless to us. If we ignore this, we allow the usually harmless organisms to become a pathological threat. Simple isn’t it?

Here are a few of links to other blogs regarding immunity:
Winter Bugs
Immunity
Snot a Joke!

“Urgent action to develop new drugs” is the cry of Professor Dame Sally Davies, the government’s chief medical officer.  Although this may save the dying, it will do nothing for our future. Look after your immunity.

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The Getting of Immunity

An elderly relative recently moved into a nursing home and I was offered some of her effects. During the clear-out of her home, I was shocked to see the amount of cleaning products that she was using. These products always have warnings on them, but that means they contain toxins!

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We are led to believe that we need a different product for every job and the ads are obviously very effective. In fact go into any large supermarket and you will see a whole aisle of these products and they are not cheap. Quite apart from the fact that they are largely unnecessary, what about the chemicals? These are not innocent and can be hazardous when wrongly used and/or for people with respiratory or skin problems. Good old soap and water will do a great job without upsetting the delicate microbial balance. It is quite amazing what can be done with vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice!

Potentially, the biggest problem with many of these substances is their germ-killing ability. In a hospital, it is essential to keep infection to an absolute minimum – for obvious reasons so their use is necessary to prevent cross-infection – ill people are very vulnerable. It is at the very least a contributory factor that the nation’s generally poor immunity generates the need for stronger and stronger antibiotics and antimicrobial agents. Chronic illness such as asthma, eczema, autoimmune diseases, gut problems and so on are increasing year on year are whilst our immunity is decreasing – thus making us that much more susceptible. What is missing is a robust immunity.

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This piece of research highlights the importance of building a healthy immune system – the best insurance policy for a child’s future life. Allowing children to walk bare-foot, having pets, playing in the garden and digging the soil – are all measures that allow a healthy immune system to develop. Work-surfaces must be kept visibly clean – but not sterile.  It is possible that when an immune system is busy naturally making antibodies to antigens, it won’t be bothered with a bit of cat fluff, feathers or pollen.

We are also rather paranoid about food beyond its sell-by date. Maybe it is prudent with packaged foods as there is no way of knowing how long they’ve been on the supermarket shelf – but foods like cheeses, meat and vegetables need considered opinion. My mother used her sight, sense of smell and sometimes even taste to see if a natural raw food was still edible. Many natural foods contain enzymes and other substances beneficial to the immune system – cheeses for example. Naturally fermented foods such as cheeses and yogurt, sauerkraut, (properly prepared) salami and so on are teeming with beneficial bacteria. The inclusion of these foods into the diet can help build good immunity.

Lastly, here is a little experiment for you. Have your usual shower and use a sponge/flannel but no shower gel. You will not smell! It is fine to use a little, two or three times a week but it is the water that cleanses you. In this way you will leave the skin to care for itself (which it does exceptionally well), the ph is intact, the oil isn’t stripped and the microbes are left to protect you.

We are supposed to live in harmony with microbes – we can’t exist without them so let’s stop the massacre!

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