Vitamin D and Disease

Death numbers through chronic illness associated with vitamin D deficiency, are conservative in this article. There are at least twenty types of cancer now known to be associated and many other diseases. Fifty years ago vitamin D was all about  bone health – the absorption of calcium and prevention of rickets. Fifty years from now, we will know more and it will be worse – more cancers, infections, autoimmune diseases etc. Vitamin D is vital to life.

We now know that there are various forms of vitamin D (D3 being the most bio-available and D2 less so) and that this “vitamin” is a steroid hormone – not a true vitamin. As a hormone, it can penetrate virtually every cell in the body (and therefore affects every system) and influences our DNA. In other words, it is essential for life and health. It was the sun that brought us life on this planet (and a couple of other things) – and not surprisingly, the sun remains the best source of vitamin D3 but has many other health benefits too.

Vitamin D deficiency in the mother (maybe father too) affects unborn children – please read the article.

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Couple of things:
If you intend to take a supplement (always best to sunbathe and it’s free), please take vitamin D3 plus K2 as they work in tandem. (In supplements it is often D2, so check the label for “D3″.) Also make sure your magnesium intake is good. (Organic tomatoes, spinach and other green veg, avocados, fatty fish, nuts and seeds).
Our vitamin D source is SUPPOSED to come from the sun – that’s nature at work. Fortunately, we can store lots of it so we sunbathe (safely – see this post) in the summer and our D stores and food tide us over winter.
Vegetable sources of vitamin D is in the form of D2. Grazing animals can easily convert this to D3 – which is why animal sources are the best. Our ability to make this conversion is tenuous and cannot be relied upon.

Good food sources of vitamin D3 – organic wherever possible:
Eggs from pasture-raised hens (they need vitamin D too!)
Butter from grass-fed cows (and they do!)
Lard from outdoor pigs (err..see above)
Fats and offal from all outdoor animals
Full cream milk and cream (best raw)
All full cream cheeses but Brie, Gouda and some blue cheeses have K2 also.

Isn’t this the easiest “vitamin” in the world to find?

 

 

“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 Life-Giving Sun

Well summer does seem to be here doesn’t it? One day of sun and a thunderstorm! It’s all good – nature needs both and frankly, so do we. The sun gives us huge amounts of vitamin D3 amongst other things.

I am still largely opposed taking supplements of vitamin D3. I have written many times about the problems with taking supplements and maintain my stance. Buying them is fraught because we don’t know how they have been made or whether they contain what they are supposed to contain and even if they do, whether it’s in the right form for humans to absorb! It is just too costly and complicated

We need the sun for our lives

Let’s take the benefits of the sun. Everyone knows that the sun makes vitamin D3 in our file000336228048(1)skins. Just think about that for a moment. Isn’t it absolutely astounding? This is just one example of how we are dependent upon our environment. (There are many others but I’ll save them for another time.) We need the sun for our lives – literally in every sense. We cannot survive without it and we become sick if deprived of it. We would not be here without the sun – and neither would anything else. It is vital that we appreciate and accept this fact. Our to-date evolution, over hundreds of thousands of years has depended upon the sun more than anything else. Most other factors in life have alternatives or can be foregone for a while.

..we have an epidemic of diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency

There is much evidence that certain diseases are more prevalent the further north in the hemisphere one looks. But we have lived in these places for many thousands of years and these diseases were not prevalent in our ancestors. “Modern” diseases are to be evidenced from remains that are less than 10,000 years old – giving grounds for the popular belief that these illnesses started during the time when we became farmers and had more permanent forms of shelter. Personally, I doubt that many of these illnesses were due to lack of sun exposure – we were very much outdoor people at this time. Their health change was more to do with their rapidly changing diet but as time continued, even more permanent buildings were constructed and much work was done indoors.

Even in the last couple of hundred years or so, we spent much time outside – walking (to get from one place to another, not necessarily for pleasure), farming, gardening and doing all those other necessary jobs that involve us stepping outside the house. Not anymore. Bringing it bang up to date, we travel to our place of work by car where we then enter an artificially lit, windowed building which allows no UVB light to enter. We travel home by car and spend the rest of the day inside. For many, the main source of UVB light is once a year on holiday. And then what do we do? Smother ourselves in sunscreen! We are in real trouble. Now, here in the northern hemisphere, we have an epidemic of diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency – and it is true – the further north you look, the more of these diseases you find.

How we obtained our vitamin D through pre-history

If you accept that we originated in Africa about 100,000 years ago and migrated northwards, you will also understand that at this time our skins were dark which protected us from the relentless equatorial sun whilst still allowing us to obtain the benefits. The northward journey took time – no jumping on Easyjet and arriving a few hours later! It possibly took thousands of years to inhabit the most northerly areas. Remember that at this time the Asia and Europe we know now, didn’t exist and the countries were merged making the migration easier.

As we very gradually moved northwards, our skins lightened. Why do think that was? In order that we could still benefit from the now much weaker and less reliable UVB rays from the sun! Our skins had to lighten in order to scavenge these less frequent rays at a much quicker rate than our African cousins – and the further north you live – the paler your skin will be and the faster you will get your dose of vitamin D! So, given that we need the same levels of vitamin D, the same amount can be obtained in just a few minutes if your recent ancestry is Scottish, a bit longer if you’re English but much longer if you are dark-skinned and living in Africa!

Vitamin D3 is not really a vitamin. It is a pre-steroid hormone and as such, can affect your DNA (unlike true vitamins). My take on this, is that many of the diseases that we label as genetic may in fact be acquired. Chronic vitamin D deficiency can be passed to our offspring. I have lots of reasons for believing this but one factor that I have come across many times when I am asking people about their health, is the “Welsh Tale” as I have named it. If someone has several generations of miners in their family, there is more risk of disease in that person. I’m sure you get the connection. Another scenario which is well documented is that of recent immigrants (within a few generations) to the northern hemisphere. It is this group of people who are the sickest in the western world – more diabetes, heart disease, obesity etc. Whilst there is a dietary factor, there is also a lack of vitamin D from the sun. Life is indoors and even if some time is spent in the sun, it is rarely enough for vitamin D to form. Each generation does seem to have lighter skin even if both parents are dark-skinned – nature knows what has to be done, but this takes time.

Sunbathe!

To prevent vitamin D deficiency, we must sunbathe. It must be taken like medicine. If the sun is high in the sky and your shadow is shorter than you are tall, the UVB rays are reaching Earth. Depending on your skin colour, sunbathe as near to naked as possible for as long as it takes your skin to go pink. Not red. When this has been achieved, cover up, use sunscreen (try to find a non-toxic one or use coconut oil which offers a little protection) or go indoors.

Don’t use soap/shower gel for at least 24 hours as this will remove the skin oils that contain the vitamin D. Use just water on the main parts and maybe just a little soap where you feel you must. Moisturise your skin with something natural such as coconut oil. With this amount of sun exposure you can make up to 20,000 IU of vitamin D but your body will stop the manufacture when it has sufficient to deal with. This takes 24 – 48 hours – then you can go out and make some more! You won’t find this quantity in a supplement and indeed, if you took this amount, it would be harmful.

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Since the fat-soluble vitamins work together, make sure you get plenty of vitamins A and K2 as well. Cheese is a good source especially Brie and Gouda.

Vitamin D is just one reason why we need the sun but there are others. For example, there is evidence that we need it for energy – just like plants. Lots of people feel energised when in the sun. Also, UV light through our eyes regulates our Circadian rhythms, thus helping us sleep. There will be more evidence to come I feel quite sure. Here is another article about the effects the sun has on us.

I have written about it before, but for completeness, I will give you a run-down of the diseases that seem (research is showing) to be related to vitamin D deficiency: around twenty types of cancer; diabetes; depression; heart disease; bone abnormalities; auto-immune diseases; infections. More about vitamin D3 here.

This is one way to boost your health enormously – it’s all of the above and more – and you can do it for free! Now what are you doing here? Outside you go!

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Choices Choices…

What does “choice” mean to you? Every day we are faced with choices and we decide what to do based upon our experiences, knowledge, available time to contemplate a situation and our mood.

We make choices when driving – have we got sufficient stopping distance when the amber light shows or should we accelerate? Should we overtake the slow driver in front or sit tight? At what time is it safe to enter a round-about? In the main, it is experience that answers these questions but experience comes after we have passed our driving test and we have met these situations for real. Only then can we become safe, competent drivers making the right choices. In other words, we have to learn the basics before we can make safe judgements.

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How about your work? Were you given instruction prior to starting a new job? Did you have to get a degree in something in order to follow your career path? Did you then have to undertake further, more specific training? The point I am trying to make is that in order to make meaningful choices, we have firstly to be taught and then we gain experience. It applies to most things. You only once need to click on a dodgy email to find out what a computer virus is and how to recognize it!

“Illness for the large part is preventable

You have heard it before, but if you don’t have your health, you lose everything – your freedom, your job, your home possibly and ultimately, even your life. I know this sounds dramatic but as a nurse, I have seen this so very many times. Illness for the large part is preventable. I have felt sad and frustrated when patients are diagnosed with preventable conditions that are set to devastate lives. So what is your choice?

Most people “learn” about food by walking into a supermarket and selecting foods that they want not need. We are not altogether to blame for this. A supermarket layout is designed for their benefit, not yours. Your choice is being manipulated. So often I see mothers with children in the supermarket and the children are making the choices! Did you see an advert on the television last night that made you think “I must try that”?   Again, our choices are being manipulated.

If we do learn about the food we are eating, how can you be sure that the information is sound? We are bombarded with so-called health programmes – people losing weight, embarrassing bodies, fat versus sugar and so on. These programmes are entertainment not education. By watching them we learn that vegetables are important to health and of course they are, but what we are not told is even more important. Vegetables may have been sprayed with toxic pesticides and the food may have been genetically modified which has known, serious long-term effects. The other little gem we all think we know is about calories. Calories in versus calories out = balance. So now we are searching for low calorie foods and this is stated on packaging making it easy for us. Another of our choices has been decided. Oh and of course, we must look for low-fat foods as fat is fattening. The reason the Western World has epidemics of obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancers is because we trust that the information given to us is correct. We weren’t let loose in a car in order to learn safe driving so why do we think that going to a supermarket will educate us in nutrition? In both cases, we are going to crash.

My advice is to learn. Read. Possibly the first thing to look for is vested interest. Are you going to learn about probiotics from yogurt makers? Do you hear vitamin information from breakfast cereal producers? Do you trust information about heart health from margarine manufacturers?  Will you learn about cholesterol from people who want you to lower yours? When these questions are asked, it sounds mad doesn’t it?

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I want you to learn about nutrition and health from people whose aim is education not profit and I am one of these! As a nurse I believe we all have a right to health and I want to share my knowledge so that we can all make informed choices – the way it should be.

A wonderful non-profit organization is the Weston A. Price Foundation. This site has a wealth of information from people who are well qualified and really care. It’s a great place to learn the basics of nutrition.

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You’re Eating a “Balanced” Diet – But is it the Right One?

If you and a friend wrote a menu for the day which illustrated a “balanced diet”, I can guarantee it would be nutritionally, completely different. The trouble is, “balanced” means different things to different people. In fact it is a word that really bugs me (along with “super-food”!).

So many people say to me that they think that eating a balanced diet is the way to go and of course, I agree but as a nutritionist my “balanced diet” will be based on a very different set of guidelines to theirs.

There is only one set of rules for a truly balanced diet – this took me ages to put into words!
Eating the foods that supply all the nutrients known to be required (and those with no names as yet) for the correct functioning of the body at all ages.

It sounds simple and obvious but there is a lot more to it than these few words, albeit they are the bottom line. As far as we know, humans all over the world need the same nutrients. However, it is possible that the ratio of these nutrients will change from continent to continent, due to the hugely varying environments. How on Earth are we supposed to know what to eat and how much?

file0001949597792Supermarkets have for many years now, provided food to the majority of people. So, theoretically we should be able to buy our “balanced diet”. We think we can but supermarkets have a way of influencing us to boost their sales – not to boost our health! Sweets near the checkouts, wafts of bread baking, foods they want us to buy at eye-level – there are more wiles and I don’t know them all – but for them, it is an art. This can very much affect what we come home with.

It is all very well knowing a bit about nutrients and where they are found but can we rely on this knowledge? I could tell you that there is vitamin D in green leafy vegetables – and there is. The problem is that it is not in the form that is usable in the human body – we have to convert it and not everyone is able to do this. I could tell you that vitamin B12 is present in some vegetable foods but this is never available to us as the only B12 analogue that we can use comes from animal sources. Vitamin A is available in some plants but as a substance called beta-carotene – a pro-vitamin. In other words, we have to change it to the usable vitamin – and guess what? Some people can’t do it!

I have spoken before about “five-a-day”. I imagine that we all know what this means. I understand why this recommendation came about – an attempt to increase our nutrients and in recommending this, it would steer us away from junk foods. Laudable I’m sure. Strange as it may seem, other European countries have different recommendations on how many portions a day we should have! There are problems with all these guidelines.
1) A few hundred years ago, we had only fruit and vegetables that were in season and what we could preserve by drying or salting as there were no fridges or freezers. As this was case, from where did we obtain our needed nutrients?  And we obviously did because we’re still here!
2) Is it even beneficial that we consume fruit on a daily basis? Imported fruits tend to be high in sugar and little else. The same goes for some imported vegetables – by the time they reach us their nutrient content has depleted considerably.
3) Fresh vegetables and fruit sounds good doesn’t it? How good is it really? Firstly, it is rarely as fresh as it should be – just think of the long journey some produce has to make to get to us. These days, varieties are bred for their keepability and then they may be sprayed/washed in chlorinated water/waxed to enhance this further. Do we want this on our plates? Added to that, during the growth of veg and fruit, they will have been sprayed with pesticides which are very toxic.
4) There is a good chance that some standard fresh produce will be genetically modified – and this problem is increasing. There is much evidence that GMOs are dangerous to us long term.

We need to get a handle on a “balanced diet” and what it means for us. If you are to obtain the correct nutrients for humans, eat a variety of mainly seasonal, organically produced foods. Eat small fish and shellfish from a reputable fishmonger. Eat offal as well as muscle meat. Eat animal fat from animals raised on pasture, natural game and eggs from hens that have been allowed to roam outside. Grow your own vegetables and fruit or buy seasonal varieties. Organic dairy adds lots of nutrition. If you eat grains and legumes, treat them properly. Add in a few nuts and seeds. This should be the backbone of your diet – what you eat on a daily basis. Once this is achieved, it is fine to have an occasional treat (mine’s an almond croissant!). Problems arise when treat foods replace the nutrient dense foods listed above.

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The nourishment of your body depends upon this balanced diet. Your appetite will regulate itself and you won’t feel hungry as often. It is what you chew, swallow, digest, absorb and utilize that will determine your health. Unfortunately, in someone less than healthy, things can go wrong at each these stages. That is the time to see a nutritionist!

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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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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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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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Change4Better or Change4Worse?

No doubt you will have seen the government’s Change4Life campaign this year. It is a subject that the government tackle most years, the focus being slightly different each time. The website tells you how many have signed up, but of course, not how many have dropped out.

There is absolutely no doubt that the health of the nation has to be addressed, but it is sad that the supporters have had their two-penn’orth.  Have a look at the partners.  In amongst some well-intentioned organizations you will see, Pepsi, Danone, Mars, McCain and Unilever (Flora and many more brands). Some of these are billionaire multinational conglomerates. Why are they here? I could speculate but I think it is better if you do the thinking.

file000342738006The overall recommendations fall short of a healthy diet and the “swaps” are downright wrong. Being generous, there are degrees of “healthy diet”. No doubt the recommendations would improve the health of some, but why give false information? Far better we learn the truth about food from day one and frankly, saying that sugar-free fizzy drinks are better than their original counterparts is just wrong. This is literally swapping one range of illnesses for another. Not only is the sweetener aspartame (Canderel pink) dangerous to health, but sweetened foods and drinks can also lead to obesity and diabetes.

“Watch out for the hidden nasties!” is the catch-phrase that is used on the Change4Life website. But what about all these “nasties”? Artificial flavours, colours and preservatives abound. We should not be advocating changing sugary drinks for artificially sweetened drinks. We should be suggesting swaps that contribute to our health. Water (even fizzy water), tea, milk and fermented milk drinks give us true hydration and positive nutrition. (Even water contains minerals.) Here are the ingredients for Diet Pepsi:
Carbonated Water, Colour (Caramel E150d), Flavourings (including Caffeine), Phosphoric Acid, Sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame K), Acidity Regulator (Sodium Citrate), Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Citric Acid, Contains a source of Phenylalanine.
…and for water:
Water

And what about the low fat swaps? If you believe that we need to restrict saturated fat, you are likely to go along with these recommendations. The advice is to choose low-fat dairy products – semi-skimmed milk, low fat cheese and yogurts. When you do this, you lower the intake of saturated fat – and thus the all-important fat-soluble vitamins – but increase that of potentially toxic additives! This is a list of the ingredients for Shape (owned by Danone)low-fat mango yogurt:
Yogurt (Skimmed Milk, Skimmed Milk Concentrate, Milk Proteins, Yogurt Cultures), Water, Mango (6%), Fibre (Oligofructose), Stabilisers (Modified Maize Starch, Carrageenan), Sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame K), Acidity Regulators (Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate), Flavouring, Colour (Paprika Extract).
…and for Total Greek yogurt:
Pasteurised Cows’ Milk, Milk Cream, Live Active Yoghurt Cultures
To me the swap should be to full fat natural yogurt – not a yogurt brimming with artificial ingredients.

There is another advertisement that troubles me – for Cheese Strings. I don’t have huge issues with this product but there is a statement on screen, “Children should consume no more than a small matchbox size piece of cheese a day and low fat choices are more suitable.” I cannot find the origin of the statement and neither do Ifile0001486924909 agree with it.  As always, it is your whole diet which makes a difference to your health – for better or worse. Singling out one food like this is a very poor way to educate us about nutrition. For all the information this provides, as long as there is one matchbox sized piece of cheese in your child’s lunchbox, it would be fine to put in a bag of crisps, a chocolate biscuit and a bottle of pop. Full fat cheese is a wonderfully nutritious food and inexpensive too. Most children find it very palatable (the taste-buds doing their job) so it is a great addition to a lunch box. For a primary school child – a bread wrap with cheese and salad, a natural full fat yogurt with a little apple puree stirred in and a bottle of water makes a good nutritious and substantial lunch. Add a few squares of chocolate if you want as a treat – (NOT the whole bar!)

To promote healthy eating, Change4Life’s campaign encourages the change to low fat and artificially sweetened food and drinks, from their full-fat and sugary counterparts. This is not the right way. Changing to a diet of whole fresh foods is the right way. I normally advise organic food but small changes are easier to manage. One step at a time!

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