The “It’s Your Life!” Show – Growing Up!

After a lifetime in nursing and five and a half years as a Clinical Nutritionist, I had an idea – a good one! The “It’s Your Life!” natural health show opened its doors at Rivermead Leisure Complex in Reading, April 2015.

My life has been all about health – it is my passion. We are a species that should be born to wellness, not illness and I have seen far too much unnecessary ill-health. As a nutritionist, I have met people who have become poorly through no fault of their own (not knowingly at least), or the fault of others who are may also have been misguided. To me, there is absolutely no point in treating anyone unless I also tell them why we’re doing what we’re doing. Education – period.

During my yoga class at Rivermead Leisure Complex in Reading in October last year, a light came on – and burned brightly! Educating people on a one-to-one basis is great, but why not get lots of people in one place, on one day and have knowledgeable, natural health and wellbeing professionals to guide these people to better health choices? An event, in fact! Taking the bull by the horns, after the class, I sought a manager. He loved the idea! I was thinking a few stands and demonstrations but when the events manager showed me the hall available – I was truly astounded! It was huge! “Oh yes,” he said. “You’ll easily get eighty stands in here.” Gauntlet thrown down!

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After a chat with my friend Isabel (Once Upon a Cook), the show was born. The main aspects of healthy life would be demonstrated as:
Moving – how we exercise
Nourishing – how we feed ourselves
Wellbeing – how we live

For the next four months, the computer and I were joined at the hip. I only wanted the best people exhibiting. Wherever possible, exhibitors would be fairly local or be selling goods online. It was important to be showcasing that which is on the doorstep in Reading.

After a many sleepless nights, I had my exhibitors. (Inspiration often visited at that time! A pencil and paper at the side of the bed was vital.) This bunch of people were bursting with enthusiasm!

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The day was fabulous. Let me say now, many years as a nurse and nutritionist does NOT make one an event organiser! I made mistakes and lessons have been learned. Nonetheless, from the feedback forms, it seems that the visitors had a great time. The feedback from the exhibitors was that they had done well and had loved being in a hall with so many like-minded people – I couldn’t agree more! Most of the exhibitors will be back for the next show.

 

From the visitors
“Exceeded expectations – absolutely brilliant!”
“Brilliant! Really enjoyed myself!”
“Two days needed!”
“It’s perfect, but more stalls!”

From the exhibitors
“Excellent for the first time”
“First time – we’re impressed!”
“A good quality event”
“Great to meet like-minded people!”
“We had a blast!” (read testimonial here)

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Planning has begun for the next event in Reading. It will be bigger and better! I have been approached by several more companies who would like to exhibit in November. There will be more healthy food stands, more holistic therapists, some exciting new skin products and it is a great place for your Christmas shopping! Join us:

NOVEMBER 22ND  RIVERMEAD LEISURE COMPLEX, READING 10 – 4 PM

AND, the It’s Your Life! show will be in Birmingham in the new year, hosted by Isabel Natrins of Once Upon a Cook… Food wisdom, Better Living!

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.

Diabetes Simplified

 The name Diabetes Mellitus has Latin and Ancient Greek origins. Roughly translated it means “sweetness (honey, actually) passing through”. A urine test will often show sugar is present in a new diabetic – the “sweetness passing through”.

 

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Diabetes comes about when the body is not able to control its blood sugar correctly, because it can’t control its insulin supply. Insulin is the hormone which metabolises blood sugar – glucose to be accurate, sending it to muscles for physical energy, storing some in the muscles and liver as glycogen, and when those reserves are full, it will turn it to fat and store it in adipose (fat) tissue.

In type 1 diabetics, the pancreas produces little or no insulin. The diagnosis is often made during puberty or adolescence. There are many theories about the cause of this type, but none that are definitive.  In type 2, the pancreas has had to produce more and more insulin in response to blood sugar, as the mechanisms becomes less sensitive (insulin sensitivity) to the same levels of blood glucose. This leaves glucose in the blood with nowhere to go – this is the state of hyperglycemia. As the disease progresses it is called “insulin resistance”. Unlike type 1, there are many known factors in type 2 diabetes which I will refer to later. There are some other causes of diabetes, but as these make up the minority, I will not discuss them here.

“Type 2 diabetes is now so common, it would be reasonable to say that in the western world, it is at epidemic proportions.”

Type 1 diabetes makes up around 10% of all cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes makes up almost all of the remaining 90% of all types. It used to be known “mild” (which it is most certainly not) or “late-onset” diabetes, because that is when it most often presented. Today however, diagnosis of type 2 is not uncommon in much younger people – even adolescents and children. This is not necessarily due to modern methods of diagnosis, as associated metabolic diseases are also increasing.

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

The signs and symptoms of diabetes are similar for both types;

  • excessive thirst
  •  polyuria (excessive urinating)
  •  minor infections and delayed healing
  •  Tiredness
  • sometimes weight-loss.

Often, diabetes isn’t diagnosed until something major occurs – heart attacks, strokes, eye-problems and severe infections.

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Type 2 diabetes is now so common, it would be reasonable to say that in the western world, it is at epidemic proportions. There are many possible factors and associations involved, which include;

  • a diet high in concentrated carbohydrate foods –bread, breakfast cereals, cakes, sweets, fizzy drinks etc.
  • vitamin D deficiency
  • intake of polyunsaturated vegetable fats – seed oils and margarine
  • family history of diabetes
  • lack of exercise
  • obesity is an association, being caused by the same metabolic problem as diabetes

The most important factors for preventing diabetes are essentially my Healthy Life guidelines. The chances of an adolescent  being diagnosed with type 1 would most certainly be reduced if all couples trying for a baby and the mother whilst pregnant, by following these guidelines. As well as adopting this lifestyle, people with type 2, or a pre-diabetic condition, need to reduce carbohydrates more and increase their intake of good fats.

Next time I will address the industry that diabetes has engendered.

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Stop Counting Calories and Start Counting Nutrients – part 2

The government guidelines of the 1980s are still with us, despite oodles of research calling them into question.

The two main groups on the Eatwell plate, are fruit and vegetables and the carbohydrate foods – bread, pasta, rice etc. They both have their place but not in this way – I wrote about these groups last time. The foods here have a fairly low calorific value and of course, file331303081137(1)this is one reason why the government came up with this recommendation – to try (in vain) to curb obiesity. The calorific value of foods has become the most important attribute of a food to dieters, nutritionists, dieticians and even those who just want to look after their health. This is a mistake. The whole point of hunger is the body telling the mind that it is time to replenish spent nutrients. What is required is food that replaces these – not a rice cake which has very little energy value – and in fact, very little of anything else either. Let’s look at the rest of the Eatwell plate – three further sections (making up the last third) which make up the whole.

Non-dairy proteins: There are essential proteins – meaning we must eat them. The foods containing proteins are mainly of animal origin. These are complete proteins and ideal for humans. There are many vegetable sources of protein but as they are incomplete, a wide range of these must be eaten. The foods include eggs, beans, peas, fish and meat from animals.

A few problems:
1) There is no guidance for vegetarians as to how to mix vegetable sources of proteins.
2) The amount depicted is a little less than I would suggest. The “slice” represents about 13% of the total plate. Roughly the same is recommended for the dairy proteins bringing the total to about one quarter of the plate.
3) Lean meat is advised and there is no mention of offal. Muscle meat is good – with its natural fat which is needed for the metabolism of protein. Offal is incredibly nutrient dense so only a little at a time is needed in order to receive the benefits. Grazing animals, or more precisely, their gut microbes, are able to convert the vegetation they eat into all the nutrients they require. Having done this, the animals store their nutrients in their organs – liver, brain, glands and kidneys. Superb nutrition!
4) If you are not eating organic meats and wild-caught fish, then you are dosing yourself with broken down antibiotics/hormones and other drugs.

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Dairy proteins: This group of foods are advised for both their protein and their mineral content. Whilst unnecessary for good health, they make obtaining nutrition easier and more varied. In their natural state, they provide a wonderful array of goodies for us so if you can find a source, use raw milk products. Organic pasteurised milk is a reasonable food although it is not the same nutritionally as its raw counterpart. Sadly, most dairy products have been tampered with in some way.

The problems:
1) Dairy products are denatured by the pasteurisation and homogenisation of milk, the addition of colours, sugar, thickeners and flavours to yogurt, processing of cheese to make “child-friendly” products etc.
2) The recommendations are (with the exception of that given to small children) for low fat varieties. More denaturing.  It is the fat soluble vitamins contained in the cream that allow calcium and other minerals to be absorbed – so why is the cream removed? To save on calories of course!
3) Dairy cows are given antibiotics routinely, ensuring that you get some too.
4) Cream and butter are not even given a mention. They do not contain any useful protein but the dairy section of the Eatwell plate would be much more valuable had they been included. They contain lots of fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids. Raw butter and cream are health foods. There are essential fats – we must obtain them from here and from meat products.

The last and smallest section on the plate is the “fatty/sugary” foods and I (almost) completely agree. (I imagine the Eatwell Plate includes butter, cream, raw honey etc. here, but these in moderation add positive nutrition.) The problems with overeating these are many – diabetes, obesity, heart disease, compromised immunity and so many more. Our love for these foods corrupts the smooth-functioning of the body – literally everything will be compromised. As usual, there are sweet fatty foods and sweet fatty foods. Ice-cream made with vegetable fat, ordinary sugar, flavourings and colourings should be avoided at all costs. My ice-cream contains organic milk, eggs, cream and maple syrup. Not only is it a treat, but it is good for you too! There are lots of parallels to be drawn.

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In general, the foods to be avoided are the cheap sweet foods – sweets, fizzy pop, biscuits, bought cakes. They often contain large quantities of highly processed seed oils which are downright dangerous for our health. Sugar is nothing but sweetness with no nutritional benefits whatsoever. Sugar and seed oils are both contenders for the top spot as the most damaging “foods” for our health.

It is not a requirement to add vitamin/mineral content of foods on packaging. Since these values vary so enormously even in the same foods, neither would it be a wise addition. However, it might be a good idea to put “a good source” if a food is rich in a certain nutrient. Frankly, you are better off buying fresh foods without packaging and do your own research regarding nutrients. Read my guidelines for health for more information.

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Stop Counting Calories and Start Counting Nutrients – Part 1

It was during the 1980s that food nutrition labelling became compulsory and specific. I don’t remember exactly but it was probably at the same time that the government launched their nutritional guidelines – depicted now by the Eatwell Plate.

Most people will be familiar with it but as a rough guide – the plate is divided into three sections. In the first is for fruit and vegetables, the second for bread, cereals, potatoes and pasta and the third is again divided. It is divided into three segments, one smaller than the other two. The two larger are for dairy and protein foods and the smaller section for fatty/sugary foods.

There is no doubt that this way of eating is better than many diets – limiting “fatty/sugary” for one. (I agree with this as these foods generally contain highly processed seed oils rather than natural fats.) However, it falls short of advice for robust health.

This Eatwell Plate shows only the major food groups – proteins, fats carbohydrates and of course, as there isn’t a specific food group for fruit and veg, one has been created. What it fails in, is guiding us towards a nutrient dense diet – in fact it does just the opposite. The two largest sections on the plate are not (in general) nutrient dense. Let’s take each separately.

Carbohydrates: There are no essential carbohydrates but we are told we must base all our meals on these foods. That means potentially, you could be eating grains – usually wheat – three times daily and then there are the snacks on top. Carbohydrate foods are filling – temporarily, but they are not satisfying. Imagine the toast, potatoes and crumpets without butter… or the pasta or rice without their sauces.

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Some years ago I attended an eating disorders conference. One of the speakers – a doctor specialising in these disorders – told us of a very unscientific experiment that he and some of his colleagues had performed. The inserted naso-gastric tubes into each other and tested the effects of two foods on their ability to satiate hunger. Firstly, they filled each other’s stomachs with liquidised carbohydrate foods. The result – fullness without satiety even after some time. In other words, even though they felt stuffed – they still felt they wanted something else. Some time after the first experiment, they inserted the tubes into their duodenums – just past the stomach – and introduced a tablespoon of fat. It is the duodenum that communicates with the brain that we have eaten and as it takes about twenty minutes for the stomach to start emptying, it is wise not to eat too quickly! What they found was that the feeling of satiety was almost instant. As I said this is not real science but I think it does demonstrate that eating lots of carbs is not a good idea and eating some fats, is.

There are many problems with the over-indulgence of carbohydrate foods. Here are a few:
1) They fill us up temporarily but we feel the need to eat again soon after which encourages snacking. This effect also leaves less room for nutrient-dense foods.
2) They increase our need for vitamin C.
3) Carbs are broken down to their simplest form for absorption – glucose. Glucose is sugar.
4) They contain anti-nutrients. These can stop absorption of some minerals and play havoc with digestion.

Fruit and Vegetables: On the Eatwell plate, these look so healthy – depicted in lovely bright colours, typifying what we believe to be healthy and to some degree, they are. There are of course plusses as many of the foods in this group, do contain usable nutrients including fibre. Also, they can prevent snacking on worse choices. In my view, this group of foods has become more important as we now don’t eat the parts of an animal that at one time, was the main source of our nutrition. I’ll say more about this when I talk about protein.

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So here are some of the draw-backs to this group of foods:
1) Historically, fruit and vegetables in the northern hemisphere were largely available from Spring to Autumn only. What we consumed outside this time may have been fermented and thus we extended the season and also the nutrition! This is an unlikely scenario in pre-history.
2) Much fruit and vegetables on the shelves in our supermarkets comes from abroad. This means that most produce is picked before it is ready and has to travel miles. “Fresh fruit and vegetables” are usually anything but – including organic.
3) In order to preserve freshness, producers use a variety of methods; washing salad with a chlorinated solution, spraying citrus and other fruit with wax and irradiating. All these methods are good for the shelf-life of the product but not for us.
4) Most of our greengrocery has undergone enhancements! Bigger, sweeter, improved keepability – what we think of as natural just isn’t. We have played around with genetic modification for years. Most products have been subjected to this over time but the more recent genetic modifications are exceptionally harmful to us and wild animals.
5) Pesticides. If you are not eating organic produce, you will be ingesting hundreds of toxic chemicals. It is not just a matter of washing the produce – the chemicals will be found throughout in many of these foods. The idea to increase the current recommendation of “five-a-day” to eight will just tax your liver even more to get rid of these poisons.
6) Many of the nutrients in fruit and veg are not bio-available to us.
7) Some fruit and veg will contain antinutrients – see above.
8) It is a fact that some people will just eat fruit rather than vegetables. This provides far too much of the sugar “fructose” which can be damaging to health in quantity.

I will conclude this blog next time as it is rather lengthy!

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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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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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Diabetes Increase – Mail Online March ’13

Now 1 in 20 of us has diabetes: Cases rise by more than a third in six years.

Bad news indeed. This article sites obesity as the cause but this is a mistake – diabetes and obesity are symptoms of the same fundamental problem and it is one of a metabolic disorder. Some types of heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes are also symptoms.

The cause is simple – the wrong diet. We have become a nation that has stopped caring about real food and nutrition but instead, we eat only to stave off the feeling of hunger. We have stopped cooking from scratch. We buy easy-to-prepare food or that which needs only its packaging removed.

The excuse we give is almost always lack of time. But time is a luxury we won’t have if we become ill and do nothing about it other than take medication.

Obesity and type 2 diabetes are reversible with the correct diet.

 

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The Return to Health – A Double-Edged Sword?

For many people who have suffered chronic health issues, a return to health brings its own problems and it is this that I want to discuss here.

The effects of chronic illness don’t just happen overnight. Health slowly spirals downward over years, almost unnoticed, until it has an impact on daily life. Some cannot even continue their normal occupation. At this point, it can have a devastating affect. Those activities that you deem vital to your existence are either severely hampered or become impossible.

Let us consider Micaela. Her illness, when she looks back at her life, started during her teens but it was an irritation, not a disability at this time. Around twelve years prior to consulting me, life had become very difficult and she had multiple food sensitivities. Three years before our meeting, her circumstances had become so severe, that all her body would accept was rice. And this is what Micaela lived on. No job, just existing.

Try to imagine this. You know that you can’t live on just rice but you have to, or suffer the consequences. Micaela’s thoughts were about her health every single day and the only thing that she could depend upon if she was not to suffer migraines and stomach cramps, was rice.

As with many others suffering similar illnesses, Micaela’s became her life. It was never allowed to be in the background – doctors, tests, drugs and feeling ill ensured that it remained current and the only force in life that was constant. The frequent round of consultations with medical people, invasive and unpleasant examinations and being told that it “was all in her head”, all served to make her feel utterly let down and isolated.

Her life had been stolen from her, but she made the best job she could of what was left of it. When I told her that the food she relied upon was perpetuating the problem and that the rice had to go, it scared her. She was as dependent upon rice as a drug addict is upon their fix. Although after just 3 weeks of treatment Micaela had progressed from just rice to eating 40 nutritious and healthy foods, it was a further 3 months before she was able to gather all the packs of rice together and finally dispose of them.

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I have seen this many times. Sufferers join self-help groups and adopt strategies and behaviours to accommodate their problem. Chronic illness will mess with the necessary nutrients for all body functions, so again there is a spiralling problem. One of the most debilitating effects of long term poor health is depression. This is due to the lack of nutrients to the brain as well as the tedium, frustration, the life altering distressing symptoms or more likely, all of these things put together.

A different consequence of an individual’s recovery involves the rest of the family. It is more often a spouse or partner that bears the brunt of these effects. Some years ago I treated a young man for obesity. He had been big for as long as he could remember and therefore he felt (as others do also) that it defined who he was as a person. His confidence and self-esteem were low, he dressed tidily but would never wear the trendy clothes that others of his age did. All this changed when he lost weight – for he had been redefined. I bumped into his wife a year or so later and sadly, they had split up. There is no blame to apportion here – this is human nature. This of course, is not an inevitable outcome but when you have been ill the whole of your formative life, it is common.

This last story has a warning – obesity (or rather the metabolic disease that it is) is just as much an illness as IBS and diabetes. When these problems are removed, there are adjustments to make and this can be extremely problematic.

When wellness becomes the norm instead of illness, the weight loss clubs, self-help groups, voluntary work – just everything that has previously filled the days, can become redundant. These may be replaced with a new job, meeting people, having a holiday and although this all sounds wonderful, they still have to be coped with.

To sum up, when someone has recovered from chronic ill health, it is often replacing one problem with another. It can of course be managed, but forewarned is forearmed.

July 2014 update on Micaela.
She is fit and well, eating lots of different foods but not grains for the most part. She has three jobs – two from home and one away. Life is good – her words! 

 I would like to thank Micaela Stafford for her permission to include some of her case history in this blog.

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Bariatric and Other Weight Reduction Surgery

I have thought for as long as this surgery has been available for extreme obesity, that it can only do harm.

Maybe barbaric rather than bariatric surgery would be a more apt name. There is evidence to show that removing visceral fat (internal abdominal fat) reverses diabetes – and of course it would. This type of fat is injurious to health so removing it solves the problem right? Wrong! Remove the fat and change the diet yes, but people want quick fixes so that they don’t have to change their behaviour.I saw a programme about bariatric surgery a while ago and one of the patients just continued to eat pizza, but in frequent and smaller amounts!

Nature has given humans the correct gut for the correct diet, just as it has for cats, snakes, flies and lobsters. Our digestive systems for receiving and digesting food will be different (not substantially different from cats) but they are perfectly designed for the foods nature intended us to eat.

I have said this many times before – how on earth do wild animals know what to eat when they don’t have dieticians, nutritionists, books and the internet to refer to? I’m being facetious of course, but consider the point. The only wild animals (domesticated animals are fed by us and therefore have no choice in the matter) that appear to us fat are the ones that need to be for their lifestyle – nature intends it that way. How would a duck stay afloat without a good proportion of fat on its body? It would sink if it was all muscle. How do seals and whales stay warm if not for their fat stores?

Humans need a covering of fat for a variety of reasons, but the dangerous excess that we are now seeing is due to the wrong diet which can lead to many illnesses – type 2 diabetes being one of the most common. If the diet is corrected, the excess disappears as do the health dangers. It really is that simple. There may very occasionally a genetically inherited reason for obesity eg. Prada Willi syndrome.

As the only diets generally available to help obese people lose weight involve calorie restriction and therefore hunger, they are doomed to fail. Hunger will always win. So bariatric surgery was invented – and very lucrative it is too (as are the slimming, bariatric equipment and diabetes businesses).  There are various operations available but all have the same aim – to reduce the stomach’s capacity for food. This is downright madness. People who became obese from eating the wrong foods usually have severe malnutrition – that is, low intake and blood levels of the essential nutrients for life. So when their stomachs are reduced to an egg-cup size, they simply cannot eat the correct quantity of the correct food needed to obtain sufficient nutrients. No doubt supplements are given, but they are not well absorbed. The long term (if there is a long-term) effects of this are yet to be seen. Sadly as this study shows, surgical intervention is very risky.

There is another way. Before this surgery is ever considered for obesity and diabetes, nutritional advice should be given and the diet overseen by a professional who truly knows what humans need and not what governments recommend.

Update July 2014. “An expansion of weight loss surgery in England is being proposed to tackle an epidemic of type 2 diabetes,” BBC News reports. Complete and utter disaster.

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