The “Wise Traditions” Conference Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kefir – The Super-Probiotic

You’ve heard of probiotics but you may not have heard of kefir (ka-feer). This could be seen as the king of the probiotics, not only due to its very impressive variety of probiotic organisms, but also due to the amount of these organisms in a “dose”. Yogurt is good but kefir is wonderful!

Kefir is a fermented milk product which starts with kefir “grains”. This has nothing to do with cereal grains but refers to their appearance. Frankly, this still does not describe the kefir starter, as it looks more like mini cauliflowers!

The origins of kefir seem to be the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia. The story goes back to around 3000 BC but no one really knows how the grains came to existence as no one has been able to replicate them. They are an entity just as we are – a mixture of bacteria and yeasts. After all, in terms of cells, we’re about 90% microbes and only 10% human!

2013-10-31 13.05.37Kefir nutrients will only be as good as the milk it is made from. If you use raw milk, you will be providing the correct food for the grains. Other milks will work too but the nutrients will vary. The grains are very forgiving just like any other life on Earth, because life wants to live. Probably the next best option would be organic unhomogenised milk. If you are lactose intolerant you could use organic coconut milk. I have never done this but I have been told that it is very good.

Making the kefir is child’s-play. You put the grains into a glass or ceramic jug/bowl, add about 3-500ml milk, cover and wait! Leave on a work surface in the kitchen. How long you wait depends upon how you like it and how warm it is. In the UK in November, it takes my kefir about 36 hours to thicken slightly, develop a fizz. Strain the grains from the kefir which can then be stored in the fridge with about 150-200ml milk for a few days until you make the next batch, or freeze them if you don’t need them for a bit. Nice but not essential is to give it a short secondary fermentation – I usually do and most often use a couple of lemon slices. Store the kefir in the fridge and have a small glass daily or use in ice-cream, smoothies or whatever you like! As the grains grow and multiply, it would be a good idea to put some in the freezer anyway, in enough milk to cover – in case you have problems with your in-use grains.

“It has a “magical” quality as no other food has this nutritional profile.”

The benefits to health are enormous – trillions of beneficial microbes, B vitamins (including B12), enzymes, minerals, protein and fats. It has a “magical” quality as no other food has this nutritional profile. It is well tolerated by most people and has benefits for sufferers of allergies and gut disorders plus it supports the immune system. In fact, if you have any health issue, kefir is a great way to aid your recovery.

Kefir grains are available in some health food shops but look on-line – they are both cheap to buy and ship and providing you look after the grains, they will last forever. As they grow  you can pass some to friends!

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Micaela Stafford – The Lady Whose Body Rejected Everything

One day back in May 2011, I was shown an article in a newspaper about a lady who was very unwell.  She had been searching for years to find a solution to her illness and even though some things she tried helped a little, the relief was short-lived. The only food her body would tolerate at this time was rice. Everything else made her feel ill – migraines, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, nausea and more. She weighed 7 1/2 stones. Food sensitivities were ruling her life.

Mic2

Her efforts to find a cure led her to many general doctors, gut specialists, nutritionists and dieticians – to no avail. Such was her determination to regain her health she then approached newspapers and radio stations to widen her search.

I felt that treating her was worth trying as it was possible that the core problem had been missed. The term “gut dysbiosis” is a relatively new one and not one to have entered mainstream medicine yet. It is very often the case that until a condition is accurately named – in other words, one which truly describes what is happening – that treatment can be wrongly advised.

Take irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. This is the diagnosis which is often returned when all else has been excluded. (These tests of course have to be performed as IBS has similar symptoms to other gut disorders.) The problem is that IBS merely encompasses a set of symptoms – it does not address the root cause, but “gut dysbiosis”, does. It succinctly describes the condition of microbial life in the gut being out of balance. So when I was faced with Micaela’s illness, I knew that before she could benefit from the nutrients in food, her gut microbes needed normalising.

When we met, I was shocked at how thin and drawn Micaela looked. The specialists that she had consulted, once they had determined that (from their point of view) there was nothing to be done, advised her that is was “all in her head”. It most certainly was not, all in her head – it was very real. However, over many, many years, her mind had been affected by being chronically ill and she was in a bad place by the time she came to me. With hindsight, it would have been most helpful to have had specialist input to help her manage this. Also, I suspect that her recovery would have been quicker if her mind was being treated at the same time. Stress is counterproductive due to the constant release of stress hormones – which long-term, damage the body physically.

Micaela had to take a huge leap of faith as here was someone, (me!) telling her something completely different to all the other professionals from whom she had sought help. To be frank, I had never treated a gut condition this severe and whilst I had confidence in the theory, I could not be confident of the outcome as treatment would be incredibly difficult for Micaela. In fact I could never have predicted how tough it would end up being.

Most of Micaela’s life had been blighted with ill health and she had to undergo many forms of treatment for her ailments. The history she recounted to me showed clearly that there were many opportunities for undesirable microbes to colonise in her gut. At the point where we met, I suspected that the only reason that she was able to tolerate rice, was that these microbes were using it as fuel. (To test this, add cooked rice to warm water and yeast. The yeast will digest the rice by turning it to sugar – its preferred energy source. The mixture will bubble until the rice has almost all been used up.) The main offender was Candida. I cannot know this as a certainty as it was never proved and I don’t perform tests as they can be unreliable. However, treatment which just involved nutritious food would only benefit her no matter which organisms were to blame.

Where to start though!  As Micaela could only tolerate rice – what would I give her? The important thing to start with was to rid her of the pathogenic organisms. To this end, she had to undergo a two day broth fast. This was just the liquid from boiled chicken bones, vegetables and herbs. This is not only very easily absorbed but definitely not a favourite of Candida or its friends! The problem for Micaela was the “die off” reaction – all the symptoms of IBS but even worse. It was a very, very hard time for her and this was just the start of treatment.

The only way to tackle gut dysbiosis is -
1) Clear the gut of pathogenic microbes.
2) Heal the gut (which has been damaged by these microbes).
3) Replace the beneficial microbes (with probiotics).
3) Introduce absorbable nutrition as quickly as is practical.

This is the treatment that Micaela needed to heal her insides and ultimately – herself. She had endured years of poor nourishment as her gut would not absorb it – even when she occasionally tried something other than rice. In other words, she was suffering from malnutrition – and then everything is wrong.

At three weeks of treatment, with the inclusion of about forty foods that she could eat and enjoy, she thought she was well again and there was another news item in her local paper. We were both very excited that she was eating so well, but I feared that it was very early days to be celebrating – and my hunch was right – she was far from completely recovered. There were still hard times to be overcome. For six months foods were added or added and removed until finally that year, Micaela enjoyed a Christmas dinner.

The last few years have been a steep learning curve for both of us and we’re still climbing! Eating out is not a problem for Micaela now – there is always something she can have and enjoy without any adverse symptoms.  From my point of view, I have achieved my aim, which is the same for all.
“To ensure that all the body’s nutritional requirements are met as quickly as possible, in the most acceptable way to the person being treated.”

Fortunately, although Micaela’s condition is not completely unique, most IBS sufferers can recover more easily than she did. Fortunate indeed as there are not too many people with Micaela’s amazing determination to succeed.

The picture at the top, is of Micaela now, at 9 1/2 stones and happy.

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Mine’s a G & T!

I thought I would say a few words about alcohol. Most of us like a drink but is it bad for us? Again, there is so much conflicting information!

Twenty years ago, advice was always to do with damage limitation – never to do with any benefits there might be. The trouble with all health information is that it keeps changing! This is partly why I don’t often just accept mainstream health information, preferring to see health against a back-drop of our evolutionary history with a smattering of knowledge about how the body works and a dash of common sense. For all you scientists out there – just remember that we “knew” everything we needed to know about health 100 years ago. And 50 years ago. And 20 years ago. Well – science proved it didn’t it?

I tend to follow the knowledge that never changes. Of course I look at current science too but still only take from it that which does not usually change.

So, alcohol. Is it natural? You betcha! Will it kill us? You betcha! But of course, there are so many factors that will determine whether or not it will kill us.

Have you heard of fatty liver disease? When doctors diagnose this, their first question to the patient will be “do you drink alcohol?” This is because, at one time, alcohol was the only known cause and doctors did not believe their patients if they said they didn’t drink much. More recently they have come up with a sub group (which has rapidly become the main group) – non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This believe it or not, is due to our modern diet and is seen mainly, but not exclusively, in obese people, hence the reason for the increased incidences of FLD. There are other liver diseases caused by over consumption of alcohol and it can cause health issues in other organs too, possibly including some types of cancer.

The purpose of this blog is about alcohol and its effects on us, so I will not labour the point, but a high carbohydrate diet is the usual cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. However, if a high carbohydrate diet is combined with over indulgence in alcohol, there will be double trouble.

Alcohol in quantity is a poison, as can a lot of other chemicals in the foods and drinks that we consume. Even if the substance is one we need, too much of it may be harmful. The liver and other organs perform the filtration and disposal of these substances to keep the body balanced. This will always be the case in a healthy body, but people who have health problems do have to take care. If the body is constantly being fed the wrong diet – ie. one lacking the proper nutrients in a useable form and in sufficient quantities – it is likely that (in addition to other chemicals for disposal), alcohol will have a quite rapid deleterious effect because the body can’t properly detoxify itself. Unfortunately, ageing plays a part too.

tree waspsWe have forever, used substances to make ourselves feel good. Undoubtedly in our distant past, we would have drunk fermented liquids – accidentally I expect, but natural ferments not only taste good, but would be teeming with health beneficial bacteria (probiotics as we would now call them). Sadly, the alcoholic drinks we have today are often made with just yeast and will usually be finished with preservative chemicals. Other animals are partial to alcohol too as anyone with fruit trees will know. There are always drunken wasps around the fermenting autumn plums in my garden! Some animals use other psychoactive natural drugs and there are some examples here.

 

I think the current guidelines are nonsense. In fact, there is little science to back the “21 units a week for men and 14 for women.” Basically, if you are sick, if you have a bad hangover, if you have to drink every day, you are having too much. These effects mean that your liver can’t keep up with you, leaving alcohol (poison) in your bloodstream which affects the brain, other organs and various bodily functions. A knock-on effect here is that if you drink a lot, your gut bacteria will suffer and the proper digestion of food will be affected – these things long-term lead to poor health.

You know these points but I will go over them again anyway.
Eat something like nuts or cheese with your drinks.
Drink slowly.
Drink water between alcoholic drinks.
Always go to bed on a glass of water after a few drinks.
Beer will contribute to a big belly and fatty liver disease, dry wine and spirits less so.
Don’t drink every day – your liver needs a couple of days off per week.
Don’t drink if you are ill or on medication.
Watch out for the high alcohol content of some wines and choose a lesser one instead.

There is good evidence that some alcohol is good for us and I have no reason to doubt this. (The healthiest alcoholic drinks will be organically produced as they will be free from artificial chemicals.) It is definitely good for our stress levels which in turn, will have benefits for the heart and mental health. Teetotallers often have shorter lives than moderate drinkers. In fact, there are many studies that go even further and say that heavy drinkers live longer than teetotallers too! I can’t comment on that, but I have nursed patients with severe liver disease and it is very unpleasant so I will say, for most of the time, stick to being “moderate”!

BTW – mine’s a G & T!
Gin & Tonic

 

 

 

 

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Immunity

Our immune systems are remarkable. They work tirelessly to keep us well but we must consciously give our bodies what they need for this function to ensure maximum protection from invading organisms.

file801244167702Before I move on to this, I will just say a word or two about avoiding infection in the first place. We cannot live without micro-organisms. Remember this. We have to build up a resistance to those that could make us ill so there is no point in trying to avoid ALL germs. If you had somehow been protected from all organisms from birth, you would quickly die on exposure to the outside environment. We gain immunity all our lives. (An illustration of this is swine flu – older people have met this virus before and have resistance to it, so they don’t suffer from it as severely or as often.)

That said, we don’t want to invite infection. We must take some precautions and these are usually simple measures of either barriers or washing.

Here are some examples:

  • Barriers: use tissues if you sneeze or cough, use condoms to prevent the sexually transmitted diseases, use gloves if you have contact with excrement – obvious I know! (Or if you are nappy changing your own child, wash thoroughly afterwards.
  • Dressings to keep infections out of wounds.
  • Washing: Wash hands frequently (definitely after using the loo) – bugs live on door handles and Jo Public does not wash his hands! Wash wounds before covering them.
  • Wash food preparation areas often, but anti-bacterial sprays are unnecessary. Wash salads and fruit. Basically, if it looks dirty, it probably is. If you have just chopped raw meat you must clean it immediately so that you don’t forget.
  • Toilets should be cleaned frequently.

So now to the dietary factors:

In order to keep your friendly probiotic microbes in tip-top form – eat homemade or bought fresh sauerkraut , natural organic full-fat yogurt or kefir.
Most of the vitamins and minerals needed for life are also needed for healthy immune systems and I suspect that this means immunity and life are inextricably linked.
The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K are important for correct immune function. Get  short spells of sun exposure (for vitamin D) frequently without sunscreen. Do NOT burn – use sunscreen when your skin is just pink.The water soluble vitamins C and some of the B group are vital as are the minerals zinc, iron and selenium. They all have their own jobs to do as well as reacting with other chemicals to keep us in peak, infection-fighting condition.
Before you go rushing out to buy supplements, you can get all of these in an easily-
assimilated form from the following organic foods:
Eggs, liver & kidneys (from grazing animals) and/or shellfish. Golden butter and grass-fed animal fats are the best sources of the fat-soluble vitamins.


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