Is Breakfast the Most Important Meal?

Well this is a turnaround isn’t it? Breakfast is now not the most important meal according to this study! For so many years we have been told that we must have breakfast before starting our day and we have even been told that studies show how breakfast can help us lose weight, concentrate and stabilize our blood sugar. I am as guilty as many other professionals – I haven’t actually read these studies, just accepted the evidence for the most part.

In my defence, although I do read research reports, I make up my own mind about what is right for us and this is founded upon both my observations as a nurse and nutritionist and my usual way of looking at our diet and lifestyle against the back-drop of our evolutionary diet and lifestyle. There has been much research and speculation into what is right and wrong, but the bottom line is – we should do as our ancestors did. The only problem with this is that everyone has a different view of what they actually did! I have written a bit about this before so I won’t go into detail here. Suffice to say that we ate primarily meat and some vegetation when it was available. This study shows precisely this point.

What on Earth is breakfast – or lunch, tea or dinner for that matter? These are labels we have given to eating times, for our convenience. These meal times are fitted in file6401342550312before, during and after we go to work/school/college, but they are actually convenient times when we must top up our nutrients. We need vast amounts of quality nutrients for every single bodily function you can think of – blinking your eyes and producing tears; making the enzymes needed for the digestion of food; maintaining the electrical activity needed to allow your heart to beat and your muscles to contract and so on. Everything your body does, it does not do by chance. You make it happen by eating foods that supply these minerals, vitamins, fats and more.

A while ago, I wrote a blog about hunger which you can find here. It is important that we stay in touch with our bodies and really hear the message. The first thing you should be reaching for in the morning is liquid, preferably water, tea or a herbal infusion. The body detoxifies itself over night and the toxins need washing away. This could be why some people are never hungry first thing – and some even feel queasy. Hunger kicks in when the detoxing has finished. Always drink about half an hour, before you eat “breakfast”. In fact staying hydrated is one way to prevent over-eating or eating for no good reason. Drink sufficient liquid to keep your urine pale yellow – not clear which means you are drinking too much, or amber which means you are not drinking enough.

What is breakfast for you? I can hear your thought processes –
cereal, toast, eggs, file1281259008488porridge..! But what I’m getting at is what is the meaning of the word? Its literal meaning is of course, breaking one’s fast and I believe that this is the point. Why should this meal be taken before going out if you are not hungry? This study suggests that breakfast could be skipped, but it too is assuming that “breakfast” is the meal you have before your day starts.

Breakfast is the meal that breaks your fast – whenever that is. Your body very cleverly prepares itself for a meal. Once you are adequately hydrated and your body has finished its clear-up, signalling can get underway and you consciously think about food. This prepares your digestive tract – you salivate and your stomach rumbles, both of which mean that the enzymes and other chemicals needed to digest food, are ready and waiting. Absolutely the worst time to eat is whilst stressed, because this preparation stage will be omitted and indigestion ensues.

file000374824743There will be some people who wake feeling hungry. These are the people who eat very early evening, stay hydrated and don’t drink alcohol in the evening. In other words, there is less detoxifying to do so hunger is felt earlier. I know an aerobics teacher who is ravenous in the mornings and this is undoubtedly due to rapid usage of nutrients as well as early nights.

Remember that whenever you are ready to break your fast, you should provides what your body needs – essential vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats.

Some would argue carbohydrates in addition but since there are no essential carbohydrates, I don’t agree. However, the first nutrients in the list are the ones that your body is asking for and is prepared for, so make sure you provide these.

Many people will argue the time factors involved. No time in the morning for more than a piece of toast or no time to eat at ten o’clock when hunger hits. I’ve heard all the excuses and my answer is always the same – be prepared! If you cannot eat a good breakfast file0002090572764before leaving home, be prepared, as you will get hungry and you will eat something – as surely as day follows night. I am constantly amazed that work-places are completely geared for this – the coffee and doughnuts trolley materialises! There are also bakeries, sweet-shops and burger bars within close proximity. If you have a canteen at work, go and get yourself bacon and eggs!

There should be no hard and fast rules about what you eat or when as long as nutrients are supplied. If you had roasted meat for dinner the previous evening – take cold leftovers with salad or even cold vegetables with a nice creamy dressing. If you fancy an avocado to break your fast, accompany it with a few cherry tomatoes and a lump of Brie. Eggs from hens on pasture are possibly the best nutrition and the most convenient. Why not boil half a dozen and take two or three with you? Great with avocado, salad or cold asparagus. Try making a big frittata and taking a slice with you or make banana bread and take some of that. All of these suggestions will supply the necessary nutrients.

There is quite a bit of evidence that lengthening the time between your last meal of the day and the meal that breaks your fast the following morning helps with weight control and insulin sensitivity. I think it is a good idea anyway as it must emulate the eating patterns of our ancestors. Food would not have been available for “breakfast”, “lunch” and “dinner”. There may have been only one or two meals of meat or fish, with gaps occasionally filled by a few berries or nuts (in the autumn anyway) or roots, eggs, leaves and seeds. There were undoubtedly times of hunger but generally there would have been plenty of food to go around. The beauty of eating foods that we are genetically programmed for is that when properly nourished, we are less hungry.

Stop thinking of breakfast as such and instead, think of your first meal of the day as the time to supply all those nutrients that your body has told you it needs.

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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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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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Thinking of Becoming Vegetarian? Please Read!

Fancy being vegetarian or vegan? There are some extreme diets too such as fruitarians and breatharians which are both self explanatory and have little to recommend them! Before embarking on any diets, it is as well to keep some facts in mind. So often decisions are made on limited knowledge and in the case of what you eat, this can have serious consequences for your health.

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The definition of “diet”, from one source is “the usual food and drink of a person or animal” but so often it is synonymous with weight-loss regimes. The trouble is, most of us are unaware of what our “usual” diet should consist of! It does not matter where in the world you are from, we all need the same nutrients – although how we obtain them is often different. Therefore the diet of humans has to be one which provides all the nutrients that have been shown to be necessary for growth and health.  Sound reasonable? I would add here that necessary nutrients are being discovered all the time and for this reason, your main source of nutrition has to come from the food you eat, not from supplements.

Currently, there are about fifty known nutrients – too many to list here! However, there are some vital facts that must be taken into account.

  • Nutrients work together, not independently.
  • If you are ill, some nutrients may not be absorbed properly.
  • Some foods inhibit the uptake of certain nutrients.
  • Some foods use the available nutrients for their own metabolism thus robbing the body.
  • Some foods, whilst being sound nutritionally, will only give these up when properly prepared.
  • Where and how your food is produced will determine how nutritionally valuable it is.

I will just talk about the not too extreme form of vegetarianism. Those that adopt this way of eating do so for three reasons generally – religion, animal welfare and health. The first is difficult to argue so I won’t! All I will say is that I have been contacted several times by people needing help with gut issues who are from this category. 1008594_80327405The animal welfare reason is one I do sympathise with as I was vegetarian for ten years during my early adulthood for this cause. It is possible to be healthy if you are in this category but care must be taken with food choices if all nutrients are to be obtained. Those who choose vegetarianism for health reasons are often the ones who can succumb to ill health due to the wealth of misinformation that is currently available. These people often choose low-fat food options, eat lots of grain products and never venture out into the mid-day sun. They usually take supplements and they can be found at the gym or pounding the pavements several times a week. I am sorry to generalise but I have met these people during the last twenty-plus years of giving health advice as a nurse. This is not lifestyle which provides optimal health.

There is much that can be done to improve the usual vegetarian diet but it takes a little more thought and food preparation than for the meat-eaters. Here are some points to consider:

  1. Vitamin B12 is the most problematic vitamin for vegetarians (and especially vegans). It is only bio-available from animal products and although it is present in some vegetable matter, it is in the wrong form for humans. Your diet must contain pastured organic eggs, milk and cheeses (preferably raw) and fermented dairy such as yogurt and kefir.
  2. Many vegetarians will eat copious quantities of grains and these are the foods which rob the body of nutrients, especially if not carefully prepared. The same is true of legumes which often feature as a source of protein in vegetarian diets. Click the highlighted words for information regarding preparation.
  3. When you eat large amounts of grain, your vitamin C requirement is increased. Obtain this from salads and vegetables rather than from lots of fruit and juice which will increase your sugar intake.
  4. Grains change to sugar in the gut which can lead to insulin sensitivity and diabetes.
  5. Meat, its fat and offal contain the fat soluble vitamins which are vital for the lining of cells, hormone production and integrity of the gut lining. When these are not eaten the diet must include eggs, cheeses and plenty of deep yellow butter.
  6. The body needs copious amounts of vitamin D3 which must be obtained from the sun.

My recommendations for a healthy diet and lifestyle can be found here.

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Are Fungi and Yeasts a Threat to Our Health?

A couple of quotes from this study: “Fungal infections take more than 1.3 million lives each year worldwide, nearly as many as tuberculosis”. “..half of the world’s 350,000 asthma-related deaths each year stem from fungal infection..”

file2701293812299Yeasts and fungi are probably the most successful organisms on the planet. They do not necessarily require sunlight or oxygen and they use starches, glucose and other sugars for growth. This means they can grow pretty much anywhere as long as there as there is food and moisture – from the sludge at the bottom of the sea to mould on damp walls to us. Having more than one way to reproduce adds to their success too. They are often invisible – miles of mycelium (the underground “roots” of fungi) can be present in just a handful of soil, for example. Yeasts too are invisible to the naked eye unless they are part of a colony as in baker’s yeast or the bloom on the skin of some fruits. Just think what an advantage these attributes give to the life of these ubiquitous organisms! There are of course, many that are beneficial to us – some edible mushrooms have a wonderful array of nutrients and antioxidants.

Both yeasts and fungi can attack humans and they are one of our major killers worldwide. Even if they do not kill, they can cause suffering and misery.  “..half of the world’s 350,000 asthma-related deaths each year stem from fungal infection”  for example and Candida albicans can cause vaginal and oral thrush, skin problems and gut disturbances. In severely immune compromised people, Candida albicans can kill. There are other fungal/yeast infections that can affect humans such as aspergillus, ringworm and tinea (eg. athlete’s foot).

Severe infections with these organisms occur mostly in people who are immune compromised for some reason – A.I.D.S., treatment to prevent the rejection of a transplanted organ, cancer treatment and even pregnancy as this is a normal immune-suppressed state. (The baby shouldn’t be rejected!) However, if we eat incorrectly or if our immune systems have taken a knock for some reason, we are all at risk of mild or severe infection.

Including some fermented foods in our diet boosts our beneficial bacteria and this DSCF0577 keeps Candida in its place. It lives in our gut naturally but if we are healthy, it causes no problems. The main two ways that will change this balanced condition is if we feed it or if our gut microbes have been compromised for some reason. Candida can multiply rapidly and instead of being a few harmless yeast cells, it becomes an invasive colony. Yeasts need sugars for their growth and reproduction so if our diets are high in carbohydrate foods (which are broken down to sugars) – such as the doughnut, they get the chance to flourish. Many drugs but especially antibiotics, will disrupt the gut flora giving Candida a chance to gain a foothold. As a colony, it is able to put out microscopic rootlets which penetrate the delicate one-cell thick lining of the gut. This creates the condition known as leaky-gut syndrome giving rise to a host of problems in the gut and systemically.

In nature, one sees fungi not only thriving in decaying wood and leaves but also invading dying or weak plants. If we are less than healthy with a poor immune system, we too become a target. Don’t let it be you.

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Never “Diet” Again

file0002072485149So many diets are started at New Year and a few people will achieve their goals, but most will have returned to their old ways by February feeling thoroughly disillusioned. I want to address the subject as so often these diets are doomed to failure due to hunger.

 

This failure is more to do with eating the wrong foods than lack of will power. When you are hungry, it is because your body requires nutrients. When this is done properly, the body stops telling you to feed it. Your most likely reaction to the feeling of hunger is to eat something filling but not too high in calories – bread, rice cakes or potatoes are common choices.  This becomes a self-perpetuating scenario – for all these foods are broken down to sugar and this is the problem. Repeatedly eating foods that are broken down to sugar will make you hungry. If you can stick to your calorie controlled diet, you will lose weight but most cannot stay the course and those best intentions will be wasted. Here is an article I wrote a while ago about sugar.

Some recommendations to help you lose weight, maintain good nutrition and stay hunger-free!

  1. Stop eating the foods that the body turns to sugar. These are the concentrated carbohydrates: bread and all other foods made with grain, potatoes, sweet foods including all fizzy drinks, root and other starchy vegetables, fruit.
  2. Base meals on eggs, natural meat with all its fat, fish and shell-fish, green leafy vegetables, all cheeses, butter and cream.
  3. Eat slowly and eat to satisfy not stuff.
  4. Drink plenty of water/tea/coffee but only enough to keep your urine pale yellow. If you use milk in drinks – only a splash as milk contains a sugar called lactose.
  5. Don’t over exercise but walking/swimming is sufficient especially in the first couple of weeks. After this you can increase it to a level that you are comfortable with.
  6. It has been shown recently that eating all your meals within an 8-10 hour period of the day, rather than eating from the time you get up to the time you go to bed. It is called intermittent fasting but don’t let that put you off!
  7. Concentrate on being healthier overall rather than just “thinner”.
  8. Allow an occasional snack – see below.
  9. Do not cut down on animal fats – in fact increase them. If you restrict one form of energy (ie. carbohydrates) then you must provide another – fat. Stop eating all vegetable oils other than olive oil and coconut oil.
  10. DON’T count calories.

A typical day’s food could look like this:

  • Breakfast:
    A 2-3 egg cheese and mushroom omelette cooked in lots of butter.
  • Lunch:
    A big leafy salad with cucumber and a small tomato, (dressed with full fat mayonnaise or olive oil and vinegar) with smoked mackerel /tuna/ham/cheese/egg etc.
  • Dinner:
    Steak – then add some cream to the pan with a blob of mustard/Stilton cheese or a splash of brandy. Pour over the steak. Serve with broccoli/cauliflower/mushrooms etc.
  • Snacks:
    25g macadamia nuts or small packet pork scratchings with a glass of dry wine. (OCCASIONALLY!)
    Piece of cheese or stick of celery with cream cheese/taramasalata down the centre.
    A dozen raspberries. 4 strawberries or handful of blueberries – once or twice a week only.
    A few olives.

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Drink as needed but it is a good idea to have a glass of water half an hour before meals. This ensures that the hunger mechanism works properly and doesn’t fool you into thinking that you need more food than you do!

When you have lost weight, you can increase the carbohydrates a bit – but not what you were eating before. Start with a small potato with your dinner or half a slice of bread with breakfast. Try to keep the carbs to one meal per day only.

Good luck!

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Sweeteners

Over the last few years I have tried to show the harmful effects on health, of sugar and processed carbohydrate consumption. The conventional diet recommended by health workers, (whilst always low in added sugar) ensures that we eat lots of carbohydrates – which are just sugar as far as the body is concerned – at every meal. Our diet is now lots of bread, cereals, pasta, rice and potatoes – fruit and veg and a little meat and fat. Keeping your blood sugar constantly raised as this diet ensures – is downright wrong.  Enough of that! My blog is about sweeteners.

593660_97665739Do I eat sugar? You bet! Not every day and not in any quantity – but the sugar I eat is natural and complete with its minerals, vitamins and (sometimes) enzymes. Look for raw honey, organic natural maple syrup, rapadura (essence of sugar cane) and coconut nectar. These do of course have their own flavour – they do not just provide sweetness. However, when you’ve tasted maple syrup ice cream, I doubt you’ll ever go back to plain old shop-bought vanilla! A treat I absolutely adore occasionally, is a slice of sourdough bread, smothered in golden butter and topped with a dollop of raw lavender honey. Sometimes, just nothing else will do!

Info about maple syrup
Info about honey

Now, what about artificial sweeteners?

There is little good news here.  Some of the sweeteners currently on the market have 2013-10-12 13.04.39dubious effects on our health. Sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (Candarel), are the main sweeteners you will see on supermarket shelves. Another group of sweeteners are the sugar alcohols (maltitol, xylitol, sorbitol) and these are often used in sweets and other foods by the diet industry. They do contain some calories, but we cannot absorb them entirely. Sounds ideal but when we eat foods that are indigestible to us, wind and diarrhoea can often follow, so beware! These sweeteners occasionally and in small quantities, cause less damage to health than sucralose and aspartame. Xylitol may be the best of the sugar alcohols as it does not cause a spike in blood sugar (and therefore no insulin spike either) as the others do.  There is much more information on the dangers of sweeteners here.

Remember though, that all “low sugar”, “sugar-free”, “low calorie” and “no added sugar” products are likely to contain these sweeteners. Think – light hot chocolate mixes, squash, diet soft drinks (all cola and fizzy fruit drinks),  sugar-free chewing gum and more. Dieters often chew gum and wonder why they constantly have grumbling tummies and wind!

Now to a bit of good news. The one sweetener I have not yet mentioned is stevia (marketed as Truvia and others). Stevia is a small shrubby plant and is native to North and South America. It is often known as sweet-leaf as it contains an intensely sweet chemical in its leaves, but it has a slightly bitter flavour on its own. It is possible to buy powdered leaves for use in cooking but an extract is needed to sweeten drinks. Truvia (and the like) might fit the bill but if you read the packaging, you will see that there are additives. For the time being, this maybe the one to use in preference to sucralose and aspartame, but reducing your sweet-tooth is the best way.

There is another sweetener available online but not as yet, in shops. It is called Lo Han Guo and is an extract from an intensely sweet fruit. I have yet to try this so can’t give an opinion as to flavour. I’ll let you know when I have something to report!

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Candida Albicans – The Main Cause of IBS? (IBS Part 5)

We live with yeasts. There are yeasts in the air we breathe, on the food we eat and living happily in our intestines. It is impossible to avoid them but fortunately, the healthy body has systems in place to keep yeast infections under control. Candida Albicans is the opportunist microbe and overgrows prolifically given the chance.

As I discussed before, medications and illnesses will deplete the beneficial gut bacteria and this allows the undesirables to proliferate and this can happen very quickly, especially if the diet is high in sugars and other carbohydrates. This is called dysbiosis – literally meaning , difficult life.

All yeasts have similar needs. If you have ever made bread or beer you know that mixing water, yeast and sugar in a warm place creates lots of bubbles. (Actually, if you used a spoonful of flour the effect would be the same.) This reaction is the result of yeasts feeding on sugar and multiplying. For Candida, the gut provides an ideal environment to set up home and have a big family. Friends will also be invited, but friends of Candida, not of us!

beerWhen bread or beer is made, the gases easily escape into the atmosphere but what happens if this fermentation goes on inside us? There is no immediate escape so gases build up causing much noise and often severe cramping pains. Eventually gas escapes as very smelly wind accompanied by acute embarrassment. Sometimes the gas does not escape easily and becomes trapped causing more pain and bloating. A story I hear often is that a bloated abdomen becomes apparent over the day and goes down overnight no doubt escaping during sleep.

So why the diarrhoea that often typifies IBS? When the yeast Candida colonises in the gut is becomes less of a yeast and more of a fungus. The organisms join forces and start to line the gut wall, anchoring with minute rootlets into the intestines. When this happens, there is little room for the good guys to colonise which means the delicate lining becomes eroded as there is no protection. Food cannot be digested and absorbed properly which means it leaves the body rapidly and barely altered from when it was eaten. Another likely scenario is that instead of being absorbed as nutrients, other unwanted microbes cause the food to putrefy adding to the toxic load. Whilst these effects are going to cause much discomfort and distress, another very troublesome situation is occurring – malnutrition.

This is the disaster that will almost certainly perpetuate or worsen the illness. We take for granted that our food will be digested once eaten but it is an extremely complex process – one which is dependent upon all areas of the gut doing their bit before the food is moved on to the next stage. With IBS these stages can be inadequate or missed out altogether. The end result is that nutrients are not absorbed and the body’s digesting fluids and enzymes cannot be created. Many other processes cannot be instigated. The vicious circle continues and we get sicker.

Next time, I will tell you the story of Micaela Stafford. This was a lady I met a few years ago who had the most severe form of gut dysbiosis I have ever witnessed. She has allowed me to tell her story.

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Sugar and Insulin – What They Do to Our Health

Insulin is the hormone released from the pancreas into the blood to metabolise blood sugar – in the form of glucose. Since ALL carbohydrates (grain products and vegetables – especially the starchy ones) are glucose to the body, insulin has a busy time!

Constantly raised glucose and insulin levels cause inflammation in the arteries and this is a health danger. The amount of carbohydrates that we consume is more than our bodies can handle safely.

There has been a good deal of research regarding sugar and ill-health recently. Most of us go through our day not realising that we are consuming hidden sugars or not being aware of just how much is being added to our food and drinks. This recent report illustrates very well, what you maybe downing in just a few gulps on a regular basis. (Photographs and research courtesy of DrEd)

                             

The two photographs above depict commonplace drinks which contain the same amount of sugar as the doughnuts and chocolate beside them.
Shocked?

A high intake of sugar has many detrimental effects on the body. Type 2 diabetes and obesity are the most obvious but there are other less well-known chronic illnesses that have sugar as a contributing factor; recurrent skin and other infections  (due to less active white cells – our defence against invading organisms ), acne, rosacea, psoriasis, candida overgrowth, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and many more.

In this report, it is cancer that is being highlighted. It is important to remember that it is not just the white granulated substance that is implicated. It is also starchy foods, including grains.

So will you cut the sugar? Lower your carbohydrate intake? Can you afford not to?

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