Vitamin D and Disease

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

CANCER – Will You Be the One in Two? (Part 2)

Part two of this blog, elaborates on the points made in part one. Employing these measures will decrease your risk of developing cancer. Can you afford not to?

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Immunity
The single most important factor to avoid cancer (and many other diseases), is a healthy immune system.  There are many aspects to immunity and there are intrinsic and extrinsic factors which affect it. The trouble, is that the extrinsic affects the intrinsic! Here, I will deal with the factors you can easily manage for yourself and talk about the rest separately.

The simplest life is not possible without four things – minerals, water, air and the sun. At the very basis of our existence these aspects must be addressed. Replenishing minerals is essential for the workings of the immune system.

Minerals – our soil is exhausted and therefore our food lacks minerals. One very good way to boost your intake is to use salt. Real salt. Not just sodium and chloride as we see in supermarkets, but that with which life began – Himalayan crystal salt which contains all the balancing minerals our bodies need for correct functions. Celtic grey salt is also excellent.
Water – Don’t drink from a plastic bottle – soft plastics leach their chemicals into the water and these are toxic to our bodies. Drink filtered water from glass, preferably. Please don’t over-hydrate. We should drink to our thirst (although the elderly may need a little coaxing) and to keep our urine pale yellow (ie. not clear and not amber).
Air – We have little control over the air quality where we live. Nonetheless, we can all get to the countryside and breathe fresher air. Plants help clean the air for us so get out as often as possible.
Sun – Make no mistake – we need the sun. It gives us many benefits (as well as life itself) and should not be avoided. Perhaps its greatest gift is vitamin D3. We now know that this vitamin is usually severely lacking in cancer patients and that there is more than a passing connection between vitamin D3 deficiency and around twenty specific cancers. The sunscreen manufacturers will tell you that malignant melanomas are due to the sun, but there is evidence that good blood levels of vitamin D3, actually reduces the risk! If the sun can cause malignant melanomas, then it is due to an unhealthy body in the first place.
Sunbathe: In the northern hemisphere, sunbathe as often as possible during April to September. Wear as little as possible – and definitely not sunscreen! The sun should be high in the sky (your shadow should be as long or shorter, than you are tall). Do not burn. Depending on your skin colour, stay in the sun until your skin is slightly pink, not red. This may be five minutes a side for very fair skin or up to half an hour a side for black skin. Fortunately, we can store this vitamin so we gain protection over winter too. However, a short winter holiday in the sun is a good boost!
When you have completed your sunbathing, cover up, go inside or apply a non-toxic sunscreen.

Get dirty! A wonderful and free way to boost your immune system is to connect with the earth. Walking barefoot outside is good, gardening is relaxing and rewarding and both activities bring us in contact with soil organisms. Believe it or not, most of them are natural residents in our gut! Our microbiome (the microbes on our skin and in our gut) has everything to do with our immunity. In fact, most of the measures I am suggesting for keeping us healthy are in fact, to keep our microbes happy!

Have a good hard look at the evidence before vaccinating your children. Be informed.

 

Toxic Chemicals
Toxic chemicals are a very real threat to our health. The main reason for this is how widely they are used. Our food, personal and household products, plastics, industrial waste, what we are required to handle at work (eg. till receipts) – they are just everywhere. Bear in mind, these toxic chemicals have no place in our bodies and we are bombarded with them. It is estimated that women can use around 300 different chemicals on their bodies every day – shampoo, shower gel,  makeup, perfume, body lotions etc. Everything applied to the skin can end up in the blood stream. If we are to avoid them, we first have to know where they are. Time to learn! Read product information. Buy natural organic products and cooking pots (not non-stick) and find different solutions for household cleaning. There are many websites to tell you how to do this and you will spend far less than you are used to. Frankly, we do not need much more than water for any cleaning purpose!

 

Stress
Some people believe that stress is the most damaging cancer-promoting factor. It certainly damages the immune system. The co-factors – lack of sleep, lack of interaction, obsessive behaviours, under or over eating etc. – weaken us mentally, physically and biologically. Naturally, we all have some “stress” in our lives or we would never do anything. When it is not adversely affecting us, this stress is called motivation. So how can we deal with it so that it won’t harm? It’s simplistic to say don’t put yourself in this situation, but if you answered the question “What is the most important aspect of my life?”  as family, then maybe it’s time to reassess your life – work included. Other options to manage stress -
See your friends and family often.I90BFnYh
Walk, preferably in the countryside. Notice what is around you and don’t try solving work problems whilst you are walking.
Try mindfulness, yoga, swimming.
Read books, not computers – before bed.
Have a bath! We are so used to jumping into the shower to revitalise, we have forgotten the relaxing feeling of a warm bath. Especially good before bed.
Get involved. It can be very rewarding to get involved with a community project/voluntary activity and as it is not work-related, it can almost have the same effect as a relaxation technique. Helping people is probably the most rewarding activity of all.
Appreciate what you have. If you are reading this on a computer or tablet, you have more that most people in the world. Honestly, if you have a roof over your head, people that love you and you love and food on the table, what more is needed? Learn to love your life and be grateful for it.

 

Fasting
There is good evidence that fasting can be very beneficial to both weight loss and cancer-prevention. Since most cancers need a supply of glucose for their progression, fasting nips this in the bud. Every day we all make cells that could become a cancer. A healthy immune system will take down these cells in much the same way that invasive bacteria and viruses are engulfed. This is the function of our white blood cells. As well as sustaining tumours, glucose impairs the function of white cells by slowing down their response to these “foreign” cells.
Fasting doesn’t need to be arduous. For most people, an overnight fast will be effective. The idea is to have dinner early and breakfast late. This type of fast needs a minimum of about fourteen hours, so that means dinner around 7pm and breakfast around 9am.

 

Diet
As you can see, all these points are interlinked, but diet must have a paragraph of its own. Since we eat several times per day, what we eat should be paramount. Sadly, this is not the case in the real world. What does hunger mean to you? Think about it. Nature has provided us with this sensation for a reason. The only reason for it, is to tell us that vital nutrients are getting low and we need to replace them. What it does not mean, is fill the stomach with anything to make the sensation go away. This so often happens, then a couple of hours later the hunger returns – presumably in the hope that this time, the correct nutrients will be supplied.
Cereal and toast for breakfast or eggs and bacon? Give it a try and see how long it is before your hunger returns after each.
As I could write a book on diet, here I am going to keep it short. Whatever foods you eat, they should be organic and supply all the nutrients that a human body needs. If we make sure we have a meal containing protein, good fats and something plant-based (veg and a little fruit), we can rely on nature to provide the vitamins and minerals. It is good to add fermented foods sometimes such as sauerkraut and kefir. Grains and sugar should be for the odd occasion only. Drink alcohol sensibly and not every day. This is very simplistic, but there is lots more information on the website regarding food. Please note that fat is vital!  The wrong fats are the ones in vegetable oil (other than coconut and olive oils) and margarine – these are cancer promoters. It is fat that induces satiety after a meal.

 

Exercise
Moderate exercise boosts the immune system (too much damages it) and it keeps your blood glucose and insulin levels in check – both are implicated in the occurrence of cancer. The benefits of exercise can include social aspects, fresh air, connection with nature, increased wellbeing and more.

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CANCER – Will You Be the 1 in 2? (Part 1)

“By 2020 almost one in two people (47%) will get cancer at some point in their lives”. This statistic is from the Macmillan website.

According to Wikipedia, “Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body”. There are many theories on how/why it starts, but there is no doubt that constant inflammation in the body can set up responses which result in a cancer. There are many ways in which we contribute to this inflammation, knowingly and unknowingly. My endeavour is to give you some information so that you can make better life choices.

Cancer in humans from our pre-historic past is hard to prove or disprove due to lack of remains to examine. However, there are plenty of studies from peoples across the world living a simple, hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Cancers are rare – as are many other chronic diseases. The fact is, that when life is lived in the way that is most natural to us, these diseases do not develop. It’s so simple. Another interesting point is that wild animals rarely suffer cancers, but domesticated animals do. This is what happens when we think we know better than nature!

The biggest problem we face is modern life. We work hard, we don’t sleep well, we don’t get outside in the fresh air, we eat food that has been treated unnaturally, we smoke, etc. etc. Another problem is greed. Food manufacturers want to make a profit – so they use the cheapest ingredients plus chemicals to make them taste better. This produces inferior quality products that fool our taste buds. They do NOT have our health in mind. This is just one example of greed making us sick – there are many more.

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Ignorance is a contributory factor. We can be forgiven to a degree – we trust “experts” and doctors to give us sound information. But what has this trust achieved? A nation of sick people who – if we believe the news – have brought our NHS (paid for by us) to breaking point. The only way out of this mess is to stay out of hospital. In other words, reclaim our health. We must stop believing all we are told and think for ourselves. If hunter-gatherer peoples can do it, so can we, but it takes effort on our part and it can sometimes mean quite radical lifestyle changes – perspectives and values need to be reassessed. This is not just diet, not just exercise, not just getting better sleep and not any one thing – it’s learning really what it means to be human – healthy and integrated, as nature intended us to be.

You need to ask yourself a few questions -
What is the most important aspect of my life?
Is it worth protecting?
Do I want to make a change/changes?
Am I in a position to start making these changes?

Sometimes it is better to mull things over and maybe talk to close family and friends before committing yourself to anything that will affect them too. If you are intending to apply changes to include the whole family, get their opinions and suggestions and implement changes slowly – let them choose where to start maybe. You don’t need to believe all I say here. In fact please, if you are going to do this, you must understand why you are doing it. Research for yourself. You should not be just following instructions – you should have a real understanding of the whys and wherefores of the changes you will make.

I cannot say that the list below is definitive as we are living in a relentlessly changing environment. Industries look to implement the cheapest/highest profit measures – not the safest. More of the planet’s surface is becoming barren due to bad management and we adopt unhealthy behaviours etc.  This list will be expanded upon next time.

  • Protect and boost your immune system. Sunbathe, eat the right foods (including some fermented foods), fast, get in touch with nature, learn about vaccines, stop using plastics.
  • Use fewer toxic personal and household products.
  • Learn stress management techniques and avoid stressful situations. Stay positive.
  • Practice intermittent fasting.
  • Address your diet – eat organic foods and include good fats, protein and a variety of vegetables and a little fruit.
  • Exercise moderately, preferably outside.

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Cancer – Can We Prevent It?

Having lost four celebrities to cancer last month, I was motivated to write this. We are all to some degree, sad at the loss of these influential people because they touched our lives. But their deaths are just a drop in the ocean. These statistics are from the Macmillan website:

  • There are now an estimated 2.5 million people living with cancer in the UK, rising to 4 million by 2030
  • By 2020 almost one in two people (47%) will get cancer at some point in their lives
  • More than a thousand people will be diagnosed with cancer everyday in the UK by the end of 2016

Around 160,000 people in the UK die from cancer every year

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 I couldn’t find any statistics regarding the ages of sufferers, other than for specific cancers. However, it’s apparent that cancer diagnoses are increasing in young people. On my first ward as a student nurse in the 1970s, I remember a man who had the terminal stages of lung cancer. He was in his early 50s. I was chosen to accompany the ward sister on the consultant’s ward round whilst this gentleman was a patient and was witness to the discussion following the round. Even though they had seen cancers in people this young before, it was still uncommon to see terminal illness through cancer in someone so young. As was said at the time – “cancer is a disease of the elderly” – when the body’s usual repair functions, start to slow down and don’t work correctly. People as young as 30 are being diagnosed – and younger. What is happening?

My view is that it’s never just one thing – it’s usually several. Yes this man smoked, but so did my grandmother (like a trooper!) and she died at 83 – not surprisingly, from lung cancer. My grandmother out-lived this man by 30 years! The difference, I believe, was that my grandmother had a wonderful diet – rich in good fats and free from toxins. The 70s saw the uprising of toxic vegetable oils in preference to butter, lard and dripping. I could relate many more anecdotes, but suffice to say, that there are more anecdotes.

Can we protect ourselves? I don’t have the definitive guide to preventing cancer, but I can cut your chances:

  • Reduce your use of toxic household and personal products. Get rid of the products under your sink that have hazard warnings and try these instead.
    Use just water for showering or find some very pure organic toiletries.
  • Eat organic food – especially the things you eat daily.
  • Get some sunshine for the vitamin D3 it gives us. Read the sunshine blog.
  • Stop eating foods that cause inflammation – especially seed oils, margarine and anything loosely called “vegetable oil.” Sugar – need I say more? Remember that all carbohydrate foods provide sugar to the body (limit grains), so don’t base your diet on these. Stop smoking.
  • Some medications are vital, but in general, try to find other ways to deal with illness and discomfort. Our main source of defence against illness, our microbiome (the good bugs in our gut and on our skin) is so easily disrupted by medications. We all make rogue – or potentially cancerous – cells in our bodies every day, but a strong immune system will dismantle them. Nurture your immune system.
  • Don’t overdo anything! If you drink – have days off. If you smoke (give it up!), cut them down. If you run, (this can cause inflammation in the body if overdone), relax or meditate as well. If you must have a Big Mac, please, make it a monthly occurrence! (I can’t bring myself to say treat!)
  • Always take time for relaxation – read, meditate, take a long bath and so on. These are anti-inflammatory practices.
  • Read my guidelines for health.

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These measures will take you a long way towards protecting against cancer, but there may be others. I’ll keep you informed!

 

 

 

Nutrition For Children

My daughter’s friend works in a children’s nursery locally to me. She suggested to the manager that it might be beneficial to the parents and staff, if they had some help with planning meals for the children and understanding what nutrition means for them. As we all know, feeding children nutritious food can be challenging! The mum’s were great and I have to hand it to them, they are really doing their best. It was great to see a good turn-out too. These mums really wanted to extend their knowledge.

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The variety of nutrients for a child is the same as for an adult, but some become more important. Adults need to maintain their health but children need to grow satisfactorily. Nutrition for both is vitally important but as adults, we can change little about our structure. Children are forming their structure, so for their future health and mental development, certain nutrients are paramount.

 

There are nine essential amino acids for building bodies

Growth requires building blocks and these come from proteins and fats. Proteins are made up of amino acids and there are nine which are essential – the body cannot make them so they must be taken in the diet. There are another eleven that we need but the body can synthesize these. The essential amino acids are easily obtained from animal proteins, as they contain all nine together. Vegetarians must be aware that these are not present all together in vegetable proteins. Beans or nuts should be eaten with grains at the same meal for all to be present. Better still, dairy products and eggs should be a major part of the diet.

 

 Animal fats make hormones, line our cells and more

The fatty acids from fats are another vital component for our structure. They line our cells, supply much-needed cholesterol, contribute to our immune systems and make hormones to name a few. Quite apart from these physiological requirements, fats make food taste good. Our taste-buds have a purpose – of natural foods, they tell us what we need. Unfortunately, we can fool our taste-buds when all food groups are mixed together – as in a cake for example. They detect the fat and protein (eggs and butter) but get confused with the addition of carbohydrates (sugar and flour). That doesn’t mean we should never eat cake (perish the thought!). What we need to remember is that we can easily overeat these mixed foods, which can be detrimental to our health. If you try to overeat double cream – lovely though it is – you won’t be able to eat much or you will be sick! The body has these mechanisms in place to ensure that we stay healthy.

It is also worth remembering that butter or cheese mixed with well-cooked vegetables not only makes them taste better to a child, but also helps release nutrients and their uptake.

Animal fats contain the fat-soluble vitamins A, D3, E and K2. These vitamins work together to channel minerals into bones and teeth. They allow absorption of calcium and other minerals, direct them to the skeleton and set the minerals into the bone. All of these stages are vital. Cheese has everything needed for this process. So simple!

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Carbohydrates can be included but they are not “essential”

Carbohydrates are the food group to be wary of. They are reduced to sugar by the body for easy absorption.  Children need energy but they will get some from fats. Including a few potatoes at dinner, a couple of slices of sourdough bread (easier to digest) for lunch, or a bowl of porridge with cream in the morning is fine. Please take care though – it is easy to add too many of these foods into the diet, leaving no room for those they really need. There are no essential carbohydrates.

 

Other foods

Vegetables are always difficult for children. To be honest, if they are eating meat, liver, fish and lots of animal fats, they will come to no harm without them. However, we want to get them used to eating some as they do have lots of nutrients for us. Cook them well, add butter or cheese, make pureed soups or a frittata.

Drinks can be an issue for children. Sweet fizzy drinks should not be introduced. Milk can be great for children but please buy organic, unhomogenised or preferably raw milk if you can find it. Encourage water drinking, very weak tea or at a push, very dilute apple juice.

The sun

Not food, but still nutrition. Let children play in the sun with no sunscreen and very little clothing for a while. They must not burn, but they will get a huge dose of vitamin D3 which no food can supply. Don’t be afraid of it – if there were no sun, there would be no us. We need it!

One last word, please buy organic food whenever possible. Children do not need pesticides, herbicides, antibiotic and hormone residues. They need nutritious, fresh, preferably local foods that will only do them good, not harm.

 

The Life-Giving Sun

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

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

We need the sun for our lives

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

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

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

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

How we obtained our vitamin D through pre-history

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

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

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

Sunbathe!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The “Buzzword” Vitamin

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When I started my nursing career in 1973, I was taught very little about nutrition. Vitamin D was to help calcium into the bones for growth and strength and really, it had very little other use. Also – it was called vitamin D only – not D2 or D3 as you may have heard more recently.

This is yet again, the problem with science – it seems helpful until the next bit of science comes along and changes everything. So at this time we are aware that there are two forms of vitamin D that have some importance for us as humans – D2 and D3. D2 is present in plants and not as bio-available to us as D3, which is obtained from animal sources and the sun. Another recent discovery is that in order for vitamin D3 to be used properly, vitamin K2 needs to be present. And vitamin A. And several minerals..

I named my business “Your Good Health – Naturally” for a very specific reason which I am sure you can guess. If we eat the diet we are programmed for and emulate (impossible to live the exact same life) the lifestyle we evolved with, we get what we need for life, health and reproduction. And this is in spite of the constantly changing “evidence” that science brings us.

I suspect that over the next decade, we will see vitamin D split into other analogues. New science is already showing that vitamin D from the sun is water soluble and can travel easily in the blood, but vitamin D from food is fat-soluble and in fact, needs fat for its absorption if it is contained in non fatty sources (eg. vegetables). I wonder how long it will take before science shows us that it is also used differently in the body!

It wasn’t so long ago in our history that we spent a great deal more time outside. Children played outside in all weathers. When I was young, we had two TV channels and no computers to keep us indoors. We saw the sun at all times of the day and no sun-screen was applied, since it hadn’t been invented. Sun-tan lotion (to attract the sun to make tanning quicker) was around in the 1960s as I remember and we were encouraged to be in the sun as it gave us vitamin D. What on Earth has gone wrong? People of the western world are now vitamin D deficient – to epidemic proportions.  If we are to remain disease-free, things have to change.

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So why do we need vitamin D? Before I address that, I must first emphasise that nutrients work together, not in isolation. The trouble is, when we hear that something is good for us, we then overdo it – “if some is good, more must be better”. We often buy supplements. but please, get professional help with this if you intend to take them. Vitamin D3 on its own can be harmful. Vitamin D3 helps the absorption of calcium but is is vitamin K2 that directs it to bones and teeth – away from arteries where it causes damage.

We now know that vitamin D3 (which is the form our bodies use easily) is needed for countless processes in the body. In fact, the bottom line is that we cannot live without proper levels of vitamin D.

(The UK RDA for vitamin D will protect against bone diseases but we need far more than this for optimum health. If half an hour in the sun can produce 20,000 units of vitamin D in our skin, the UK RDA, at a mere 2-400 units, is woefully inadequate.)

Children and babies have died from this deficiency and adults become ill and die from the diseases that are associated with the deficiency – but their conditions are rarely attributed to it as blood levels of vitamin D are not routinely tested. Due to all the known processes in the body where vitamin D3 takes a part, it is not difficult to imagine what might happen if it is not present in the needed amounts.

Immunity is compromised along with all that this entails: pathogenic infections are not effectively fought; potentially cancerous cells may not be destroyed; asthma and eczema are more prevalent as are other allergies; incidences of gut problems such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are more evident as are the symptoms in established disease.
Interestingly, the incidence of malignant melanomas (which some authorities believe to be due to the sun’s rays) are less common in those with optimum levels. There are about twenty different types of cancer that are known to have a connection with vitamin D deficiency.

Bone density is severely compromised without adequate levels of vitamin D.  Rickets is the name for this condition in children and osteomalacia in adults. Babies have been known to be born with the condition and their bones remain fragile instead of being strengthened by mineral deposits. This condition at its worst is incompatible with life. The condition is evident as the legs become bowed in children and adults. Osteoporosis is also a bone thinning disease where vitamin D deficiency may at least in part, be implicated. Don’t forget the K2 too!

It is now thought that vitamin D3 is involved with cholesterol regulation, the occurrence of mental disturbances such as dementia and depression, heart disease and the onset and progression of multiple sclerosis.

Such terrible consequences from a deficiency that is entirely preventable – for free. In Britain, during the months of April to September the sun rises high enough in the sky for the UVB rays (which are the ones needed to form vitamin D3 in our skin) to reach us here in the Northern Hemisphere. UVB rays are short in comparison to UVA rays – which are available from dawn to dusk. The easiest way to gauge if the sun is right is to look at your shadow. If it is shorter than you are tall, the UVB rays are present and you can strip off! Be sensible here – if your skin is fair, five minutes a side is sufficient. If you have black skin, you must start with about thirty minutes a side. Unfortunately, black-skinned people suffer the most in the Western world as it takes that much longer for the UVB rays to penetrate. It is none-the-less, absolutely vital they sunbathe if they are to stay healthy. The amount of sunshine needed to be effective, also depends where you are. The more northerly the position, the longer it will take and if you are on holiday in the Med, less time will be needed. Your skin should be slightly pink, not red. Do NOT go to sleep in the sun – you are very likely to burn! After this time, it is best to cover up or sit in shade but if you must, use a sunscreen that is as natural as possible. The usual sun-screens have many unpleasant and damaging chemicals in them. Your skin will quite happily absorb these into your body where they have absolutely no place. (Best to use water only for showering after sun exposure, to prevent washing away those precious skin oils.)

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If your ancestors were from the Northern Hemisphere, you are adequately equipped for life here. The fact that our livers can store huge amounts of vitamin D means that even though there is no UVB sunlight during the winter months, we will be fine if we have adequate stores. If we haven’t, maybe a D3 and K2 supplement would be useful for a few months. Please seek advice regarding this.
People whose ancestry is nearer the Equator should take extra care. The storage space for vitamin D may not be the same as people from more northerly climes, due to the intensity, frequency and duration of sunlight in equatorial countries.  Nature doesn’t change what it does very quickly, meaning that we have to.

There are many foods that contain vitamin D. D2 is present in leafy green vegetables but some people have trouble converting it to the D3 that is needed for humans and some other mammals. To maximise the absorption of D3 from plants, serve vegetables with a knob of butter or in a creamy sauce. Animal foods that are rich in D3 – eggs, full-fat dairy, offal, shellfish and other surface swimming fish. Meat (and especially offal) that has the highest levels of D3 will be from animals that are reared outside on pasture where they can eat grass and weeds that contain abundant D2 which they will convert to D3. These are foods that are nutrient-dense all round and should be included in our diet anyway.

In 2012 we had a lousy summer. During the winter of that year, I dropped my “no supplements” rule and took a D3/K2 supplement until April. Maybe there are some occasions when it is a good idea, as the above, but also you might want to do this if you have dark skin or if you have not been able to sunbathe much when the sun was out. To me though, ”naturally” is always the best.

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Walking Barefoot, Grounding or Earthing

This word “grounding” has meant many things to me over the years but recently (in the last few years) has come to mean a specific and deliberate action to improve health. It is also known as earthing – which makes sense as we are talking about electricity.

We lose sight of the fact that we don’t just live in the world; we are a part of the world. We are influenced by so many things – all our food comes from the earth one way or another, the sunshine (without which, life as we know it, would not exist) creates a valuable nutrient in our skin and determines our circadian rhythm. The menstrual cycle is also governed by the universe – the words month and moon having the same origin.

file7411336412042So, if we accept that we are here courtesy of the world and universe, it makes sense that these entities look after us too or what is the point of existence? This could get deep so I’ll move on!

We are electrical beings. Without electricity our hearts would not beat, our muscles would not contract and our senses would not work. In order to maintain these important functions, we are dependent upon certain minerals that have negative and positive charges – potassium, calcium, sodium and chloride. For various reasons, (radio waves, certain foods, body functions and more) we end up with more positive ions than negative therefore the equilibrium is upset. Excess positive ions can lead to many health problems – both   physical (resulting from inflammation) and mental, such as depression.

Earth – the planet – has a negative charge and if you walk barefoot on the ground, you can absorb huge amounts of negative ions. Think about it; how much better do you feel after a holiday? We are often barefoot much of the time, we also boost our vitamin D levels (possibly less so if you are skiing!) and we relax more. We return feeling revitalised. These ions also have a great anti-inflammatory effect – thus protecting us from many ills.

So – how to do this. Kick off your shoes and wander around in the garden. Damp grass is a good conductor as is sand. Concrete is OK as long as there isn’t a “skin” under it. Leather-soled shoes will keep you in touch even if you are out and about, but rubber soles will not. Wood will not allow the ions through and neither will roads and pavements. If you are wearing leather-soled shoes, cut across the park to work!

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The “Wise Traditions” Conference Part 1

After the two days at the Weston A. Price “Wise Traditions” conference, my head was buzzing – so much information to assimilate and figure out how to use this in my practice. Some of the topics discussed reassured me that I am on the right path with the treatment I advise. The “usual suspects” for disease came up often – low blood vitamin D levels in the western world, low-fat diets contributing to poor health, the detrimental effect of polyunsaturated oils and of course, the importance of a good microbiota – the colony of microbes in your gut. All the things I bang on about constantly!

DSC_6904Chris Masterjohn, talked about the importance of “Meat, Bones, Organs and Skin for Mental Health”. I am far from being a scientist so I won’t go into details here for fear of getting it wrong! Suffice it to say that there are substances in these foods that work together and in a domino effect, promoting the proper function of brain chemicals – proper functioning brain chemicals – proper functioning brain!
He also highlighted, chemically, what can go wrong for vegetarians. He was vegetarian/vegan for many years, believing that this was the healthy way to eat. His health suffered and his teeth began to rot due partly to the lack of fat soluble vitamins and the amount of grain he was eating. He began researching and came upon the Weston A. Price Foundation. Read more about this here.
There is some evidence that vegetarians suffer mental disorders more frequently than meat-eaters.
His second lecture was about how heart disease and degeneration are related to the nutrients in food. The most important message was about anti-oxidants. Most of us have heard this term and understand that they are needed to help our health, but I think the main message for me was that yet again, they do not work alone but need other compounds to do the job. I feel justified in my stance – I very rarely advise supplements for just this reason. If you take a supplement in isolation, at worst it could be dangerous and at best it can be pointless. More about supplements here.

file9121341856730Philip Weeks gave a talk about adrenal exhaustion, brought about by chronic stress. We all know that it is damaging, but even I was shocked at just how badly the body can be affected! Rather than summarise the talk, I found this on his website which explains.

Next week I will conclude this blog.

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