Oil-Pulling 2: the missing link for inflammation?

So the other great difference I have noticed as well as an increase in productive viral activity, and warmer body temperature, is far less inflammation in my back and joints. After my pregnancy all my joints were painful and stiff- I couldn’t bend down, had to implement a complex series of movements in order to get down onto the floor and get up again. I sprained my right wrist pushing the pram and had to wear a support, then my left wrist suddenly flared up. It was tender to the touch and at night I had to rest it on a pillow. If I knocked it accidentally, the shooting pain was enough to take my breath away. I felt about ninety years old.

I knew the problems were probably related to my thyroid and adrenals. I wasn’t the only one- in fact amongst my small circle of friends in Holland there were a few of us suffering from unusual aches and pains, stiff joints and decreased flexibility. My problems were historic. At the age of 24 I’d injured my sacroiliac joint and slipped a disc in a gym accident. I spent the next few months in agony, mostly lying on a mattress on the floor with a bag of frozen peas under my pelvis. I had to give up work. I tried every treatment going- physio, chiropractic, osteopathy, massage, acupuncture, rehabilitative exercise, yoga- but at most I received only temporary benefit. It seemed as though a pocket of inflammation had set up residence in my lower spine- initiated by injury but sustained by a lifetime of weak adrenal function, which causes muscle instability in the pelvis.

back painOver the next fifteen years I learned to deal with the pain but was enslaved to its whims: every time I wore a pair of shoes with a different heel size I suffered the consequences. At night I slept with a cushion under my hips, and if I accidentally rolled onto my back in the night, the next day I was crippled with stiffness. I always had pain upon waking, and because it made me feel so vulnerable, I carried my body as if it were a board, inflexible and tight. On a holiday in Greece, a bumpy ride on a scooter triggered such a bad episode I couldn’t walk for the rest of the week and had to have physio from a burly Croatian man who spoke no English and cracked me as if I were a fortune cookie. Basically, to misquote Orwell, if I imagined a picture of the future, it was of a boot stamping on a human back- forever.

When I started oil-pulling, I had no real expectations. After all there are very few health interventions I’ve not done and been disappointed by. Over my lifetime I’ve spent probably tens of thousands of pounds on alternative treatments and supplements. I’ve never shied away from self-experimentation- from liver cleanses to fasts to urine therapy (oh yeah) I’ve done it all- so that my clients would know what worked (not much of it) and didn’t work (most of it). I never expected that one of the most powerful self-help measures would also be the cheapest.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, within a few days of starting oil-pulling, several things occurred. My dizziness vanished, my anxiety diminished and my back and joint pain just seemed to melt away. I felt flexible for the first time in years… I did several downward dog poses to celebrate and it felt easy! Five months in and it’s still working. In the mornings I roll out of bed without even thinking about it, and if I want to sleep on my back, then I can. I reckon I’ll be oil-pulling for the rest of my life; it’s part of my routine now. I never miss a day and I always do it first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything else (to eliminate the bacteria that accumulate in the mouth overnight). Fife book SO how is it done? (see Bruce Fife’s book if you want to be more of a geek about it :-))

  1. Take a small mouthful of an unrefined oil into your mouth (most unrefined oils should be refrigerated after opening as they are vulnerable to heat and light). You need to leave room for the saliva that will build as you swish or ‘pull’ the oil, so don’t take a huge mouthful of oil. I prefer extra virgin olive and seem to get the best results with this, but you could also try sunflower or virgin coconut oil.
  2. Swill it gently around the gums and teeth, ‘pull’ it from the front to the back and side to side. Don’t be very vigorous otherwise your mouth will get tired.
  3. If you’re a beginner, aim just to get used to sensation of having oil in your mouth, which for some can feel unpleasant. Do something else while pulling, like get dressed or take a shower. I get little O out of bed and feed him while I’m doing these… he’s got used to me mumbling away to him in oil-pullese.
  4. Aim to do it for 10 minutes and over a week or so, build up to 20 minutes.
  5. The oil should be a white or yellowish colour when you spit it out. This is due to the emulsification with saliva.
  6. Rinse your mouth out thoroughly with something like warm salt water, or cold water with something antibacterial added, such as lemon juice, tea tree oil or grapefruit seed extract (Citricidal).

And that’s it! If you’re going to do it however, please do commit to doing it for at least a couple of months, as although you may experience immediate benefits, some take longer to emerge. Also you may need to prepare yourself for some detox symptoms- whether that’s a cold, skin break-outs, or even brief ‘retracing’ of old health issues (however these tend to be less intense than their original manifestation, and usually pass swiftly).

Why Feeling Bad Has Never Felt So Good

When I was a child I had pretty terrible health. As a baby and toddler, I got every cold going, then when I was four, I caught whooping cough and the outcome was pretty severe: I couldn’t keep much down and I lost a lot of weight. After that I had a few chest and throat infections- bronchitis, tonsillitis, and seemingly endless coughs that went on and on. That was the pattern of things until I reached adulthood- but then when I hit 30 and developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I stopped getting colds altogether. I felt constantly rundown and ill with burning eyes, sore throat and unremitting fatigue, but nothing ever came of it. I remember describing my symptoms to my Dr as a ‘trapped cold’ because that was how it presented itself. Little did I realise at the time that that was going to be my state of health for the next six years.

Over time I began to look upon others who had colds as lucky. The idea of being able to produce a nice hot temperature, or expel all that pernicious viral activity in the form of rivers of mucous and sneezing, struck me as a testament to the miraculous, regenerative powers of the human body. When people I knew moaned about their condition and suppressed their wonderful colds with Night Nurse or (even worse) antibiotics, I felt like shaking them. How come our stupid allopathic medical model persists in suppressing the body’s natural response to infection when all the medical evidence suggests otherwise? (To this day I try not to suppress little O’s temperature if he’s running one, unless it prevents him from sleeping.)?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

When I started to recover from the CFS, I frequently used oxygen therapies to mobilise my cells to throw off their viral and bacterial load. The result was sometimes a cold, maybe once a year- but it was still a feeble and anaemic thing, and I never felt much better afterwards.

Since I’ve been oil-pulling however, I have had two of the most terrific colds. I mean, these guys deserve their own walk-on part in a medical drama. Not for 15 years or more have I had colds like this: full-on, two-week long snot-fests, all the colours of the rainbow. One morning coming back from play group, I could barely walk in a straight line from all the sneezing. And did I complain? Of course I did. It felt great to be one of the In Crowd.sneeze.article

Sorry, TMI? Well, there’s a point to my graphic illustration. Before oil-pulling I was just too stagnant and cold to produce an acute viral illness. Oil-pulling seems to improve immune function by reducing the burden of bacterial toxins on the lymphatic system, thereby allowing it to work more effectively. Bruce Fife claims that it ‘draws toxins out of the bloodstream through the mucous membranes of the mouth.’ The doctor who brought the practice to Western medics from Ayurvedic tradition, was a Dr F Karach; apparently he believed that oil-pulling could heal both chronic and acute diseases, everything from migraines and PMS to allergies, heart disease and beyond (he claimed oil-pulling healed his own chronic blood disease of 15 years’ standing).

Given how cheap and simple this technique is, such claims must- understandably- seem fantastical, if not downright fraudulent. But don’t just take my word for it. There are hundreds of testimonials online, and Bruce Fife’s book on the practice contains a tonne more. I have my own testimonial too- of 15 years of chronic back (and latterly joint) pain dramatically improved by about 75% in a matter of days- about which, more later – as well as instructions about how to do the technique yourself.

An update- finally

I realise with hideous embarrassment that it’s been 17 months since I last updated this blog, and that whatever readership I may have amassed has probably dwindled away to approximately zero since I signed off. I was hoping to return to something akin to ‘work’ this time last year, but events took a surprising and not altogether welcome turn after the birth of my son.

Little O was born healthy and well (albeit 2 weeks late) in October, but I didn’t fare so well, needing several emergency operations after haemorrhaging 5 litres of blood (which is apparently all the blood in your body). Finally they did a procedure called Uterine Artery Embolisation, which cuts off the main arterial blood supply to the womb. If that hadn’t worked, the next stop was a hysterectomy, which would have plunged me into early menopause. The whole experience was- as one would expect- deeply traumatic, surreal and painful, and losing my agency in a process that is supposed to be personal, intimate and life-enhancing is something I’m not sure I shall ever come to terms with.

After a week’s stay in hospital I returned home and promptly developed a suspected uterine infection, so back I went for another five days, where they pumped my body so full of antibiotics even little O developed a nasty reaction (through my milk). While all this was happening, my partner got through to the first round of interviews for a job in Amsterdam. Shortly after I returned home for the second and final time, he flew out to meet the company.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, we flew out to Holland at the end of 2012, and began our year living the peculiar existence of ex-pats: never truly blending into Dutch life, but observing it from the outside, disconnected by language, custom and the easy refuge of shared cultural references. We lived in the beautiful city of Haarlem, which, like its larger cousin, is threaded with canals, and crowned by a stunning 16th century Grote Kerk which sits in a large cobbled square. In Spring and Summer the square is always alive with the sounds and smells of cheese and fish markets, and people eating ices and drinking beer.Grote-Kerk-Haarlem

It was an amazing city to live in and particularly so during the long 2013 summer, which was stunning and hot. I made some friends, who also had babies the same age, and those of us lucky enough not to have to work met up for coffee, went for walks and to the beach. I made friends from as far as Kenya, the US and Romania, but I never got to know any Dutch people. The Dutch can be friendly and helpful when they want to be, but they can also be extremely judgmental and critical. More than once a stranger took it upon themselves to criticise my parenting – an attitude I found hard to deal with as a reserved Brit. They’ll do something like help you onto a bus with your pushchair, but push you out of the way when they want to get past.

Outwardly we were living a privileged and secure life. We rented a large two-storey house, had money to spend on meals and clothes when we wanted. In private however, we were struggling. My partner quickly realised his job was a poisoned chalice: the stress of the workload, coupled with a dysfunctional management structure and demoralised staff made a toxic combination, and he began to lose sleep and his mood rapidly deteriorated. As a new mum cut adrift from family and all that was familiar, I developed acute anxiety- and this was dramatically amplified when O began to show symptoms of yeast overgrowth. He seemed permanently constipated and chronically prone to a nasty yeast rash. It didn’t help that I struggled physically at times- my joints and back were constantly inflamed and painful. I could hardly bend to lift O out of his cot. I sprained both wrists pushing the pram and they refused to heal. Worryingly my adrenals seemed very weak and I became frequently dizzy and fatigued. It was hard to confide in anyone, simply because I didn’t know how to describe what was wrong with me. I suspected my thyroid and adrenals were tanking in the downward phase of postpartum thyroiditis that affects around 5% of women after pregnancy (though I suspect this is a massive under-estimate). I went to see the GP who tested me for the usual TSH but not much else (TSH is a poor indicator of actual thyroid function; tests need to measure actual conversion of T4 into T3 within the cell: http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/tsh-why-its-useless/). He was also a mine of misinformation. He told me I should not take Ibuprofen to manage my pain, since it is contraindicated in breastfeeding (it isn’t). When I took my permanently constipated (but exclusively breastfed) son of five months to him he advised giving him mashed-up fruit ‘with a bit of biscuit’ to make it appealing (really? Biscuits at under six months?!). But then when my periods returned, so scant as to be abnormal, he told me that the procedure I’d undergone to stop the haemorrhage had nothing to do with it. No one told me that I wouldn’t really have periods anymore, or that my chances of ever getting pregnant again and carrying another child safely to term would be at best dicey, at worst dangerous. In a small study of women who became pregnant after the procedure, a third of them miscarried. And worldwide the number of women who’ve successfully gone on to deliver a baby after UFE is only about a hundred.

BUT. And this is the point. If this had happened to me fifty years ago, I’d very likely be dead, and O with me. It’s scary to think how close I might have come.DSC_0713

And now, the majority of my pain has receded, like the rest of that bad dream. It didn’t disappear by magic, although the technique that I discovered to treat it- an ancient technique that costs pennies and may just be one of the most powerful adjuncts to health I’ve ever discovered- worked like a charm. That technique is oil-pulling, and the story of this little gem has to wait until next time…..olive oil

Signing off for a few months

As I approach my ‘due date’ of 7 October, it is unlikely I will be able to take on any further clients for a while. I am hoping to be able to return to work in the Spring, but that depends on many factors, not least my being primary carer for the little one, so if you’re thinking of booking a consultation with me, do get in touch nearer the time.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for a nutritionist with a similar approach to mine- i.e. nutrient-dense, traditional diet, focus on the gut and thyroid, energy output etc- then check out Diana Earnshaw at Your Good Health Naturally, though bear in mind she is based in Reading, Berkshire. Nevertheless I believe she offers phone consultations. There are plenty of other nutritionists here in Manchester but they may well take a very different approach from myself.

My other recommendations? Do your own research and check out the work of Mary Enig, Sally Fallon, Ray Peat, Matt Stone, Danny Roddy, Chris Kresser and the Rubins in California, to get you on the right track.

Good luck in your own health journey and keep in touch!Image

Tis the season for… cake-baking

This will probably be my last post for a little while, depending on when the Fraggle arrives. This weekend marks 37 weeks so apparently I am ‘term’, though not ‘due’. To make matters more confusing (just for those of you who are interested) some researchers now think that babies could benefit from staying longer in the womb, to 41 weeks or more, and that 37 weeks should be reclassified as premature: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2167986/At-37-weeks-baby-called-premature.html

Anyway, that aside, we are still busy nesting in anticipation of the event, and I say ‘we’ because the Fraggle Daddy has outstripped even me in the organising department, doing an impressive amount of DIY in the last month or so: putting up wall tidies, pictures, book shelves, cots, door handles, even a cooker hood vent, etc. Not to pander to gender stereotypes or anything, but my nesting has more taken the form of cooking, cleaning, laundering everything in sight, and well, now baking, which IS a bit of a surprise given that I’ve baked about 3 cakes in my whole life. Of course, it may also have something to do with the fact that the nights are drawing in a bit now and certainly here in Manchester the weather has definitely turned!

This banana bread recipe is adapted from a recipe by Kimberley Walsh (what? Don’t you know who she is? From Girls Aloud, of course) but I’ve changed a number of things, including substituting muscovado sugar instead of white (more mineral-rich), decreasing the sugar by about 50% and adding in some currants for sweetness instead. In fact it’s amazing how much sugar goes into these sweet treats, and totally unnecessarily given how much one’s palate can adjust to less sweetness, especially if you’re going to give these foods to children. Per 100g, muscovado contains 100mg potassium, 85mg calcium, 23mg magnesium. Compare that to white sugar which contains virtually none of these things, and then to add insult to injury, actually uses up minerals such as magnesium to process it (54 molecules of magnesium to process 1 molecule of sugar!) as well as causing a big insulin spike which draws on precious zinc stores (one of the reasons why a diet rich in processed sugar can cause hormonal imbalances and acne in teenagers).

Anyway, here’s the recipe. I made mine with gluten-free flour. Enjoy!

Banana Bread (makes 9 slices)

175g gluten-free self-raising flour

150g muscovado sugar

100g butter

3 mashed ripe bananas

75g currants

75ml milk

2 free range eggs

half tsp bicarb soda

half tsp ground nutmeg

half tsp ground cinnamon or mixed spice

few drops vanilla essence

half tsp salt

  • Grease a 19cm square cake tin and preheat the oven to 180C (less for fan oven)
  • Beat together butter and sugar until fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, then fold in the flour, salt and nutmeg.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the bicarb soda into the milk, add the vanilla essence.
  • In another bowl, mash the bananas, add currants, salt and spices.
  • Add the milk to the flour mixture and then stir in the bananas. Mix thoroughly so there are no lumps.
  • Spoon into the tin then bake for around 45 mins until golden brown on the outside and a knife comes away clean from the middle.

A new ‘superfood’?

In general, I never recommend anything to a client that I’ve not first tried out on myself, and that includes supplements that make great claims to be a panacea for every health problem out there. I’m particularly suspicious of the promotion of so-called ‘superfoods’ that are thrust into the media spotlight with a hefty price tag that rarely justifies their actual efficacy.

So when I was called up a couple of weeks ago by a supplement company looking to promote a new superfood called Moringa, I sent them packing (politely) with a reminder that I don’t do promotions of that kind unless I have seen and experienced their benefits first hand. But I must admit my natural curiosity then got the better of me,  leading  me down a series of web-related worm holes in the pursuit of further knowledge. What took me aback was the  sheer number of glowing,  seemingly genuine testimonials that could be found for this stuff from many different corners.

Moringa leaf is a plant that grows native to the Indian Himalayas and in composition resembles spinach, but with a much lower oxalate content. This is an important consideration since as abundant as spinach is in minerals, it should never be eaten raw, since the oxalate compounds bind to and prevent the absorption of those very minerals (including zinc, calcium and magnesium). And for some unfortunate individuals, oxalates are also the source of joint pains and inflammation.

Moringa has started to garner more widespread attention due to its nutrient-density. The plant can be eaten in a variety of ways, but the easiest is to pick the leaves and either cook them fresh, or dry them and grind them into powder which can then be mixed into food after it is cooked or added to drinks and smoothies. The plant is reputed to contain several times’ the vitamin and mineral content of commonly eaten healthy foods (see above). It also provides an impressive array of B vitamins and good amounts of zinc and magnesium. It also supplies a whopping  30% protein, with all eight essential amino acids.

However, this wasn’t the main reason I was impressed. Moringa also contains high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which in some studies showed impressive protection against free radicals. These are implicated in inflammatory disease, cancer, ageing and general oxidative stress to cells. When the dried seeds were extracted with ethanol and given to rats with an inflamed paw, the solution decreased the inflammatory response by 85%. The solution was also tested on Epstein-Barr viral activity (AKA Glandular Fever- a common viral precursor to ME) and completely destroyed the virus (International Journal of Pharmacognosy, 1996). The researchers found that the Moringa outperformed pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories. Anecdotally, testimonials online point to Moringa’s benefits in improving their rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue, advanced liver damage, rapid sports recovery, gout, blood pressure and numerous other conditions.

So, as for me, I’m a few days’ into trialling it on myself and my partner. I also circumvented the expensive route to supplementation (i.e. buying the capsules from a company) and bought the dried leaf directly from a source in India. I’m putting it into my breakfast smoothie and stirring it into sauces, soups and stews after cooking. It’s early days but so far I am definitely experiencing a feeling of increased alertness, and at gone seven months’ pregnant, have even found myself not needing my afternoon nap and motoring on to 11.30 at night with some energy left in the tank!

Curious? Check it out yourself: http://www.treesforlife.org/our-work/our-initiatives/moringa/faq/using-moringa/how-is-moringa-used-medicinally

War on Salt (haven’t we been here before??)

Yesterday I listened to the Today programme to hear a report on the supposed link between salt and stomach cancer. The report from the World Cancer Research Fund didn’t really explain how this mechanism worked, nor how the trials established this single incriminating factor, and the presenter did nothing to challenge the findings- presumably because we all ‘know’ how bad salt is for us: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3370141.stm

 

Now I’m no apologist for heavily salt-laden processed foods, but I am sceptical of the way salt has been held responsible for a whole barrage of chronic diseases, just as saturated fat has been hung out to dry in the last 50 years.

 

So, the World Cancer Research Fund says 14% of stomach cancers could be prevented by eating less salt, although I couldn’t find this reference on their website. Interestingly in a kind of ‘factoid’ type leaflet, the WCRF also says ‘Although the number of cases is declining, almost 8,000 people develop stomach cancer in the UK each year. Most of these cases are diagnosed in people aged over 50. Scientists estimate that about half of stomach cancer cases in the UK could be prevented by not smoking, cutting down on salt and eating a healthy diet.’ Ah, so now we have all sorts of variables confounded. AND the anomaly that stomach cancer rates are DECLINING despite us consuming 8.6g salt a day.

 

So perhaps we are consuming more salt now than ever before? Surprisingly not: our salt intake remains roughly the same as it did in 1957 (American Journal Clinical Nutrition, Sept 2010). This is because we used salt to preserve more of our food- handy when you didn’t have a fridge. We’re eating the same amount of salt but in a different way (i.e. hidden in processed foods).

 

In the US rates of stomach cancer have also declined from over 400, 000 in 1950-69 to 265, 500 in 1985-2004: yet salt consumption has remained constant at about 3700mg sodium per day (about 9g), for the last 50 years (ibid.)

 

One of the supposed indisputable facts usually held up to support this hypothesis is rates of stomach cancer in Japan, where salt intake is high (use of miso, pickles, salted fish, salt in fermented foods etc), yet even here there is much more than meets the eye. One big factor is smoking. In the 1960s 80% of the male population smoked, twice as high as in the US. The incidence and death rates of stomach cancer also peaked between 1960 and 1980s. Cancers of the stomach and liver alone accounted for 70% of all male cancer deaths in 1951, declining to 41% by 1996 despite liver cancer’s rise (Journal of Demographic Research, Vol.5, 2002). In Japan the stats show that smoking is in decline, but still 51% of men smoke as opposed to 20% of men in the US.

 

The other significant factor influencing gastric cancer is the incidence of H Pylori infection. In 2006 the journal Gut compared two cohorts of patients, one British, one Japanese, and found that although the infection was almost equally present in the patients’ symptoms of gastritis, the Japanese patients were at greater risk of a more aggressive strain, demonstrating greater atrophy in the gastric lining and more inflammation. This is a key factor in the predisposition towards stomach cancer. In their article ‘The Cancer Transition in Japan since 1951’, the researchers blame over half of stomach cancer cases on the H Pylori infection, and claim that better hygiene and ‘a general improvement in the standard of living’ has seen stomach cancer rates drop. (Journal of Demographic Research, ibid.)

 

Even if we take stomach cancer out of the equation, limiting sodium intake to under 1500mg a day (that’s less than a teaspoon) has to help prevent cardiovascular deaths, right? Not necessarily and certainly not if you have normal blood pressure. In 2003 the Cochrane Collaboration, partly funded by the US Dept of Health, reviewed 57 short-term salt-reduction trials and concluded that ‘there is little evidence for long-term benefit from reducing salt intake.’ In 2004, it published a review of 11 longer-term salt-reduction trials. Compared to normal diets, these low-salt diets decreased systolic blood pressure (the top number in the blood pressure ratio) in healthy people by 1.1 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by 0.6 mmHg. As the Scientific American magazine put it, ‘that is like going from 120/80 to 119/79’. The review concluded that such ‘intensive interventions…provide only minimal reductions in blood pressure during long-term trials.’

 

In fact for people with nervous system disorders and thyroid and adrenal problems, limiting salt like this can do far more harm than good, since they find it difficult to maintain adequate electrolyte levels (charged minerals in the blood) which regulate nerve and muscle function, blood pH and hydration. Drinking tonnes of plain water on top of this deficiency can aggravate hypoglycaemia and make people cold, lethargic and anxious.

 

My advice? Enjoy real food and salt it as you wish- just make sure you use real Celtic sea salt (which should be grey and moist) or Himalayan rock salt, which- unlike table salt- contains the whole spectrum of minerals, not just sodium.

Power Breakfast

Rice pudding with cooked dried fruit and gelatine

At six-and-a-half months’ pregnant, my appetite is curiously less than it used to be before I got pregnant; however, I am still a fan of breakfast, and a breakfast that earns its keep has got to be one that helps you power through the morning for a good five hours or more. A sign that you’re not eating the right breakfast is when you crack at the first talk of elevenses. Always crave a Twix with your morning coffee? This suggests falling blood sugar, usually as a result of a highly refined breakfast without protein or fat in it. Elevenses are a modern phenomenon, let’s face it- a modern marketing phenomenon- designed to fill a gap that your well-positioned leading brand cereal company can’t meet.

Some people make the transition quite happily to a savoury breakfast: poached eggs on toast, egg scramble with baked beans and tomatoes and mushrooms, a Nordic fish breakfast, even leftovers from dinner. But for others they need easing gently into the breakfast regime, and want something sweet and satisfying to start the day. This recipe is perfect, containing around 20g of protein, as well as 25g of fat, plus abundant compounds that help feed your brain, mood and hormones, such as cholesterol, choline, and amino acids, compounds that stabilise blood sugar and help gut function- such as soluble fibre (inulin) and gelatine, abundant minerals including potassium, some vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin D.

The only drawback? You’ll need to get up 5-10 mins earlier to prepare it- or do what I do and make it the night before and take it out of the fridge half an hour before eating.

There are 2 versions you can make: one requires making a rice pudding in advance which will last several days, or if you’re feeling lazy, buying some kind of puffed rice product such as Rice Krispies (yes, yes, I know… I don’t really want to give Kellogg’s any kudos, but puffed sweetened rice in the context of a proper breakfast ain’t gonna hurt nobody).

So, advanced version:

~ The night before, cook up a big load of rice- enough for a few days. If you have Candida issues, gut fermentation etc, you might prefer to make it with white arborio or pudding rice (if you think this is controversial, please read some Paul Jaminet and/or Matt Stone). If you want to do it Weston Price stylee and opt for brown rice, then soak it for 12 hours in boiling water with a couple tblsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, to neutralise phytates.

~ Into the rice pot, add in a few handfuls of dried chopped fruit- whatever you fancy. I’m enjoying dried pears and peaches at the moment, plus some fabulous giant flame raisins from Unicorn in Chorlton.

~ Immediately after draining cooked rice, add 2 sachets of beef gelatine crystals (gelatine is great for rebuilding the gut in leaky gut/autoimmunity- but this is optional) and stir in. You can also add some fresh fruit juice or some coconut milk- this makes for a thickened jelly consistency. If you don’t like the thought of any of that malarkey, leave out the extras!

~ Store in the fridge.

Now each morning, you make the basics of the power breakfast thus:

- half a ripe avocado

- 2 raw egg yolks (must be free range at the very least- don’t eat battery egg yolks raw)

- 1.5 scoops of whey protein powder. Now I only recommend un-denatured whey protein isolate, which is made by processing whey at low temperatures. Don’t get the cheap stuff as most of the proteins have been altered by heat and can therefore cause more harm than good. This is the only brand I like:

http://www.myprotein.com/UK/products/impact_whey_isolate

A kilo lasts for ages.

Word of caution: people with dairy allergies may not be able to tolerate this product.

~ medium ripe banana

~ a drizzle of whatever good quality unrefined sweetener you fancy: my choices are date syrup or blackstrap molasses which packs a whopping 400mg calcium per 100g.

~ sprinkle of good quality grey sea salt or pink rock salt

~ a good heaped tsp of mixed spice powder- cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger etc. (Cinnamon is excellent for stabilising blood sugar levels)

~ handful flaked almonds or raw cashews

~ optional final touch? A grated raw carrot. Ray Peat PhD says it’s one of the best prebiotics out there to feed healthy gut flora. I dutifully add it to my power breakfast every morning.

~ Mash all the ingredients well with a fork, add a heaped tablespoon of the rice pudding/dried fruit mixture and mix it in.

It might not look the best, but it tastes like the food of the gods :-)

The basic version dispenses with the cooked rice pudding, so you can just add chopped dried fruit and rice krispies- but this misses out the gelatine and also unsoaked/uncooked dried fruit can be problematic for a sensitive gut.

 

Top Diet Myths (to avoid)

I have a horror of and fascination with the diet industry in equal measure- and of the dieting discourse that permeates our popular culture. I find the rhetoric of denial and sin levelled at those of us who have weight issues quite abhorrent, not least because it dramatically misunderstands the reasons behind why people cannot control their weight and eating habits in the first place- and simplifies it to a stunningly banal question of willpower. This latest manifestation of the rhetoric of guilt comes in the form of Channel 4′s frightfest, Secret Eaters (http://www.channel4.com/programmes/secret-eaters), where fat families agree to be monitored 24/7 in their homes, and are also secretly filmed by private investigators hoping to catch them in the act of snaffling a burger or two. Families are presented with the incriminating evidence later in a special room dolled up to look like a crime scene, and then promptly put on a 10-week ‘healthy eating regime,’ whatever that means.

The reasons why people are overweight and eat the things they do are of course indexed to things like social class, education, social mobility and economic wealth. On a physical level there are an equal number of influential factors, such as metabolic health, the state of the gut flora, stress and of course dieting itself… Dieting doesn’t tend to work. All the evidence shows that restricting calories has a temporary effect- yes in the short term participants can lose a lot of weight, regain energy and health- but in the long term, those markers can reverse and come to bite them on the behind. Very few dieters manage to maintain the initial weight that they’ve lost for longer than 2 years.

So if you want to know what my no-diet diet rules are for a healthy and happy life, here they are:

* Eat real food. Closest to its unprocessed self.

* Avoid low-fat foods. These are correlated with increased weight and infertility. They also make you eat more. Cos the body ain’t no fool.

* Avoid PUFAs, or polyunstaurated vegetable oils, if you want the full title. These are the veg and seed oils we’re all being encouraged to eat (so as to avoid the dreaded saturated fat) yet studies show no overall benefit of lowering cholesterol (the holy grail of Big Pharma), and are pro-inflammatory, immuno-suppressive (quickest way to induce cancer in a rat? Feed it a sugar and corn oil mix. Hey wait, isn’t that what a fast food meal is made of??), toxic to the thyroid and liver, AND more fattening gram per gram than saturated fat.

* Don’t diet. Over time it lowers metabolic rate and the set-point, in other words, the rate at which you burn calories for energy. You’ll feel cold and lethargic and stressed. And then you’ll put the weight back on.

* Don’t calorie-count. Not all calories are created equal and your fuel isn’t just burned- it’s used to create your cells, your hormones, your neurotransmitters- all of which you need! Calorie-counting has also never been proved to help people lose weight and keep it off. It’s also a headache.

* Don’t do hard cardio workouts on an empty stomach, or if you’re tired, stressed, or rundown. It will just cannibalise your glycogen stores, your muscle and switch off your thyroid and immunity.  Better to focus on resistance, muscle building and flexibility.

* Eat breakfast. Study after study shows that people who eat breakfast weigh less than people who don’t, function better generally and don’t binge-eat. Whether it’s a handful of nuts and a banana or a full English… eat something!!

* Want to lose weight, or improve digestion and mood? Like the adage says, eat like a King in the morning, a Prince in the day and a pauper in the evening. Your lightest meal should be last. In the West we overload ourselves late at night with huge portions of meat and potatoes, pasta, puddings, sweets and alcohol- no wonder we sleep badly, have acid reflux and constipation and wake up feeling dead. It’s not rocket science!

* Enjoy a treat but eat it after a meal. Constant snacking, even on so-called ‘healthy’ things like fruit juice (and this is true for kids too) can keep insulin elevated, preventing the hormones responsible for fat-burning from doing their job. I’ve lost count of the number of times I see overweight people constantly snacking on fruit. Give your body a rest from digesting- if you have a nice big meal which leaves you satisfied, constantly grazing on things afterwards can- perversely- start making you feel unsatisfied.

* Eat salt! The whole drive to minimise salt is a complete red herring, and salt restriction only brings down blood pressure in a tiny percentage of the population- for many others with hypoadrenal/thyroid problems, their BP is low. Again low-salt and no-salt frankenfoods just make you eat more to get that hit. Real sea salt/rock salt contains all the trace minerals and is essential for proper nerve and muscle function. Oh, and children need salt too, which is why they go crazy for salty things when you’re not around. They’re not daft.

* Avoid artificial sweeteners, which spike insulin, but because they contain no sugar, the insulin is forced to draw on your own blood sugar, which drops, and then you go hunting for food anyway to boost it back up again. So it results in you eating the calories anyway, possibly more than you would if you’d eaten the original item in its full-sugar form.

* Get enough sleep and deal with your stress. Easier said than done, but chronically elevated stress hormones disrupt appetite, make you reach for the quick hit (empty sugar calories, caffeine, alcohol) and release fatty acids into the bloodstream, which depresses sugar metabolism so you can become hypoglycaemic AND insulin resistant. It also leads to systemic inflammation and a big change in your gut flora, which can also alter the way you process carbohydrates. This is a major factor in obesity. Sleeping and relaxing more just on its own can help you lose weight.

* Try and tune into your appetite signals. Eat when you’re hungry, don’t put it off until you’re ravenous- you’ll just eat more. Eat slowly- it takes 10 minutes for your brain to register when you’re full, but if you eat too quickly and mindlessly, you won’t give your brain time to catch up.

* Address your gut flora. Studies have shown that gut bacteria differ in obese compared to lean people and that obese gut bacteria profiles lead to increased energy extraction from food, such as dietary carbohydrates, and increased fat storage (Jumpertz, 2011).

 

Green Pasture Farms has launched!

 

I thought you might like to know about a new delivery service launched and put together by my good friend Simon Whyatt, a personal trainer here in Manchester (http://www.greenpasturefarms.co.uk). 

Like me, Simon is passionate about good quality meat from animals who are allowed to roam on pasture and eat their natural diet (which includes things like grass, flowers, hay, insects and grubs- NOT omega-6-laden grains which make farm animals sick with bacterial infections and dependent on antibiotics). Green Pasture Farms is a collection of farms from Pendle in North Lancashire, and they provide meat selection boxes, offal and cheaper cuts and even things like marrow bones and pasture-raised beef tallow, which I can vouch for as imparting a heavenly taste to cooking and roasting, as well as being a healthier and more stable alternative to heat-damaged seed oils.

They will also deliver anywhere in the mainland UK, and if you have a freezer it might be worth spending a bit more, as orders over £100 get free delivery!