It`s that time of year again, where our social media screens are overrun with posts urging us all to detox and get fit.
I`m here to tell you that whilst taking up some gentle exercise is a good thing, detoxing is something that you need to consider carefully before jumping on board with a dubious product that is being heavily advertised. What I mean by that is that at this time of year, we are bombarded with everything from aloe vera juice to activated charcoal products, shakes instead of meals and everything else in-between.
This post is all about why you should avoid these gimmicks and think about your body as a highly functioning machine that you can gently finely tune in a much more intuitive and less harmful way.
What is a detox?
Our bodies have the same immune systems and function as our prehistoric ancestors had. Back then, they only had to to deal with bacteria, viruses, parasites and not much else.
Whilst the world has evolved, our immune systems and livers haven`t. We have the same basic model being bombarded with much more harmful and sophisticated toxins. Everywhere in our environment we are bombarded with chemical residue, it`s in our food, the air, products in our homes... it`s inescapable. Did you know that a study examined babies umbilical cords for toxins and found over 200 different chemicals.
Our bodies work so hard to get rid of all these harmful substances every moment of our lives. Our liver is like a gentle bomb disposal squad, deactivating and changing chemicals into less harmful variations that can then be sent to our eliminatory organs for disposal. The problem is, not all toxins can make it out of the body and they can begin to store in our cells. This leads to inflammation - the route cause of all serious disease, energy depletion and mental/ mood challenges.
A detox is something that naturopathic practitioners encourage, but in the right way and at the right time. A true detox is where the individual looks at their lifestyle and identifies where they are consuming or encountering challenging substances to the body. They work carefully with a practitioner to draw out the stored toxins out of their cells so that they can be eliminated safely.
Why are detox products dubious?
You have to remember first and foremost that the people behind the products are wanting to make money. With naturopathic health, we want to teach you how to make long term changes so that you don`t need us anymore. It is part of our ethos to educate you so that you can change your lifestyle approach for you to be sustainably healthier, not requiring a product from us.
Besides this, many products have a laxative nature. This is not advisable and can be dangerous.
Laxatives dehydrate the body at a cellular level. That effects everything, from your energy and mood to your digestion.
On top of this, your electrolyte balance will be negatively impacted. Your body is basically a huge battery where the polarity of each cell is kept in balance by key electrolytes - sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. When these get out of balance, we get problems.
Some of the detox products will actually impair your bowel function. The combination of the imbalance of the beneficial bacteria of the colon and the loss of electrolytes can cause huge upset to your bowel. Your bowel is essential for eliminating toxins, it simply MUST keep moving to eliminate what you are trying to get rid of.
Lastly, some of these products can cause metabolic acidosis, a condition that causes the body`s acid base balance to be altered. This condition can get extremely serious.
When should you detox?
Contrary to popular belief, January is not the ideal time to start a detox program.
Our bodies naturally go through cleansing processes around the equinoxes. There are two equinoxes in the year, the spring equinox and the Autumn equinox.
Very often, people will start to come down with coughs and colds around the Autumn equinox, when the body is trying to cleanse itself. If the individual`s vitality is low, this is when problems arise.
When we detox, even at the best time of the year, our bodies have to cope with the release of all the challenging chemicals that are about to be released into the blood. Our liver and kidneys have to work overtime, along with our other eliminatory organs - the skin, the lungs, the bowel and in women - our wombs.
It is common to encounter something called a herxheimer reaction. This can feel pretty bad, but it is actually a good sign that things are being released and dealt with by the liver. We can feel exhausted, suffer with insomnia, get headaches, feel a little nauseous and our skin can breakout. Whilst it is uncomfortable for a few days, it clears. Like an Autumn foggy morning that turns into a sunny afternoon, you`ll feel all the better for it afterwards.
January, is in the depths of winter.
We are not getting vitamin D from the sun and our vitality is at its lowest. The body doesn`t have as much strength to cope with the release of toxins from its cells. We have been eating and drinking in excess over Christmas , our sleeping patterns are altered and our bodies are tired.
If you push your body during these circumstances to detox, then it will find it very challenging. You may encounter more nasty side effects than you would do in the spring when your vitality is rising, like the sap in the budding trees.
What can I do instead?
Whilst it isn`t advisable to do a full blown detox in January, it is a great idea to work slowly towards your bodies own natural detox in the spring by making a few gently changes.
Are you pooping?
The most important thing that you can do is make sure your bowels are functioning properly.
The reason being, whatever is circulating in your system, needs to be able to be removed. If you are constipated then your body will reabsorb the released toxins which will become more potent and the process will go round and round. Think of a plug in the bottom of your shower filled up with hair, the water starts to back-up. if you don`t open that outlet then you are going to flood your bathroom one day. It`s the same principle... you need to get your bowels working effectively.
The NHS view constipation as not having a poo at least 3 times in a week. Naturopathic medicine has a totally different opinion. You should be pooping every day, at least once.
Your poop should come out easily, without straining and should be well formed and sausage shaped. If you are passing rabbit droppings or very lumpy, hard poos then you are constipated. If you are passing poop that is in pieces with raggedy edges or watery poop regularly, you have an issue with your GI tract that needs addressing.
If you need to rectify constipation, don`t reach for the laxatives, they will cause you long term issues. Instead, put the work in and increase your soluble fibre, by that I mean veggies and fruit. The darker the green, the better. Reduce the heavy carbohydrate content foods - breads, pastas, pastries, and cut back on all dehydrating contents - sugar, alcohol, caffeine, fizzy pop, cheeses, dairy, cigarettes, vapes, anti inflammatory painkillers, paracetamol and sodium rich food.
Most importantly, you need to drink pure water. Adults should aim to drink 1.5 - 2 litres of pure water per day, whether you are detoxing or not. Children should be calculated by body weight , you can do this here
The water is essential for cellular health, keeping your poop soft and your colon moving nicely. It also will give those hard working kidneys an extra boost.
Instead of doing some crazy detox, make a pledge to eat better.
Try only eating earth made foods for a month instead... by that I mean, if the earth didn`t grow it in the form that you buy it in, don`t buy it. An easy way of thinking about this is to think about the layout of a supermarket, only walk around the edge of the supermarket, visit the fruit and veg, the fish counter, the butchers and the dairy section. You can stroll up the aisle to buy rice, but keep away from the pastas and breads or limit them. Don`t buy anything in a packet.
If this is a challenge to you, then how about subscribing to a recipe food box that gets delivered to you with fresh ingredients. We just subscribed a family member as a Christmas present. They are really enjoying cooking delicious and nutritious meals that only take around 20 minutes and require no forward thinking. The other thing you can do is look up paleo recipes. Paleo is a delicious way of eating with only the purest and freshest ingredients.
If you can implement these changes then after two or three weeks, you will really start to notice the difference. The sugar cravings will disappear (providing you don`t cheat) and you will feel more energised as your vitality rises. Your skin may even start to glow. If your aim is to lose weight then you most likely will as a biproduct without having to think about lowering your food intake. inflammatory conditions you have may well start to ease up. Eating better is not about restriction, it`s about eating differently.
Other Lifestyle tips
If you are planning on doing any of the things I mentioned above, it`s a really good idea to implement some of the following tips to help your body eliminate any toxins:
What ever changes you are thinking about, start small and don`t put pressure on yourself. Make sure they are achievable and fit in with your routines and lifestyle or you will be doomed to give up.
The most important take home from all of this is to hydrate and get that bowel moving. If you can do that, you are already making a huge impact on your body.
Happy New Year,
Love and Heath,
If you are suffering from unexplainable symptoms and your doctor doesn`t know what`s going on, then listen up…
Or, maybe you are fit and well and want to stay that way with preventative lifestyle measures.
Hair mineral analysis tests offer an amazing insight into what`s going on with your body at a cellular level.
Everyone knows that to live a healthy life with vitality, we need vitamins.
Not everyone knows about the importance of minerals though. Minerals are the nutrients that come directly from the earth such as magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron.
Certain minerals are absolutely essential for human functioning.
Magnesium, being one of the most important, is required for the energy cycle of every cell in the body, enzyme synthesis and every chemical function that we have to create. It is vital for brain and organ health, along with having a huge impact upon our mood.
Potassium transports the nutrients that you eat into each and every cell, whilst Zinc is essential for hormone production, immunity and insulin production.
Certain imbalances can occur that disrupt these processes, such as too much Copper can disrupt the functioning of Zinc levels
A depletion in vital minerals can cause:
The quickest and most reliable way to find out if you are deficient in any key nutrients is through a hair mineral analysis test.
The test will show the nutrient levels in your body and reveal any evidence of long term or acute exposure to heavy metals that you probably didn't realise that you had been vulnerable to.
Certain minerals are damaging to our bodies and we accumulate them every day. Mercury and aluminium are extremely toxic to the body and amongst others such as Lead, are known as heavy metals.
It is hard for the body to eradicate heavy metals. They accumulated from air pollution, household products, hygiene products (always get aluminium free deodorant) toys, jewelry, crockery, vaccines, certain medications (aluminium in antacids), makeup, dental fillings, contaminated paint or soil, plumbing and certain foods.
A healthy, functioning body can efficiently remove these metals to a certain extent, but if the burden is too great, they will be stored.
A person who has challenges with their immune system, lymphatic system and nutrient intake will find it very difficult to remove these metals and they will store in greater quantities.
Metals have a way of finding their way to the brain and like to accumulate in cells in this area. They are known to cause degenerative conditions such as dementia and Alzheimers.
Problems that affect the brain and spinal cord can begin to emerge before these conditions such as:
Children are at a particular risk of toxic exposure as their brain and spines develop so quickly.
Toxins can cause a greater impact to children than they would to a fully-developed adult.
Heavy metal toxicity can be a factor in lower IQ, behavioural problems, ADHD, autism, anxiety and many more conditions linked to neurological functioning.
How does a Hair Mineral Analysis test work?
Hair analysis tests are extremely accurate.
The laboratories use sophisticated instruments and software programmes that allow for extensive quality control.
Human hair is around 80% protein and 15% water, with smaller amounts of lipid and inorganic substances.
Normally, around 90% of the hair on the scalp is in the growth phase. During the growth phase elements from the follicular cells and from the blood supply to the follicle are incorporated into the structure of the hair. As the follicle emerges through the skin, the process of keratinisation seals the elements inside the protein structures, making the hair a resilient and long -lasting tissue that can be used for analysis.
Mineral nutrients such as Zinc and magnesium are present in the follicular cells as enzyme co-factors whilst toxins that the body is trying to remove are dumped into the hair as part of the detoxification mechanism.
The scientific process of analysing a hair sample begins with hair being broken down with special acids at a high temperature. The hair is then separated from the elements. When the actual hair has been completely digested, only mineral salts remain. The mineral salts are added to a chemical solution and analysed to identify the mineral status and toxic metal accumulation found.
Why is this different to a blood or urine test?
A blood test only tells you how much of the nutrient is in your circulation at the time of taking the sample.
For example, If you have just eaten a banana before your blood test, the sample may indicate a high level of potassium when actually, without the banana it is normal.
Hair sampling is different because it gives an overall level of potassium. It shows how much you have been storing over a period of time, not just what you ate that particular week. A blood test is like a snap shot, whereas a hair mineral test shows you your mineral status over time.
Urine tests will only show the amount of minerals that your body is excreting, not how much you have absorbed.
As hair dyes contain metal elements, it is important that hair is not used as a sample until 12 weeks after being dyed, bleached or permed.
The week before you take your hair sample, use a gentle shampoo, like a baby shampoo or a natural product.
Hair should be cut from the back of the head, or nape of the neck. It should be cut as close to the scalp as possible. Your kit will show you how much to take.
How do I order a test?
If you would like to order a hair mineral analysis test then you will find the option in the “packages” tab on my website under the category of functional testing, or you can click here.
Once you purchase your test, I will call you to explain the process and send the test to you.
You will post the test directly to the laboratory and they will contact me with your results.
Results take around a week to ten days, but sometimes a little longer (lockdown has made the process longer).
Once I have your results, I will call you to arrange an analysis with you, which we can either go through on Zoom or on the phone.
If you have any other questions about hair analysis, then please get in touch.
Love and health to you all,
It is the Autumn Equinox, here in the Northern hemisphere.
The sun lies briefly over the equator creating a moment of perfect balance where night and day are of equal length.
After today, the North Pole will tilt on its axis slightly forward, away from the sun, favouring the south pole for the better, warmer weather. Autumn will begin.
Today the astrological calendar moves from Virgo to Libra, the weighing scales, also representative of perfect balance.
If ever there was a period of time that could be represented with the image of Yin and Yang, it would be now. This time of year, also known as Mabon in the pagan calendar is a time of meloncholly and duality. There is perfect balance between positive and negative... The fields are bare, but the larders are stocked. Harvest festivities are tinged with the sadness of the coming winter. Animals are stocking up their food stores, ready for their big sleep, and many, like the female honey bee have reached the end of their life cycle and wither away.
In Greek mythology, this was the point where Persephone had to go down to the underworld for her three month stint with her husband Hades, much to her mother, Demeter`s dispair. Demeter was the Goddess of the harvest and crop growing and in her anguish, she refused to use her powers over the winter until Persephone was returned to her.
The image above shows Persephone and her pomegranate, for they were the food of the underworld. They are also in season right now and are so good for male health, especially prostate care. Unsweetened pomegranate juice makes a great tonic for keeping the prostate gland healthy.
Autumn comes with a noticeable energetic shift. Not only do we see the shadows changing around us as the sun`s position alters over the forthcoming weeks, but mentally, Autumn can be a challenge as we adjust to the amount of seratonin that we make in response to the altered light levels.
For this reason it is important to slow down and take care of ourselves.
It is a time to nourish ourselves not only with hearty soups and foods but mentally prepare and support ourselves with self care rituals that make us feel comforted.
It is a time to adopt the scandanavian way of life and take great pleasure in all things cosy... candles, blankets, cosy pyjamas, wood burning stoves, favourite jumpers or whatever makes you rub your feet together with contentment.
Physically, it is so important to start thinking about building and maintaining a healthy immune system. One of the best and most effective ways of doing this is to supplement with Vitamin D.
Here in the UK,our national health service recommends that every person supplements with Vitamin D, although this is not widely known.
During the winter, from around the 14th of October, the way that the earth tilts makes it physically impossible for the UVA rays to enter our skin in order to synthesise Vitamin D. Hence the reason that coughs and colds begin through this time. This period of lack of vitamin D will last until the spring solstice (roughly) so it is a long stretch.
Please look into supplementing with vitamin D, especially if you are a person of colour as you are more vulnerable to having lower vitamin D levels.
Other ways that you can really nourish your immune system are to look into reishi mushsrooms, which are available in capsule and tincture form as well as dried mushrooms. They are an amazing immunostimulating tonic and are well worth using over the winter months. Elderberry is also available in many forms and has an affinity for caring for the lungs in particular. Garlic is a go - to supplement for our family at this time of year and Vitamin C is now more important than ever.
Eating wholesome, home cooked foods and soups will nourish you and your families, as will tasty teas. I particularly like to use berries, citrus peel, thyme, calendula and ginger in my teas at this time of year.
There`s so much to enjoy during this first part of Autumn, that I call Libra Autumn, before the wet and windy Scorpio Autumn comes and knocks us sideways. The weather is generally still mild and mother nature really puts on a show in the hedgerows. Walk as much as you can and notice the small changes around you. I have a holly tree at the bottom of my garden and I have watched the tiny buds turn to white flowers, to green berries and now they are a lovely orange colour before their deep ruby display over winter. It is lovely to watch these small changes and really gives you a sense of belonging to the earth in a cyclical way.
Feasting with friends where everyone brings a dish is a great thing to do at this time of year and if you can do it outside before the weather turns, all the better... light a bonfire or a BBQ and enjoy these Libra evenings.
Planting bulbs is best at this time of year. Maybe you could plant some miniature iris or daffs and have them inside to monitor their progress. Hopefully they will bless you with a beautiful display over winter.
Eat pomegranates, make hedgerow jam, autumn wreaths and corn dollies. Drink apple cider, donate food and plant a tree or a bush.
Children can enjoy leaf rubbing, nature crowns and all sorts of autumnal activities.
I`ve just brought our Libra Autumn books down out of the loft for my little girl to enjoy tonight. Our particular favourites are:
Bramley Hedge - Autumn by Jill Barklem
Foggy Friday by Phyllis root
Harvest by Kris Waldherr
and my absolute favourite .... Wild Child by Lyn Plourde
So, a couple of questions for you to think about or journal over...
Is there anything that you would like to complete by the winter solstice?
How can you practice self care over the darker months?
Stay well and happy,
Are you absorbing your iron? Without enough iron, you will feel, well... pretty terrible. Tiredness, fatigue, low mood, low endurance, pale skin, sore mouth, dizzy... the list goes on...
You could be eating platefuls of iron rich food, but not actually absorbing much of it. Sound familiar? Read on...
Dietary sources of Iron can be categorised as Haem iron and Non- Haem iron.
Good sources of Haem iron are: Red meat, organ meat, poultry, fish and shellfish
Non - Haem iron foods are plant based - broccoli, pumpkin, beetroot, nuts and seeds, dark green veggies, eggs, whole grains, legumes, dry fruits, tomato, guava, paw paw and citrus.
When haem iron is consumed (the meaty one), its absorption is much better than non-haem iron. Non-haem iron is less easily absorbed and its absorption is often affected by the other food components which are eaten alongside it.
Non- haem iron (plant based) provides the largest amount of dietary iron, but only an estimated 10 - 20% of non-haem iron is actually absorbed, because it is inhibited in its absorption by so much.
Phytates, oxylates and polyphenols all prevent non-haem iron from being absorbed. Many “healthy” foods such as spinach, kale, beets, wheat bran, rhubarb, strawberries and nuts contain a high amount of oxylates.
Polyphenols are found in apples, peppermint, herbal teas, spices, walnuts, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries along with cocoa. Polyphenol rich food can reduce your iron absorption by an estimated 60%.
Phytates are found in walnuts, soy, almonds, sesame, beans, lentils, peas, cereals, protein and fiber. Phytates can reduce the absorption of iron by an estimated 50 - 60%.
Along with this, milk is also known to inhibit absorption of iron .
It has also been found that drinking polyphenol rich beverages within an hour of a meal will reduce the iron absorption of that meal by 79 - 94%. This includes tea, coffee, red wine, cocoa and herbal tea.
This has an obvious impact on the average vegetarian/ vegan diet. Whilst the raw constituents of a vegetarian or vegan diet looks to contain a huge amount of iron, the effect of the inhibitory components listed above has massive implications on iron absorption.
So what to do? You`re trying to be be healthy, but the healthy foods you are eating are inhibiting your iron absorption! That`s annoying!
Mmmm... Don`t despair...
There are certain promoters of iron absorption. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) helps chelate the iron molecule, transporting it across the intestinal lining. Squeezing lemon over food, or drinking freshly squeezed orange with a meal can help your iron absorption.
You definitely want to avoid those dastardly polyphenol drinks and limit beverages with food to water, or freshly squeezed orange.
Have some iron rich snacks away from other foods each day. Cooked meats if you are a meat lover, or dried fruits are a good source for veggies. cook some beetroot up and leave it in the fridge to snack on. You can literally smell the iron in beetroot, it`s such a good source.
I would advise every vegan or vegetarian to take a mulitvitamin WITH minerals every day. Look carefully at the nutrient information. Multi vitamins are often just that ... vitamins. You want the minerals alongside them.
I don`t advocate iron supplements unless you are under the guidance of a professional GP or nutritionist. Unless you have had your iron tested, taking iron supplements on their own can be a dangerous thing to do.
I thought I would share a really simple and traditional recipe for a great immune-boosting tonic to have to hand. Although it has to sit for 6 weeks before you strain it, it`s worth doing, whether you have it ready for the school kids returning back to school or just to have to hand in 6 weeks time.
You need a horseradish root - i just got mine with my online shop.... turmeric roots, ginger, chillies, garlic and an onion. I add in cinnamon and echinacea root also. You need a really good quality apple cider vinegar and some honey when you are ready to strain it, to mix it into a vinegar/honey solution called an oxymel.
This tonic is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, circulation stimulating and a great digestive tonic. It`s great to take daily to keep you and your sinuses in good shape! Horseradish is the ultimate sinus clearer!!
So take a look and get chopping!!
It`s March and there`s so much to see!
Out and about in the wild, there`s early edibles to be had and plenty to look at and admire.
Everywhere is full of potential and optimism in nature right now, from the beautiful daffodils to the edible leaf buds of my favourite tree - the Hawthorn.
If you would like to learn about what to look out for in nature and a little about what the UK wildlife is up to this month then have a watch.
I`m a total nature geek. Always have been... always will be!
I think it comes from fond memories of my mum sending us out with empty egg boxes as kids and a list of things to find to put in them. I also think it is in my genes, deeply encoded in the very fabric of my cells somewhere from hundreds of years ago.
There`s something deeply satisfying and enriching from being out in nature. It invigorates and soothes at the same time. I remember when my little girl was a tiny baby and would get the typical tea time whingey hour... All I had to do was wrap her up and take her a walk around the garden. I`d see her eyes relax as she watched the shapes of the trees blowing against the sky and within minutes, even seconds, she would calm down.
I don`t think that ever leaves you really. There`s nothing like taking a warm, comforting drink outside on a sunny day when you are feeling overwhelmed or just need to have a break from it all.
Back in June, last year, I decided to document what was happening around me in nature.
I`ve always been fascinated by the small changes around me. I tend to feel restless if I can`t connect with the cycles of the seasons. I decided to make videos to record what I saw each month on my walks through our local area. I gave myself the target of doing it for one calendar year.
I haven`t shared these videos on here yet, but I thought I would. There is generally a lot of chatter from myself - sorry about that... I do tend to get enthusiastic about just about everything! And there`s some pearls of wisdom about what you can forage from the land around you and how it can benefit you medicinally.
So here is February`s video... only 3 left for me to do until I have completed the year.
If you are interested in the others, they are on my YouTube channel.
"Before you heal someone,
Ask him if he is willing to give up the things
that are making him sick."
There's so many quotes from Hippocrates, the father of medicine, that resonate deeply to those of us in the natural health field. This one strikes a chord on so many levels with me.
Professionally, this is what we see everyday in the field of natural medicine. It`s what every naturopath`s ethos is all about. When we meet somebody struggling with their health and feeling depleted, it's what we are trying to get to the root cause of… what is it that is making this person sick?
Is it a food intolerance? Is it a hormonal imbalance? An inability to absorb nutrients efficiently for some reason?
Looking again at that quote, it goes deeper than that…
On a global level, the message is loud and clear. There's too much unexplained illness that just wasn't there in the past in the numbers that it is today.
Every year, in the UK, we have a fundraising programme called “stand up to Cancer”. It's a worthwhile cause, but every time there is a commercial break we are faced with an infographic telling us in no uncertain terms that 1 in 2 of us will get cancer. I can remember only two or three years ago, this number was 1 in 4. What's going on?
I can't help but get so frustrated at this. It feels like we are all being brainwashed to just accept this figure. It's inevitable. Live with it… Except it's not!
Cancer is just one example. The amount of autoimmune disease is massive across the world. Not to mention diabetes, heart disease, alzheimers, autism… the list is endless.
What is going on!?
Our bodies ability to detoxify the amount of toxicity we are faced with on an everyday scale just can't keep up with the demand. Evolutionary, we just can't keep up.
Our foods are covered in chemicals to enable less insect damage, less weeds and more growth. The animals we consume are fed antibiotics to enable a faster growth rate, and to deter disease spreading amongst them. Our water has chemicals added to it that are disruptive to our endocrine systems (our hormones), not to mention the effect of fluoride on our brains. Our homes are flooded with electromagnetic frequencies, we apply chemical laden products to our skin and our air is polluted.
It is a fact that a newly born baby has more than 200 chemicals in it`s placenta, before it even takes it`s first breath. Source: Environmental Working Group analysis of tests of 10 umbilical cord blood samples conducted by AXYS Analytical Services (Sydney, BC) and Flett Research Ltd. (Winnipeg, MB)
Every time I see that statistic on the commercial break - 1 in 2 will get cancer… I always want to take to the streets, make petitions and raise awareness that actually, our governments that are supposed to be protecting us, need to do something about this!
It feels like that is pretty huge though, and I`m not sure I would be taken seriously, so instead, I thought I'd try to bring the information into your homes that you can protect yourself from the flood of toxicity that envelopes the world at the moment.
There`s something called the environmental working group.
It's a really good place to start. They have a list called - the dirty dozen and clean 15. The dirty dozen are foods that are laden with chemicals and that if you want to minimise your health risk of toxicity then you should buy organic wherever possible. The clean 15 are foods that are generally safer to buy as non organic.
If you could familiarise yourself with this list then you are already protecting your family from a huge amount of toxicity.
There's loads of information about how to live a more toxic free life… from cleaning products to personal body care, to what you eat and drink. I urge you to familiarise yourself with the process as that statistic isn't going anywhere unless we all do.
What we are being brainwashed to believe is that we are dependent on the pharmaceutical industry to put right the illnesses that we develop. But what if we do our best to not get them in the first place?
My mum always taught us as children - “prevention is better than a cure” and she was right.
Your body is amazing. It isn`t the vulnerable, fragile vessel that we are led to believe. It is capable of massive improvements and regeneration of its health. We just need to help it by removing as many obstacles as possible.
Imagine a Ferrari, with the wrong tyres, faulty brakes, diesel in its engine instead of high performance fuel, a worn out clutch, faulty turbo and power steering that isn't working. Maybe it won't ever be perfect, but some of those issues can be removed and replaced to get that beauty back on the road again. Nobody at the garage puts a pill in the fuel tank to rectify all those faults. They deal with the root causes.
I urge you to look deeper at what's causing your symptoms and if you are under consultant care to keep pressing to find out.
I know that this sounds like a huge overhaul and a mountain to climb, and I understand the enormousness that it feels like it involves. I understand because I`ve been there when my health was on the floor. I`ve been the one with the bin bag, madly emptying the cupboards and freezer in desperation of anything that I didn't recognise ingredients of.
I also know from first hand experience how you can turn your health around and feel more alive than you can ever remember feeling.
So… “Yes, Hippocrates… some of us are willing to remove what is making us sick, thanks for pointing that out”.
So, you`ve probably heard a lot of talk about microbiomes lately. There`s mention of them everywhere at the moment… from adverts about skin cream to all sorts of food advertising the benefits of probiotics.
So what is a microbiome?
A microbiome is an area of your body that houses hundreds of trillions of friendly, efficient and protective bacteria that we need to function optimally.
You actually have several areas where you have a microbiome. The main one that is of supreme importance, is in your digestive tract, often called your gut microbiome. You also have them on a smaller scale in your mouth, your nose, your genitals and upon your skin.
When your microbiome isn't as good as it should be, we get issues. We can get eczema, infections down below, strep throat and many uncomfortable digestive related symptoms. We can suffer with brain fog ( you know… that moment where you just can`t remember why you walked in to the kitchen and generally struggle to retain information)
We are prone to depression and anxiety, inflammation in our joints and muscles, hormone problems, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, allergies, food intolerances, asthma, an inability to lose weight- no matter what you do, intense food cravings, headaches… the list goes on…
These organisms have a profound impact on how we absorb the nutrients from our food, how we detoxify and eliminate everyday toxins and the health of our gut lining. When your microbiome is balanced, you stay healthy. You fight off infections more easily, you are more energised and have a better mood. That's because 80% of your immune system is in your microbiome.
Your immune system is responsible for fighting off those pesky bugs that make us feel so unwell, but also for finding and destroying cells that are growing a little weirdly. Every single day, we have cells that grow a little weirdly. Our immune system seeks them out and orders them to die. They then get eliminated, and we are ok. When our immune system doesn`t order these cells to die, they get out of control, multiply and can become the start of a cancerous situation.
So you see how important our microbiome is.
The trouble is, these little guys are quite fragile. Their health relies upon the way we treat them in our everyday lives. Too much sugar in our diet causes our gut to acquire a host of bad bacteria. These bad guys are the bullies that gang up and take over the digestive tract. When they outnumber our defenders then we have a problem called ‘dysbiosis’ and a whole host of the symptoms I mentioned above to go with it. More about sugar later….
Our gut health also goes right back to when we were taking our first breaths in the delivery ward ( or where ever you were born)
The adult microbiome that we have today, began in the womb of our mothers. If they consumed beneficial bacteria, it would find its way to us. It then continued to form through the actual delivery of the baby. The age of 0 - 2 years also has a huge impact on how your microbiome develops, so listen up if you have little kids.
Now, before I say this next bit… Those of you who know me will vouch for the fact that I am the least judgemental person ever. I`m not saying this next bit to mum-shame anyone or make you feel bad about your delivery if you have had children. I`m saying it with love so that you can consider how this may have impacted your kids immunity in order for you to have the knowledge to boost it from this point on. I`m also mentioning it so you can think about your own birth and early childhood and its impact on your immune system and so that those of you who are pregnant or are considering pregnancy can have some food for thought.
In an ideal world, a baby is born vaginally and breastfed.
Now life isn`t always that simple though. Things happen. Birth is a complex and potentially dangerous situation for both mum and baby. If you`ve had a C- section, then you did the right thing under the guidance of some very clever and experienced doctors. Breastfeeding doesn't always work out either and if you had the distress of it being difficult, then I really do sympathise with you and you know what? … It's ok. Your baby was fed and nourished and loved and is perfectly happy. Read on for the facts, but don't beat yourself up.
A vaginal delivery exposes the baby to a healthy dose of beneficial bacteria as it leaves the vaginal canal. This bacteria is unique and through a really complex system of the gut - brain communication (did you know our tummies have their own nervous system!) it sets the tone for the immune system and the mental health of the child from that point onwards.
When I say the mental health of the child, what I mean by that is this-
Our lack of exposure to certain beneficial bacteria can shape our predisposition to anxiety, depression and how we handle the stressful situations that life throws at us. This predisposition can carry on into adulthood.
If we were exposed to these bacteria then we have a different coping mechanism and can be more stress resilient. This isn`t always the case though.
In the days after birth, if we were given antibiotics, or our mothers were, and we were breastfed, then this also had a huge effect on our microbiome. Antibiotics kill bacteria. That's the reason we use them!
The problem is that the pill you take cannot differentiate between the bad guys that are causing your illness and the good guys that are trying to protect you. It has a sweeping effect and kills off everything. It's one of the reasons why the medical community are trying to raise awareness about not having antibiotics. Every time you take them, you destroy a large section of your immune system. You probably know of someone who takes them regularly and ends up catching every bug that is flying around. If you need antibiotics, then please purchase a good probiotic supplement (that's what the beneficial bacteria are known as) to take alongside it.
So if you were a child that was born by C-section, you already had a different start to life in terms of your immunity. Your mum was possibly put on antibiotics because of the risk of infection (I`m going back a few years now when they used to dish them out more readily) and she may or may not have breast fed you. If she did, you were getting drip fed the antibiotics too.
Your microbiome was not up to scratch and may have been the start of your tendency to catch infections and have childhood conditions like asthma and eczema. On top of this, there are statistics that say children under 2 have probably had at least two lots of antibiotics. Now think about it… You already had a lowered immunity from your birth and so you caught nasty bugs, like - ear infections and tonsillitis repeatedly. You were given more antibiotics and the cycle repeated over, and over again. Here you are now with a host of issues because your immune system never really recovered.
Back to sugar…
So as an adult, here you are with a microbiome that is really low in numbers of the good bacteria that keep you feeling tip-top and energised. You are fatigued and achy, have some digestive issues and probably some skin problems along the way. The bad guys largely feed on sugar and they are clever! Really, really clever. And, Sneaky!
You know I mentioned earlier that our tummies have their own nervous system?
These bad guys are like computer hackers… They can manipulate your thoughts and cravings by hacking into that nervous system and literally can get you to crave the sugar that they are desiring so badly to keep themselves alive.
It's like you are being brainwashed as you rise off of the sofa to get that packet of M & Ms that you have in the cupboard! You went to the gym today, or maybe did a nice walk… you are trying your hardest to drink plenty of water and make some really great steps in recovering your health, but you just can't stop that overpowering urge for a sugary treat. The hackers have got you! You are their puppet.
Just knowing this information can really help you control those urges. Knowing that eating the sugary snack will strengthen the bad guys and cause you more problems can really help you understand that you are never going to win this war while you strengthen your opponent! It also helps you understand that it isn't some flaw in your personality where you can`t resist the sugar, you are being controlled!
So the first thing you need to do is cut the sugar right back. Have some back-up plans of other foods that you like pre-prepared and ready to go in the fridge for when you get cravings. Protein is good for keeping them at bay… some shredded roasted chicken pre-prepared can hit the spot, or, if you're veggie then some hummus and dips are good.
Try to avoid starchy snacks like crackers as unfortunately, that converts straight into glucose (sugar) and will feed the bad bacteria what they are craving. Unfortunately, fruit does this too and whilst you are trying to kill off the bad guys, it's best to avoid them. Berries are good, as are nuts. I can't emphasise it enough - be prepared… have some items pre-chopped or ready to handily grab.
Now there's an old saying that ‘a candle burns its brightest at the end’ and here is where being forewarned is being forearmed. As those bad bacteria die off, they will be that bright burning candle. They will be louder than before and your cravings will feel pretty intense. This is because they are desperate. They know they are dying off and they are screaming like a baby that's not had its milk!
This isn't going to last long, the whole process is largely better after a couple of weeks and after a month you will notice that you just don't get sugar cravings, so stay strong!
The other thing that may arise is something called the herxheimer reaction (google that one)
It is a harmless but annoying process that the body has to go through when it is trying to rid itself of bad bacteria or toxins.
As the bad guys die off, they decay and let off nasty gases and toxins that can make you feel pretty yucky for a few days. It can disrupt your sleep, give you headaches, cause break-outs or dry patches, cause inflammation in your joints or muscles and a few other annoying symptoms.
It doesn't last long and is actually a really good sign that your body is healing itself. You need to drink plenty of water or herbal teas to flush it all out and eat plenty of veggies to get your colon working efficiently so you can release it all down the loo. If you don't eat the veggies and drink the water, it will be worse. It's also best to avoid alcohol and caffeine if you can.
There`s a whole topic of other reasons why your sugar needs to be lower in general. It really does have a nasty effect on the body in many, many ways… that's another blog post though.
What can you do to help the situation?
Well, you could supplement with beneficial bacteria. Now the old saying is - start low and go slow. Don`t go racing to get the brand with the most billions of live cultures in it (that`s the figure they are measured in… I`m not just going all exaggeration mad on you)
What is more important is the variety of bacteria that the supplement contains. Lactobacillus acidophilus is the most common strain of probiotic but try to get one which also contains bifidobacteria. A lower dose to start with will be better in the long run as if you are very out of balance in the tum department then too much too soon can cause gas and bloating.
So what about those of us with children? Probiotics are very safe and there are many brands specifically for children. There's also studies that prove that a regular probiotic is more effective at deterring the flu virus in children than the flu vaccine.
I`m not allowed to suggest certain products, but your nutritional therapist or health food shop clerk could help you decide upon this. Of course it's important that kiddo has less sugar too. Stay strong on that one as they can put up quite a fight! Know that you are doing this for them to help them be healthier for the rest of their lives. Know that you are improving their immune system and their body`s whole nourishment. In general, kids get over the cravings quicker than adults but can be a whole lot noisier about it.
Another really great source of beneficial bacteria is found in certain fermented foods. Kimchi, sauerkraut and Kefir are all good sources and readily available from supermarkets. If you are lactose intolerant or avoid dairy then get a coconut based kefir (my personal favourite). Kids also like kefir as it is quite yoghurty in texture.
In conclusion then,
You`ll be surprised by what a difference you can make to your life by getting your microbiome up to scratch and functioning strongly.
The symptoms that restrict your life may have a root cause in the demise of your microbiome over time and can be turned around with a little self-nurturing.
Avoid antibiotics wherever you possibly can and try to avoid your children having them unnecessarily.
If you or your children need an antibiotic, supplement with a probiotic at the same time.
Cut back on the sugars and stock up on healthy snacks.
Supplement with a good quality probiotic.
I`ve only just scratched the surface of a very complex subject here. Look out for news articles in the press over the next decades about the use of probiotics and the microbiome in the treatment of serious diseases. It's being heavily researched as we speak as scientists discover more amazing things about them every day.
I wish you luck and send you love,
Here`s a little corner of the world where I discuss life, our bodies, natural remedies and nature.