21 Apr

Food and Health headlines in the news sometimes only confuse!

A lot of food and health headlines in the
paper’s today that I thought I would comment on:
“Eat whole grain,
live longer”
First one I slowly woke up to was “eat 3
servings of wholegrain bread a day to stay healthy”
AGGGG! I thought that is a lot of bread! It is
being reported to promote a new health campaign to eat more Whole Grain for
Health, quoting it could save 24,000 lives a year in the UK alone. Why did I
scream again at the TV on yet another food health headline? Well yes probably
most people do not eat enough wholegrain food, the white stuff is just more
attractive. My problem is wholegrain does not mean whole WHEAT! To increase
your wholegrain foods it does not have to be just bread and breakfast cereals
as they suggest. Wheat contains gluten and gluten can be hard to digest for most
people, also by consuming wheat for breakfast, wheat for lunch and wheat for
dinner that is a lot of one food group in one day! Variety is key: alternating
your wholegrains will not only increase your variety of nutrients which is what
they are trying to promote but it will also reduce your risk of food
intolerances as high exposure to one food can increase the risk of intolerance.
So my advice is one slice of wholegrain, and try other grains as well for
example: oats, brown rice, millet, buckwheat, polenta and quinoa. Try a wheat
free day once a week.
 “Taking too many vitamin pills increases the
risk of heart disease and cancer “ study warns”
Wow that’s a scary one for me as a nutritional
therapist who spent three years learning about supplements and actually most of
that was on the safety of them and someone who takes supplements to optimise
health, this was not good reading. However once you read the background to the
study this was not as frightening as the headline portrayed. Supplements are exactly
what they say, they are a supplement to your diet depending on your health,
eating habits, lifestyle and your environment, for example for someone who does
not like oily fish, a fish oil may benefit them, it would be better to eat it
but in some cases people just can’t, or if you have been on antibiotics a
probiotic may be helpful in restoring your gut health that will have been
The study found that when people used to eat
more fruit and vegetables years ago there was less cancer and heart disease
that does not mean replacing eating these foods with supplementation has
increased the risk, it means we do not eat as well as we used to in my eyes. Furthermore
the soils are not as rich as they used to be meaning food does not contain the
same amount of nutrients. Also the quality of supplements has to be considered,
cheap supplements with too many additives, fillers and binders and not enough
of the nutrient or poor quality will not benefit anyone.  They quote a study on beta-carotene
increasing the risk of lung cancer (they always quote this study), this study
was done on smokers and yes too much beta-carotene in smokers may increase
their risk but this study did not find an increased risk in non smokers. Finally
its not always what you eat, it’s what you absorb – sometimes our digestive
systems are not as optimal as they could be due to: stress, antibiotics,
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory use and poor diet, if this is the case as it
with many we may not always be able to get at the nutrients from food or even
supplements, so looking after your digestion and healing the gut first is of
equal importance and that may mean supplementation with probiotics.
The third headline was very sad about a woman
who died by taking a diet pill she bought over the Internet. If you do purchase
supplements make sure they are from a reputable source, do your homework and
make sure they are the best quality. Seek advice from a nutritional therapist
who has been trained on the safety of supplementation.
19 Apr


Autoimmunity is when the immune
system’s communication between cells again goes wrong and immune cells start to
see your body as a foreigner invader and starts to attack it.
Some diseases associated with
autoimmune disease are:
Body part under attack
 Thyroid gland
All body parts
Sjorgen’s syndrome
Mucus-secreting glands
Multiple Sclerosis
Mylein – outer
protective coating of all nerves in the body
Thyroid antibodies
Destruction of villi
in the small intestine
Possible triggers:
Stress – This can be deep emotional
stress or it can be everyday stress for example in your job or constantly
worrying about being late, or not eating properly, skipping meals, eating too
much sugar, processed or fatty foods, food intolerances, exercising too much or
too little and not sleeping properly. If these types of stress are constant
eventually it will have a negative effect on immune function
Toxins – Mercury can drive
auto-immunity. Mercury can sit deep into tissues in the body, the immune system
does not recognise it and attacks the body tissue, creating an autoimmune
condition. It is found in amalgam fillings and it is also unfortunately is in
the food chain especially in some fish. A recent study of over 100 females of
childbearing age who ate low level of mercury containing fish and seafood were
found to have an increased risk of autoimmune disease. Optimising liver
detoxification may help the body deal with mercury better. Hair tests are an
effective way to find out if you have mercury in your body.
Furthermore if the liver is underperforming
due to an overload of toxins – medications, poor digestion, eating the wrong
foods etc. the immune system can again go into overdrive attacking the body trying
to get rid of an overload of toxins.
Infection – The normal
response is for the immune system to fight off infection, unfortunately some viruses
like Epstein- Barr can harbour in the body for a long time, it can remain
active for years. This constant stimulation of the immune cells can lead to
Poor gut health – Good
bacteria in the gut help immune cells to grow and develop, when there is not
enough of them in the gut the immune cells suffer leading to poor function.
Poor defence at the gut wall can lead to damage and inflammation causing even
more problems. Large food particles can then escape through to the bloodstream
stimulating an immune response to food substances, this can then develop into food
What can you do?
·         Eating a healthy
diet rich in vegetables, fruit, plant protein and healthy meat protein, healthy fats and
complex carbohydrates goes a long way in supporting immunity.
·         Vitamin D is
important and low levels have been shown in people with autoimmune conditions.
We acquire Vitamin D mainly from the sun; this can be difficult in the winter
so sometimes supplementation is needed.
·         Probiotics –
help balance gut flora, eat plain natural yoghurt and fermented foods like
sauerkraut or pickled vegetables. Supplementation is useful as they contain
larger amount of bugs to help restore flora. Avoid probiotic drinks as they
contain sugar, which can have a negative impact on gut health.
·         EPA/DHA supports
the immune system – Increase your intake of oily fish, nuts and seeds.
·          Support liver
detoxification – eat garlic, increase intake of cruciferous vegetables such as
cauliflower, broccoli and kale – cooked is better as when eating raw they can
negatively impact thyroid function. Drink 1.5l -2l of water a day. Flaxseeds,
soluble fibre such as oats, brown rice and most vegetables are helpful for
digestion and detoxification.
·         Identify any
food intolerances/allergies and avoid where necessary. A nutritional therapist
will be able to help with this.
·         Manage your
stress – find ways to cope with a challenging lifestyle. Address work life
balance and make sure you find time to do things you love and be with the
people you love.
·          Optimise
digestion – address any digestive discomfort you feel, wind, bloating, burping,
constipation, diarrhoea or other Irritable bowel type symptoms.
   The immune System Recovery Plan – Susan Blum

13 Apr


Spices and herbs are a great way to add super nutrients to your diet. Having a cupboard with a selection of spices and herbs will enhance the flavour of your cooking while boosting your nutrient status at the same time.

So what’s in my cupboard:
Turmeric – king of spice. The subtle but very individual flavour of turmeric can be added to nearly every dish. It even works on porridge, couple it with cinnamon and a taste explosion is created. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial – that means it may help fight of any bugs. A study in 2006 showed it had a preventative effect on joint inflammation and other studies show it was more successful at reducing pain than a Non Steroid Anti-Inflammatory. These studies are based on supplemental doses so you might not get these effects with culinary use however for its antioxidant properties alone it is worth using it on a regular basis. Add it to your scrambled eggs with some mustard seeds for a different twist on a traditional breakfast dish.

Cinnamon – sweet, smooth and a bit peppery. Add this to your breakfast every morning and you could help with your energy levels. Studies have shown it may be able to slow down the release of carbohydrate into your bloodstream helping to balance your blood sugar levels throughout the day. It can also help warm up food to aid digestion.

Cumin, fennel, coriander and ginger all have been shown to help digestion. They have been found to contain digestive enzymes which help break down your food. They may help with digestive discomfort such as wind, heartburn, burping and bloating. Chewing on fennel, coriander or cumin seeds may help with wind and using them in lentils or beans when cooking may reduce the effects of wind after eating. Coriander may help with detoxification of heavy metals as well. We are exposed daily to toxins that we sometimes have no control over ingesting, eating coriander on a regular basis may help support the liver and the body in helping to eliminate them. Ground corriander can be more palatable to some as it is not as strong as the fresh stuff.

Add turmeric, ginger, fennel seeds, ground and dried coriander, cumin and a curry powder to your curries.

Sumac – this is a new spice I have introduced into the cupboard and it can sit proudly against the others. High in antioxidants and blood sugar supporting it is another great addition to your diet. It is ground dried berries and has a lemony flavour so can be added to fish, chicken, soups and vegetables. It can also be added to sweet dishes, again great on oats at breakfast.

Rosemary – may support immunity by reducing inflammation. It is also an excellent aid in digestion and can help with detoxification, supporting the liver.

Oregano – a great anti-fungal and antimicrobial, studies have shown it can kill of the big MRSA and is used in hand soaps. Great to add to pasta sauces, soups, casseroles and lentil dishes.

Thyme – antiseptic properties, may help with coughs and respiratory problems. It is also great for digestion.

Many of these spices contain vital nutrients such as calcium, essential fatty acids, iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc, vitamin C, amino acids and vital B vitamins.

So to optimise your diet, health and home cooking stock up your spices and herbs.

10 Apr

Jewelled Quinoa

Following on from my immune system blog yesterday this recipe would be a perfect dish to support immune function. It contains onions for quercetin, orange, red pepper, cumin and sumac for antioxidants and quinoa while being a complex carbohydrate it is also a great source of protein plus it is a good source of calcium and magnesium, all  supporting mind and mood.

Serves 4
2 cups of quinoa

3 cups of water
1 onion chopped
1 celery stick chopped
1 red pepper
1 orange
1 tbsp cumin
For the dressing
3 tbsp. rapeseed/olive oil
½ lemon juice
½ tsp chilli garlic sauce
1/2 tsp sumac
seasoning to taste
Add 1 tbsp. olive oil to a
Add onion and celery
Add quinoa
Add water
Add ¼ tsp. salt (optional)
Add cumin
Bring to a rolling boil
Keep at a medium simmer and
put lid on after 10 minutes turn off heat and take off lid for a two more
While the quinoa is cooking:
Chop 1 red pepper
Chop 1 orange
Make a dressing of rapeseed
or olive oil
Add chilli sauce
Add lemon juice
Add sumac
Salt and black pepper to taste
Mix with a whisk or spoon

Add the dressing and pepper and
orange to quinoa and serve
09 Apr

Allergies – as the hay fever season approaches there are some useful things you can do………

As we approach the hay fever season I am
writing about allergies. This will be a first in a series about supporting the
immune system. A balanced immune system is vital for good health and when
something goes wrong it can affect other vital functions in the body like
digestion, liver detoxification, endocrine system and even effect your mood.
Likewise when either of these systems is under functioning they can dramatically
affect immunity.
Allergies can occur when the immune system has
gone a bit wonky.
The immune system’s job is to fight off foreign
invaders. The immune system has a complicated task to keep these things at bay.
Immune cells initially have to deal with the invader by warning other immune
cells that something is here to attack the body. These cells take a little
longer to react but prepare ready for action. In a healthy functioning immune
system immune cells communicate effectively together to keep it in balance.
Once the invader has been dealt with regulatory T cells come in to turn off the
attack. When things go wrong, the immune cells continue to attack and then
start to attack everything, even substances that are not harmful. This is when
allergies can occur.
Symptoms of allergies consist of: nasal
congestion, coughing, wheezing, itching, shortness of breath, headache, fatigue
and hives.
Typical allergens: pollen, dust, certain metals
(nickel), some cosmetics, lanolin, dust mites, animal hair, some common drugs –
penicillin and aspirin, some food additives, washing powder, cleaning products
and many other chemicals. Mould can also be a common allergen and can be
carried by the wind in the summer months.  Some people may also be allergic to certain
foods, common foods are: peanuts, shellfish, nuts and eggs.
Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between a
cold and hay fever some key differences can help you identify, a cold lasts no
more than about 10 days, hay fever will last longer, the discharge from hay
fever is normally watery where as a cold discharge can turn thick and yellow as
the cold develops, hay fever may also include itchy nose, eyes and mouth.
Allergies are more common in non-breastfed
babies and are usually heredity. They can also strike at any age and a stressor
such as life load may also contribute to developing an allergy.
What to do:
·      –  Avoid the offending substance,
this is not always possible especially when it is pollen or you are not sure
what it is that is causing the reaction.
·     –  Probiotics are useful in
supporting the immune system. Aiding digestion and absorption of nutrients,
they are also the first line of defence in immunity.
·     –  Quercetin helps boost
immunity and regulates the secretion of histamine, the substance secreted that
may be making you itchy/scratchy. Quercetin is also anti-inflammatory and a
powerful antioxidant. It is found in apples, onions, berries, capers and
brassica vegetables.
·      – Vitamin D increases
regulatory T cells, which help, turn off the immune response. Supplementation
may be needed.
·      – Eat a diet low in sugar and
refined processed foods to help reduce inflammation
·    –   Balance omega 6 and omega 3
fats to help reduce inflammation. Typically we eat more omega 6 fats as they
are found in sunflower and vegetable oils made to make bread, cakes and
biscuits. Omega 3’s main source is oily fish and flaxseeds. Try to eat oily
fish 2-3 times a week to reduce inflammation.
·      – Eat colour of the rainbow
foods – rich in antioxidants this can help mop up any damaging substances that
are floating around due to an over reactive inflammatory response.  Foods to include: sweet potatoes, ginger, broccoli,
kale, spinach, Cavolo Nero, cabbage, carrots, beetroot, tomatoes and peppers.
·      – Green tea contains
epigallocatechin gallate (what a mouthful) basically it helps control histamine
release and the immune response that is overreacting.
·     –  Nettle has been found to
reduce sneezing and hay fever symptoms in some people again due to the fact it
may reduce histamine. Nettle tea may be useful.
·      – Reduce stressors: meditate or
find ways to relax.
·     –  Calcium and magnesium are
important minerals for helping you relax: green leafy vegetables are rich in
calcium and magnesium. Or have Epsom salt baths, as they are rich in magnesium
and a good way to relax.
·      – Chew your food thoroughly
helping the body digest and absorb nutrients.

Allergic reactions can be life threatening so
always seek advice from your doctor if they are troublesome. They can also be
very life limiting so it is important to try to help the body calm down the
immune response and reduce symptoms.