This is a question that comes up all the time with clients. When you’re working hard to change habits around food it can feel like a step too far to stick to water when the weekend comes. That’s why I rarely suggest clients give up entirely; I’m interested in promoting sustainable weight loss that makes room for real life. However, alcohol can absolutely affect your ability to lose weight, especially if you drink too much and too frequently. In this article I’ll explain four reasons why alcohol can sabotage your goals plus share some tips for mitigating the effects.
First some good news. There have been numerous studies suggesting that moderate drinking will not affect your weight. In a 2010 study of nearly 20,000 women, non drinkers were more likely to put on weight than moderate drinkers. The study was published in the in the Archives of Internal Medicine and tracked participants for 13 years.
However, there is clear evidence that binge drinking expands your waistline. Researchers from the University College of London found that men who drank approximately seven drinks and women who drank approximately four drinks in one session had larger waists than moderate drinkers. Notably, participants only had to ‘binge’ once a month to see their bellies expand. For women, the difference in waist size between bingers and ‘non bingers’ was a whopping 10cm.
So what’s the right amount? If you are serious about losing weight then limit yourself to one or two drinks on Friday and Saturday nights.
Four reasons alcohol leads to weight gain
1)We tend to eat more when we drink alcohol. We all know this (the bread basket can disappear pretty quickly next to a bottle of wine) but there are plenty of studies to back it up. Research shows people eat around 30 percent more food when they consume alcohol. Certainly as our inhibitions disappear so does our self consciousness about what we’re eating along with our willpower to stick to our plan. In addition, alcohol affects our blood sugar levels which may result in an instinctive need to balance levels by eating more.
2)The second truth is that when you’ve consumed alcohol it’s harder for your body to burn fat. This is because alcohol affects glucagon – the hormone that works to raise blood glucose levels and to break down body fat. In addition, the liver prioritises processing alcohol before doing the many other jobs that it has to do.
3)Skipped the TRX class thanks to that second glass of wine? It’s no surprise that alcohol affects our motivation to exercise the next day and also our performance. However, if you can bite the bullet and get to the gym, it will be worth it; you get an endorphin rush, sweat out toxins and might make healthier food choices. A 2014 study published in The International Journal of Obesity found that interval training lowers levels of the hormone ghrelin, which is known to stimulate appetite.
4) Finally, drinking effects your sleep. In fact, alcohol is ‘the biggest suppressor of REM sleep we know’ according to Dr Mathew Walker, neuroscientist and best selling author of Why We Sleep. We might think that having a ‘nightcap’ will help us sleep like a baby however the reality is that alcohol leads to fragmented sleep, where we wake up several times during the night. The upshot? Research shows it leads to us eating an extra 300 calories a day.
Laura Bond is a journalist, author and health coach. She specialises in helping clients beat stress, reduce their toxic load and prepare their bodies for babies. To find out more, click here.
Did you know mushrooms were once prized above gold and silver?
In Ancient Egypt they were associated with immortality and in China royalty used mushrooms to ‘extend life’ and maintain health. Cordyceps were even banned from being eaten or used by the general public, they was strictly reserved for royalty.
Thank fully today we all have access to this highly available, affordable superfood.
So what’s so great about mushrooms?
Mushrooms are packed with compounds that balance the immune system, boost gut health (they contain prebiotics) and delay ageing according to research. I tell all my clients to eat mushrooms as often as they can – add them to spaghetti, pizza, stir-fries or soup for an easy nutritional upgrade.
Not only do mushrooms provide broad-spectrum immune support, but they can also:
Aid weight-loss, through stabilising blood sugar
Provide vitamin D3
Support the liver and kidneys
Reduce the risk of cancer
Reduce the signs of ageing
And you don’t have to spend a fortune on exotic mushrooms to reap the rewards.
Women who eat just half a button mushroom a day lower their risk of breast cancer by 65 per cent, according to a study of 2,000 Chinese women published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Cancer in 2009.
Why are mushrooms so beneficial?
All mushrooms contain beta-glucans, which stimulate our immune system to detect and destroy pathogens. They also boost levels of natural killer cells vital for our immune system. If you don’t like the flavour of mushrooms you can try a protein powder containing mushroom extracts in your smoothie – I like Supernova and FourSigma – I promise you won’t be able to taste it!
Below you’ll find a little about the benefits of different types.
Shiitake: You’ll get a nice boost of vitamin D3 and a dose of a powerful anticancer compound called AHCC (active hexose correlated compound).
What to do with them: Buy a packet of dried shiitake mushrooms, soak them for twenty minutes in warm water and add them to stir-fries, miso soup or sauté them with some coconut aminos or tamari sauce and serve with a grass-fed steak.
The Research: Shiitake mushrooms have been shown to help people with liver cancer live longer and now new research shows they may also help prevent cervical cancer and keep it from coming back. Shiitake mushrooms can also stop you from snacking thanks to the satisfying umami flavour according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Cordyceps: Try Coffee with Cordyceps! It has many benefits and is known as the ‘Viagra of the Himalayas’
Maitake: This mushroom can help with weight loss. In one Japanese study the fluffy, fan shaped mushroom – with a chicken like flavour- helped 30 overweight patients lose a significant amount over two months (between 11-26 pounds).
Reishi: Referred to as the ‘mushroom of immortality’ the ancient Chinese used Reishi to sharpen memory, improve mood and to boost longevity and youthfulness. This may be due to the fact that reishi mushroom can reduce inflammatory markers, which have been closely linked to shorter life spans.
What to do with them: Try Organic Reishi Mushroom Spore Powder. Take this one in powder or supplement form; the tough woody texture means Reishi mushrooms aren’t ideal for eating.
Reishi spore powder is highly concentrated so if you are dealing with a serious immune challenge, this is the kind of potent supplement you want to add to your healing arsenal.
The Research on Reishi
There are plethora of studies attesting to the benefits of Reishi spores for cancer in particular as well as for kidney health and herpes – here are a few references.
Liver and Bone Cancer: A 2002 study from China found that a form of Reishi spores inhibited tumours by 80-90%.
Breast Cancer: In a 2012 study Reishi Triterpene crystals were found to inhibit cell proliferation in human breast cancer cells.
Chaga: Add this ‘king of the mushrooms’ to your morning smoothie to boost physical and mental endurance. Researcher suggests that Chaga leads to less fatigue and sustained energy hanks to the polysaccharides they contain. Try Supernova protein powder or FourSigma in your morning shake.
Best all-rounder mushroom supplement: MycoPhyto Complex from EcoNugenics with 6 medicinal mushrooms including Reishi and Cordyceps.
Laura Bond is a journalist, author and health coach. She specialises in helping clients beat stress, reduce their toxic load and prepare their bodies for babies. To find out more, click here.
‘Constant pressure’ is a phrase I hear all the time from clients. Working as a nutritionist you might assume my sessions are all about green juice and fermented foods (and there is certainly a scoop of that) but most of the time I’m helping clients work out how to get the healthy foods into their relentless and often stressful daily lives.
Take Mark*, 40. When I first met Mark he estimated he’d had 5 hours sleep in the proceeding 3 days thanks to travel and insomnia. He was also feeling anxious, had digestive issues and felt under ‘constant pressure’ from work and family life. He was also worried about getting older; ‘you’re constantly reading that at this age, things fall apart.’
But it doesn’t have to be that way, and it wasn’t for Mark. Instead, over the course of six sessions, we worked on four key areas which helped him rediscover his spark, lose weight and take control of his daily life. Here are the 4 R’s we worked on:
Really Quick Meals What to get at Pret… that won’t leave you hungry one hour later and avoids the hidden sugars? What to cook for dinner when you find yourself in Sainsbury’s at 7pm starving? After discussing Mark’s favourite foods we hatched a plan of simple, 10 minute recipes he would enjoy eating. When I met Mark he said that ‘100% of what he ate was shop bought’ but after providing him with a few simple recipes he was cooking three times a week and bringing his lunch to work. His favourite meal? Steak with cabbage slaw, which he took in a wrap the next day. Recipe here.
Recovery Pockets I encouraged Mark to maximise those small windows of time when he was away from his desk. Rather than say, walking to the coffee shop with his mind in a whirr, I suggested a walking meditation. This simple exercise involves breathing in for four steps, holding your breath for four steps and breathing out for four steps. This simple exercise activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps get your heart rate under control. When Mark arrived, rather than scrolling through social media or plugging into a podcast, I suggested Mark listen to a 3 minute meditation while waiting for his coffee. Try InsightTimer (you have the option to listen offline when you sign up).
Routine in the chaos Mark said he found it ‘hard to justify going to the gym in the morning’ when he could be spending time with his kids. Anyone relate? It’s tough when adorable toddlers are tugging at your PJ pants begging you to play ‘crash’ with the cars or ‘Be Princess Anna’ again. Kids grow up so quickly and every moment counts. But they also require a lot of energy – and what gives you energy? Coffee will give you an instant kick but you might pay a price, more on that here.
Exercise, on the other hand, is a total system reset. You need exercise to get the lymph system moving, which is how the body removes toxins and waste. Exercise also boosts muscle mass and metabolism and finally it increases our tolerance for stress. When you’re moving fast your heart rate quickens, your breathing rate goes up and this gets you familiar with those same feelings you have when stress hits. We looked at Mark’s diary and scheduled in two exercise sessions during the week and one on the weekend. His wife and kids knew these were non negotiable and on the other days he was in Dad mode. Sometimes we can be scared to ask our partners for more ‘me time’ but remember that it also gives your partner permission to do the same. The result? Less resentment and more goodwill.
Reduce Sugar Cravings Mark’s job meant that he was often travelling and had to eat in the car between clients. Previously this meant reaching for chocolate or vending machine snacks so we talked about snacks he could take with him that were rich in healthy fats and protein and required no refrigeration. These 200 cal snack bags would keep his brain firing and energy levels humming until he got home. I also recommended he take chromium picolinate (200mcg, Pure Encapsulations) for 30 days to reduce sugar and carb cravings and aid weight loss.
Do you relate to any of this? Are you ready to reclaim your energy and find foods that work for you and your lifestyle? To book your free 15 minute introductory session with me, email [email protected] or call 0775 8365 092.
Laura Bond is a journalist, author and health coach. She specialises in helping clients beat stress, reduce their toxic load and prepare their bodies for babies. To find out more, click here.
There are many things that prompt us to eat, very few of which have to do with hunger. We might take our cues from a colleague opposite, whose spicy cinnamon muffin compels us to the cafeteria; or perhaps stressful news sends us raiding the pantry or ritual rules our diet.
We are creatures of habit and if we’ve spent the last 10 years indulging in a packet of crisps at 4pm, it can take some adjustment to allow ourselves to go without.
Having recently returned from a health centre in Austria, I’ve been reminded what it feels like to experience proper hunger pangs and have been forced to take stock of how much I snack. The Original FX Mayr focuses on improving digestion and re-educating you about how to eat.
‘The problem now is that we overeat all the time and that tires out the digestive organs,’ says medical director Dr. Stephan Domenig. ‘Here at the clinic, we teach people to slow down, to eat smaller portions and to put their cutlery down between bites.’
When you eat more slowly, your blood sugar doesn’t spike, but rises gradually. This helps us feel fuller for longer. Unfortunately most of us don’t take the time to savour each bite; we eat on the go, in a rush and our brains barely register the falafel sandwich we just wolfed down.
This leads us to eat more, often between meals.
In 1977 the average time between meals for adults was 4.4 hours. By 2006 that window had shrunk to a mere 3.5 hours (Popkin and Duffy, 2010).
So are there any benefits to eating less often, as previous generations did ?
Here are some thoughts on slowing down and snacking less.
We are told that snacking helps to balance blood sugar and stops us overeating, but research say otherwise. In 1977 we consumed on average 2,090 calories a day; by 2006 it had increased to 2,533. The main source of this extra energy? Snack food.
Happier Stomach and Pancreas
When you’re constantly making demands on your digestive system, and denying it a break, it’s harder to manage blood sugar levels. When you snack between meals your pancreas gets no rest, as you are constantly triggering insulin production. This leads to more blood sugar spikes – especially if you’re snacking on simple carbs like bread, biscuits or water crackers.
Three to six hours is the time it takes the body to start releasing energy from our fat stores. In other words, if you really want to kick start your metabolism, you need to quit grazing.
There is also evidence to suggest that longer periods between meals increase the microbial diversity of your colon, which has a positive effect on weight and metabolism. A Danish study published in the journal Nature found that people who are obese have fewer and less diverse gut bacteria than their leaner counterparts (Le Chatelier, 2014).
Gut-bacteria induced weight gain is a real thing. Researchers from the University of Iowa recently likened the effects of negative gut bacteria to eating ‘one additional cheeseburger every single day’ (Bahr et al., 2015)
When Snacking Makes Sense
If there is one thing I’ve learnt as a health coach, it’s that no human body is the same and our needs continually change as our bodies evolve.
During pregnancy, for example, blood sugar levels tend to fluctuate, which might require eating more often (I recommend tamari roasted cashews, paleo crackers with nut butter or coconut yoghurt for slow release energy).
Eating straight after a vigorous workout, also makes sense. Following intense physical activity your body naturally enters a catabolic (muscle breakdown) phase and eating protein five to fifteen minutes after training can aid recovery. For more on How To Eat After Exercise, click here.
But for most of us, learning to reconnect with our hunger is a valuable lesson. By constantly picking, we’ve forgotten what it feels like to be truly ravenous and are denying ourselves the pleasure of tucking into a much-anticipated meal. We all know food tastes better if we wait a little longer, as the saying goes, ‘hunger is the best sauce.’
It’s easy to be so overwhelmed by the toxic soup we’re surrounded by – the flame-retardants from the sofa, the wifi connecting us to the world – that we choose to do nothing. But even if you do one thing, like order a water filter, it can go a long way to reducing your toxic load. Here are two simple changes you can make today.
What’s in your water
When people ask me, ‘what is the one thing I should change,’ my answer is usually ‘get a water filter.’
Drinking plenty of purified water allows nutrients to flood your cells while pushing toxins out. Your body is like a river, as long as the water is flowing, you can dump stuff in there and it will stay clean.
In countries like Australia and America where the water is fluoridated, this is even more important.
Fluoride is toxic to children’s growing brains and research suggests that the greater the exposure the lower the child’s IQ. That’s according to a major 2012 review carried out jointly by Harvard and China Medical University.
In the UK we are lucky in that the majority of water is not currently treated with fluoride, however hormones from the contraceptive pill are a major problem. More than 2.5 million women take birth control pills in the UK. These hormones are excreted and end up in our sewage systems and rivers. Even at very low concentrations, these chemicals have harmful effects on fish. ‘Do we want to wait until we see effects in humans, as we did with thalidomide and BSE, or do we act before harm is done?’ says toxicologist Professor Richard Owen of Exeter University in an article about the issue in The Guardian.
Then there’s chlorine, ‘Cancer risk among people drinking chlorinated water is up to 93% per cent higher than among those whose water doesn’t contain chlorine according to studies from the US Council of Environmental Quality.
Which water filter should I buy?
Having experimented with several water filters I believe the best option is Reverse Osmosis (RO). This filtration system removes virtually everything including bacteria, chlorine, fluoride, heavy metals, organic compounds (eg oestrogen), viruses. However, it’s worth noting that RO also removes essential minerals so it’s important to remineralise your water. Many RO systems now come with optional remineralising cartridges. Like this one from Vitality4Life.
Breathe Better Air
It’s bad enough you have to breathe in synthetic chemicals in your uber (those green trees hanging from the rear view mirror are not benign) you don’t want to do it in your home.
A large study that analyzed 74 popular air fresheners, revealed they contain over 350 chemicals including benzene, formaldehyde and phthalates. Benzene has been classified as a known carcinogen by WHO while studies show that chronic exposure to formaldehyde has been linked to leukaemia. So what can you do?
EO’s are distilled from flowers, trees, roots and rein and contain over 100 different organic compounds, including terpenes and phenols. Terpenes help remove existing toxins from the liver and kidneys while phenols – which give the oil its natural fragrance – contain high levels of oxygenating molecules and antioxidant properties.
Research shows that inhaling essential oils can help fight free radical toxicity at the cellular level and a 2016 Lebanese study found that essential oils can relieve the ill effects of air pollution, particularly clove bud oil (eugenol) nad the essential oil from basil (estragole).
Although Mum has left this world it seems the book lives on. I was recently asked to write a new foreword ahead of the Danish publication of Mum’s Not Having Chemo, explaining what happened. I thought I would share it with you here.
‘Some endings are happier, some not so happy, but it’s not just the happiness percentage that matters. It’s the music of it. Most people’s lives don’t have enough music. I was lucky; my life was a rock opera.’ Billy, posthumously in ‘The Afterlife of Billy Fingers’ by Annie Kagan.
I hope through reading these pages people will realise they are not alone. I hope it will also take away some of their fear around cancer, as well as their fear of dying. Some believe that our fate is written in our own personal edition of the ‘book of life’. If that’s the case, why bother trying to live longer, to overcome disease? However, I believe there’s a lot of freedom within our predetermined destiny.
There may be a rough road map, but how you choose to travel is up to you. Do you want to take the scenic route? Travel in a vehicle with a tired old engine and a broken windscreen, or a Ferrari with your favourite radio station playing?
My mother enjoyed the brilliance of her life while she was on this earth, right up until a few weeks before her death. When she was diagnosed with ovarian and uterine cancer six years ago, in March 2011, the outlook was bleak. Less than 5 per cent of patients live beyond five years. Yet Mum managed to beat the odds; within a matter of months she was free from ovarian and uterine cancer according to blood tests.
It was only when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in November 2013 – completely unrelated to the first cancer – that the challenge was ratcheted up. Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers; 74 per cent of patients die within the first year of diagnosis and the average survival time for advanced pancreatic cancer is three months. Mum lived for three years with pancreatic cancer and, for the most part, in abundant health.
I have a video of mum skipping down the steps to a yoga class in Austria, hiking in the northern part of Norway with our family, enjoying a decadent three course meal with me in England – merely months before she passed away.
There are no guarantees when it comes to cancer, whatever treatment you choose. The goal of this book is not to advise people, but rather to bring an awareness to the many healing options out there, so patients can make a decision that feels right for them. Mum certainly had no regrets about the path she chose. By diving into the world of holistic health she connected with so many like minded souls, and forged new friendships across the globe. She corresponded constantly with Nicola and Vincent (see Chapter 12) who shared her fascination with ‘higher realms’ and Rachel became like a third daughter. While Rachel died a few weeks before Mum, Vincent and Nicola are both alive and thriving.
The goal for mum was not to be ‘cured’ but to live well and in compliance with nature and her own beliefs. The renowned cancer specialist, Dr Nicholas Gonzales helped her live out this intention. After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer she flew to New York to seek his guidance. She was recommended a plant based diet, with small amounts of seafood, along with coffee enemas and enzymes – approximately 90 a day. When I interviewed Gonzales back in 2012 he explained the reason for this:
‘Enzymes selectively concentrate around the cancer cells and chew up the cell membranes and the cancer cells basically explode.’ You can read more about his protocol in Chapters 4 and 5. Dr. Gonzales had phenomenal success with a wide range of cancers, including pancreatic cancer. One patient came to him in 1991 with stage four pancreatic cancer, and lived a further 14 years. He died, following a car accident.
Of course I would have given anything for mum to have lived longer; to be here to see my baby boy grow up, to help guide me as a new mother, to be there on the other end of the phone when things don’t go to plan, to share in my excitement when things go right. No one can prepare you for the loss of a family member, and it’s not until it happens that you begin to comprehend the daily agony that darkens so many people’s lives. When mum died, my siblings and I wept in disbelief:
‘What was the point of all that?’ was the general sentiment. However, in her death Mum has given us all a greater compassion and empathy, as well as a renewed appreciation for how precious our health is.
While it was tempting to throw all the kale and quinoa out the window when Mum died, along with the daily meditation practise, I knew deep down that these things mattered. Maybe its naïve to think they provide a magical field of protection, but they certainly make me feel better. It’s also true that it’s easier to maintain good health, than it is to reverse disease; as the saying goes, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’
Although immediately after my mother’s death my belief in everything – including the value of this book – was temporarily suspended, I have since been persuaded otherwise. Even on the day of mum’s funeral I was receiving emails from people who have found inspiration in these pages and wanted to reach out. Reading some of the reviews on Amazon has also convinced me this book still has a purpose. Here are just a handful of comments;
‘For anyone who has cancer, or is worried about getting it, this book is an absolute must; the best I have read on this issue.’
‘Mum’s Not Having Chemo is the first book about cancer that didn’t terrify me. Thank you Laura.’
‘I have reached the end of the wonderful book on the day I finally cycled 2.5 miles without stopping and not puffing like an old steam train. First time on my bike in 3 months so a real achievement I can tell you….To all those people out there this is a must read to beat this terrible disease.’
If you are currently suffering from cancer, I hope this book will provide you with inspiration and comfort as well as tools to help you live longer and better – whichever path you choose. If you are the sister/brother/daughter/son of someone suffering from cancer then you have a head start. I know the wisdom in these pages can help reduce your risk of cancer and help your body sing at a cellular level.
As painful as it is to contemplate life without my mother, her generous and quirky spirit lives on in these pages; and in the hearts and minds of the thousands of people she has helped. She told my sister in the last days that she will be watching over us always. In her life she never hesitated to help someone in need. While she can no longer provide assistance via email, I have no doubt her spirit will be ready to send you strength, simply dial up the divine line and ask for Gemma.
Sugar stimulates extreme reward centres in our brain, which can override normal self control mechanisms. No wonder sugar has been called ‘the new nicotine.’
Eating too much of the sweet stuff not only serves to expand our waistlines, it can also make us more anxious, can accelerate ageing and can increase our risk of Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Let’s first look at some of the latest research then I’ll share with you my top foods for beating cravings…
The Sugar Link: A 2009 review of studies that included over 500,000 people found an increased risk of cancer, and of dying of cancer, for every extra unit of glucose in the blood.
Conventional doctors have long known that cancer loves sugar – in fact, PET scans operate on this premise. Doctors check patients for cancer by injecting them with radioactive sugar; if there’s cancer in the body it makes a bee-line for the sugar and lights up on the PET scan. Cancer cells are basically sugar guzzling machines: ‘A normal healthy cell has four receptor sites for sugar – a cancer cell has 96,’ explains Dr. Leigh Erin Connealy a leading integrative physician based in California.
The Sugar Link: Speak to any facialist and they’ll tell you sugar = wrinkles. Why? Sugar attaches to protein molecules in the body creating sugar proteins called advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). The body reacts to AGEs by producing antibodies that cause skin inflammation. Sugar can also exacerbate skin problems. In fact acne has been described by two scientists as ‘skin diabetes.’
The Sugar Link: Although science has yet to make a direct connection between Alzheimer’s and sugar intake the case is growing. Several studies have shown that brain cells shrink and become tangled from high blood sugar levels over time.
Top 5 Foods for Beating Sugar Cravings:
Coconut Oil: High in lauric acid – a beneficial fat – coconut oil slows down the digestion of food, increasing the sense of satiety after a meal. It also slows the rate carbohydrates are broken down into blood glucose.
Supermodel Miranda Kerr swears by coconut oil to stay thin, a claim now backed by science. In one study, women who received two tablespoons of coconut oil (30 ml), daily, over a period of 12 weeks, experienced both a reduction in waist circumference, as well as a boost in their ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels.
Wild and organic animal protein: Eating protein with every meal, is like putting a log on your metabolic fire, according to Sarah Wilson author of I Quit Sugar. Go for a small amount of organic roast chicken, smoked salmon, prawns – naturally sweet – or one boiled egg. Vegans could try a ‘chia egg.’ Packed with fibre it will keep you feeling full.
Nuts and Seeds: I’ve written extensively about nuts in this article. But just to re-cap, a large scale study from Harvard University found those who include nuts in their diet are slimmer than those who don’t and also have a reduced risk of pancreatic cancer. Thanks to the combination of protein and healthy fats – plus mood boosting magnesium – they are the ideal snack for when sugar cravings hit. Go for almonds (alkaline forming) cashews (which contain pre-cursors to serotonin) and walnuts (a source of omega-3 and melatonin). If you’re the type of person who can’t stop once you pop a packet, practise damage control by keeping a small SOS sandwich bag in your top drawer.
Avocado with vegetable crackers: A recent study found that half an avocado at lunch cut 4pm hunger pangs by 40 per cent. You can include avocado in your salad or dressing or slather it on vegetable crackers – I like these raw sprouted ‘crackits’ from InSpiral.
Sweet Potato: Dice up cubes and roast with a little olive oil to add to your dinner (and then lunch the next day) for a naturally sweet hit. Sweet potatoes are also rich in B6, which is important for the production of serotonin- the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter.
Finally, a teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar diluted in water before meals can help control insulin and glucose spikes. Try to find an unpasteurized version; you’ll see a cloudy mass of good bacteria, known as ‘the mother’ floating in the bottle.
In terms of natural sugars the only ones I’d recommend are honey, maple syrup or Coconut Syrup – which are all lower in glucose and fructose than refined sugars, as well as being amino-acid and mineral packed.
Since falling pregnant I have been plagued by headaches. Previously, I would have rubbed my temples, rehydrated and – if the pain persisted and a deadline was looming – cracked open the painkillers. But with a growing baby to consider, I have so far steered clear. Although doctors insist that aspirin and paracetamol are safe during pregnancy, I have my reservations. One study found that children born to mothers who took aspirin in the first half of pregnancy had significantly lower IQs and reduced ability to concentrate. Paracetamol, on the other hand, has been linked to cell mutations in both humans and animals.
Of course painkillers should never be considered benign substances, whether you are expecting or not. Did you know 24,000 women a year in Britain are admitted to hospital suffering side effects from paracetamol? These over-the-counter drugs have been linked to gastric ulcers and liver damage. In a 2009 German study, researchers found that drug-induced liver-toxicity (particularly from acetaminophen aka paracetamol/Tylenol) has replaced viral hepatitis as the most frequent cause of acute liver failure.
So where do you turn when your head is pounding and the nausea is setting in? Try these options and your body will thank you in the long run.
O2 Drops: Since prehistoric times, the level of oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere has dropped by over a third and in polluted cities the decline may be more than 50 per cent. What does this have to do with headaches? According to Dr. Arthur C. Guyton, MD author of The Textbook of Medical Physiology ‘…All chronic pain, suffering, and diseases are caused from a lack of oxygen at the cell level.’ After researching oxidative therapies for my book ‘Mum’s Not Having Chemo’ I’m well aware that getting more oxygen into the cells can alleviate pain, boost energy and help protect the body from disease. These drops of stabilized oxygen and minerals are well worth a try. Start with 15-30 drops 2-3 times/day under tongue and read more here.
Peppermint Oil: Mix three drops (ideally with one drop of lavender) on your fingers and rub directly onto the back of your neck or near your temples for instant analgesia. Once reserved for Mother’s Day Gift Sets, essential oils are emerging as powerful natural medicine. Clinical trials show several essential oils can kill deadly airborne-bacteria, and many contain anti-cancer and anti-viral properties. University of Kiel researchers found that peppermint blocked headache pain in a double-blind placebo controlled study.
Coffee Enemas: Pain and headaches frequently come up in my health coaching practice and I regularly recommend (and talk people through) coffee enemas. Dr. Max Gerson, a German physician, made coffee enemas famous when he published reports on their benefit for cancer patients. However he originally used enemas to cure his own migraines. Coffee enemas can help reduce inflammation, detox the liver and increase levels of glutathione – known as the mother of all antioxidants. I have tried this remedy for headaches (and hangovers) in the past and all I can say is that it worked for me. Although it is important to note that it is not recommended during pregnancy. For detailed instructions and to purchase a kit, click here.
Pulsed Electro Magnetic Field Therapy (PEMF): Dr. Oz has described PEMF as ‘the revolutionary cure for pain’ and there are thousands of university papers attesting to its value. Dr. Garry Gordon says that PEMF ‘increases cellular oxygen levels, improves the uptake of nutrients and improves lymphatic flow.’ The products created by Dr. Pawluk come highly recommended and start from around $429 for a portable unit. Since the machine is battery operated you don’t have to worry about electrical compatibility if you live in Australia or Britain. In one double-blind placebo-controlled study 42 migraine sufferers were treated with PEMF. Seventy three percent of participants reported decreased headaches.
The average time spent preparing a meal has dropped from about an hour in 1980 to 34 minutes today according to research.
The UK study, which examined the eating and cooking habits of 4,000 UK households from 1980 to 2012, found that the sandwich has become the most commonly eaten meal.
Against this bleak backdrop there is a beacon of hope in the form of healthy food delivery services.
These companies offer choice, convenience and the opportunity to eat fresh food without sacrificing precious down time. As a health coach I regularly see clients who face the challenge of wanting to eat healthier but work long hours.
No one wants to head to the shops, find a recipe and start cooking when you walk through the door at 7.30pm; especially when there are kids vying for your attention, clothes to be washed and… telly to be watched. Let’s be honest. The lure of a glass of wine and Game of Thrones is an appealing alternative to shuffling around Sainsbury’s looking for cumin.
Even if time is on your side, there is the issue of food waste. Globally, we now throw away 50 per cent of edible food and in the UK almost 50 per cent of food waste comes from the home. So often that coriander you bought for the curry on Tuesday and cabbage for the slaw is left to languish at the back of the crisper (unless you’re into juicing, which is the easiest and healthiest antidote to food waste).
Could food delivery services be the answer? Certainly more of us are choosing to have fresh ingredients delivered to our doorstep at an affordable price. One global company, Hello Fresh, delivered 6.1million meals in November 2015. It might not be the end of the ready meal, but it is certainly revolutionizing the way we eat.
Hello Fresh: The company has Jamie Oliver on board and operates in Germany, US, UK, Australia, Austria, The Netherlands and Belgium. Each week you simply choose form an array of recipes online – like Bangladeshi Lamb Biryani or Jamie’s Tomato Tagliatelle – and the ingredients are delivered to your door.
Cost: From £4 per meal for a family.
Mindfulchef.com: All the meals are organic, gluten free and contain no refined carbs. You can choose between classic or plant-based so it’s perfect for the Paleo or Vegan eater alike. Think beef with courgetti and cashews or Malaysian Tofu and carrot noodle laksa.
Cost: From £6 a meal (plant-based) £7 for classic.
ChopHealthy.com: The new company from Natasha Corrett, author of the Honestly Healthy book series, will launch on the 23rd May. As a trained chef Natasha knows how to make alkaline, plant-based recipes delicious. All the ingredients are organic and the recipes free from gluten, wheat and cow’s Dairy. Think Coconut Flour Pizza and chickpea coconut curry.
Cost: From £6 a meal, based on two people and three recipes a week.
The Pure Package: This gourmet food delivery service provides high quality meals with zero effort required on your part. All you need is an oven, a healthy appetite (and a healthy income). Fans include Hayley Atwell, Lily Cole and Florence Welch. As a journalist I recently enjoyed a two-day press trial of the exclusive service. I received a special ‘pregnancy package’ however you could also try the Japanese Body Boost, the DNA diet or Healthy Skin and Ageing.
As someone who typically cooks 90 per cent of my meals from scratch, it was a treat to have a 48-hour holiday from washing up and it was a great way to get more variety into my diet. The chicken superfood salad (pictured above) was a highlight and the snacks all tasty (including homemade kalamata olive tapenade with organic oatcakes). I was initially guilt-struck at how quickly my bin filled with plastic packaging, however was relieved to discover that everything, including the cutlery, is recyclable.
The company does not use any GM food and serves a minimum of seven portions of fruit and vegetables per day. All the meat is grass-fed and the fish ethically sourced. I had the pleasure of meeting the founder of the company, Jennifer Irvine, at a recent industry event and was impressed by her grit. Irvine might serve celebrities, but when the mother-of-four first launched the company she would rise at 4am to personally deliver all the meals (and get to know the twilight toilet stops for her future employees).
Cost: A 10-day program for breakfast, lunch and dinner starts from £44.95 a day.
Early on in our relationship, my husband asked me to name my weirdest health habit. He wanted to know, up front, what he was dealing with.
I hesitated for a moment before sharing that I never touch receipts, unless I absolutely have to.
He was suitably satisfied with the level of extremity.
But the latest evidence suggests my behavior is validated.
Few people realise that BPA (bisphenol A) is dusted onto receipt surfaces to activate the printing dye. It can rub off on your fingers in seconds and enter your blood stream within hours.
In fact, BPA was used in the 1930s as a synthetic oestrogen to make animals fat.
So if you’ve got a little bit of a belly, look at how you’re storing your food – ie the containers you use. It’s not just what you eat, but what you eat it in that can make a difference. Choose glass and steel instead of plastic.
And don’t use hand sanitizer – especially if you’ve just touched the receipt for your sandwich. A 2014 study found that BPA absorption is enhanced by as much as 100 times thanks to the chemicals in your handbag disinfectant.
The good news?
Naturally-minded companies – including Neal’s Yard Remedies in the UK – are now using BPA-free receipts. I recently discovered the eco-dry cleaner Blanc does too.
The French owner, Ludovic Blanc, explained that it was important to him that his employees were not exposed to toxins at work. It’s a concern that should be shared by more employers. People who work behind the till, do in fact have higher levels of bisphenols in their blood according to a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives. The researchers concluded that: ‘Thermal receipt paper is a potential source of occupational exposure to BPA, BPS, and BPSIP.’
My local beauty salon, Violet Adair (which, incidentally uses old fashioned beeswax – with camomile – for the best hair removal) recently switched to a completely receipt-less payment system; the iZettle. It’s certainly a good idea for small businesses.
If you currently work for a company that uses BPA receipts, then show your boss the evidence and request that they choose a less toxic option. And, in the meantime, do your best to pull BPA out of your body.
Spicy Korean Kimchi has been shown to reduce the effects of BPA and leafy greens like spinach and kale can counteract the cellular damage done by BPA according to studies from Duke University.