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Q&A with Alex Wu, author of A User’s Manual for the Human Body

Alex Wu’s new book, A User’s Manual for the Human Body is a transformative guide to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The book shows how Traditional Chinese Medicines differ from Western medicine and what that means in practice. It also illustrates how we can help our bodies to heal themselves and thereby achieve a longer, healthier life. Here, Alex answers a few questions about his lifestyle, which is the basis for his book.

Alex Wu
Alex Wu, author of A User’s Manual for the Human Body

Can you describe your current lifestyle? How many hours per night do you sleep?

I am 66 years old so my regime might not be the same as people in different age groups. I sleep at 10pm and I wake up normally around 6am. I do the pericardium massage when I wake up in the morning and at night time, I practice the bladder meridian massage (Both the hair combing and back massage). I do the gallbladder massage (leg) after dinner. I try to walk at least an hour a day during the day time and I pay attention to the amount of clothes that I wear to avoid getting a cold.

Describe your diet. What do you eat? Are there any foods that you avoid?

There is no specific food that I eat or avoid but the general rule is I try to eat as little processed food as possible. To avoid cold energy, I do not eat anything raw except for fruits. The fruits that I eat are the ones that are in season.

What exercise do you do?

I exercise mainly through walking and I practice Tai-Chi occasionally.

What was your life like before you started practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine? What aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine that was most impactful?

Before I was ill, I worked well over 60 hours a week under high pressure. I was an investment banker in China back in the 1990s. I wouldn’t say that my regime was changed because of TCM but rather TCM concepts let me understand what type of harm this regime was causing to my body. I quit my job and it changed everything.

In your book, you talk about the Qi and the TCM concept of blood. How would you explain that to a Western audience?

An analogy I often use when describing qi to those who do not have a deep cultural understanding of the concept is that the body is a battery. Blood is the equivalent of the battery’s capacity and qi is the amount of energy currently stored in the battery. It would logically follow that the amount of qi you can have is limited by the amount of blood you have. This relationship between blood and qi is important if we are to understand how to improve our health. Because the quantity of qi a person can have is determined by the amount of blood the person has, the focus of healthy living should be to increase the amount of blood in the body.

To learn more about A User’s Manual for the Human Body, watch Alex Wu’s explanation video on YouTube here and here.

You can purchase the book from Hammersmith Health Books. The paperback is now on special offer for £9.99 and the ebook is £5.99.

A User's Manual for the Human Body

 

 

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Best Gifts for Expectant Mothers

As a highly experienced community midwife and teacher, Bridget Sheeran knows that pregnancy should be a time for vital physical and mental preparation. The body and mind do much of this automatically, but there are many ways to support this process and to resist the day-to-day stresses that can hinder it. In her book, Preparing for Birth: Colouring Your Pregnancy Journey, Bridget invites pregnant women to allow their natural curiosity to rise up and lead them to discover how they can help themselves through the process of birth. If you’re looking for a great gift for an expectant mother, ditch the helpful advice books and instead, get her something that will be truly appreciated.

Here is a review from an expectant mum who recently received Bridget’s book:

I was on my own in New York City, pregnant, working two jobs and facing winter. It was a pretty daunting time.

People were so quick to recommend all manner of books I should read about pregnancy and birth and childcare that just trying to jot down the names was exhausting. It often felt that if someone recommended a book one day with one approach, the following day someone else would mention a different book with a completely opposite way of doing things. Put babies on their back. Put them on their tummy. Don’t let them cry. Do let them cry. Let them sleep with you. Don’t let them sleep with you. Do various forms of exercise before childbirth. Keep away from precisely those activities. It felt that if I started buying books I could disappear down a rabbit hole of conflicting advice so, in the end, I didn’t buy a single one.

When I was given Bridget’s book as a gift, I dutifully opened the wrapping paper and expressed kindest thanks to the giver for such a thoughtful present, all the while thinking that it was highly unlikely I’d end up reading whatever was inside. So as not to be rude, I opened the book and immediately fell in love with the whole idea. A colouring book. Blooming marvellous. The perfect thing for banishing anxious thoughts and conflicting messages. How was this not the go-to gift for expectant mothers?

As the pregnancy progressed and I stole quiet moments to colour in the charming pages, I found that I had my own instincts on how this would all play out. I just needed to create the space to let those thoughts form and flow and setting aside time for colouring and a cup of tea was the perfect catalyst. The tranquility of mind that comes with something as simple as colouring in cannot be underestimated and I’ll be buying Bridget’s book in future for anyone growing a little human. 

You can purchase Bridget’s book from Hammersmith Health Books for £9.99

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Making Changes That Last: Simple Ways To Successfully ‘Nudge’ Your New Year’s Resolutions Towards Achievement

Sally_Baker_Liz_Hogon

By Senior Therapists Sally Baker & Liz Hogon.

If there is an almost guaranteed way to feel like an abject failure then setting a New Year’s Resolution will do it for most of us. There is plenty of research to show that between 40-60% of all resolutions, year upon year, have either been broken or forgotten for good or at least until next year, by halfway through January!

Although many people imbue January 1st with magical properties as the ideal date to change their habits and behaviours. The truth is its just an arbitrary date in the diary with no more power or influence than next Tuesday week or even the next wet Wednesday for that matter.

When you think that four of the most popular life changes people want for themselves are to lose weight; give up smoking; drink less alcohol or achieve a better work-life balance these habits and ways of thinking can seem daunting to change when they represent long-term and entrenched behaviour.

So, if making a New Year’s Resolution really isn’t going to work to ensure lasting change then what would?

Instead of setting yourself up to fail by making a grand gesture the alternative is making incremental changes instead. Although this may feel less dramatic than a pledge made as the clock strikes twelve to beckon in the New Year, it is often a more successful way to make the changes you want for yourself.

Small, incremental changes are the basis of the ‘Nudge Theory’.

This is about nudging or encouraging behavioural changes through positive reinforcement and indirect suggestion. In the wider world, nudge theory has been applied to economics, politics and health. Supporters of the effectiveness of the theory exist in the hallowed halls of academia, the White House and in the British Government to name but a few. So, how can nudge theory be applied to you successfully changing behaviours you would rather not have in your life?

Firstly, the nudge theory recommends you choose the best time to initiate changes to allow yourself the best chance of success. This frees you up from a New Year’s deadline, and instead, you can commit to a date that suits you best and when you are at your most ready to make changes.

Think about how much you already have on your plate

It is surprising how many people set themselves up to fail by launching a new initiative in their life without thinking through how much they already have on their plate. Look at your diary for an opportunity when there may be a lull in stress levels at home or work or a time when you are able to give more energy to embrace fundamental changes. If you are canny with timing, you can give yourself a real head start towards success.

This may mean scheduling changes you want to achieve in your life for after a family holiday, or a big social event, such a wedding or birthday party. These are the kind of life events that might have turned your New Year’s best intentions to dust without some thoughtful planning. Equally some key events you have planned in your diary can be a beacon to aim for. Changes in behaviour are more likely to be enduring if you can align them with real-life events and deadlines such as being slimmer for a family wedding or getting fit to run a 5K or 10K charity race.

It takes twenty-one repetitions to embed a new habit

Often psychologists agree it takes twenty-one repetitions to embed a new habit so bear that in mind when you’re making changes in your life. An example could be if you’ve decided to take up running or swimming as part of a new fitness regime and you are hating it. Nudge Theory would recommend you commit to jumping in the pool or going for a run without fail for twenty-one times and only then judge how you feel about your new activity. You may be pleasantly surprised how what was once a reluctant chore feels surprisingly satisfying and is easily included as part of your routine.

Behaving with your usual default habits perpetuates your feeling the same way about yourself. It is a truism that if you keep doing what you have always done, you’ll get the same results you’ve always got before so spend some time considering the most significant changes you want to see in your life.

However, if you wait for everyone in your life to come on-board and be in agreements with your plans, you could wait a lifetime so do as Mahatma Gandhi suggested: ‘Be the change you want to see’.

Set your own standard. It’s about doing something for yourself.

Your existing habits, thoughts and beliefs have brought you to where you are today, so nudging towards making positive changes is vital in allowing effortless changes and maintaining them into the future.Be kind to yourself. If you feel overwhelmed making changes to your habits and anxious about succeeding with lifestyle changes then break down your goals into smaller steps which are more manageable to tackle.

Changing old habits that are not good for you or no longer serve you are life-changing steps on your road.  Your true potential to live every day as a brand new day, with a brand new dawn which makes every day a New Year’s day!

Sally Baker (www.workingonthebody.com) and Liz Hogon (www.lizhogon.com) are senior therapists working in private practice and co-authors of ‘7 Simple Steps to Stop Emotional Eating’ and ‘How to Feel Differently About Food’, published by Hammersmith Health Books.

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Q&A with Iida van der Byl-Knoefel, author of A Kitchen Fairytale

A Kitchen Fairytale

We talked to inflammatory arthritis sufferer Iida van der Byl Knoefel about her new cookbook, A Kitchen Fairytale. Iida beat the symptoms of her crippling condition through cooking. Her book explains how switching to a plant-based diet left her free of inflammation. Her food is not only a boost for arthritis sufferers but can also help those with autoimmune conditions. Her book, A Kitchen Fairytale, is out on November 1. 

What was the inspiration behind your book? 

My greatest inspiration and motivation was to let others know that the symptoms of inflammatory arthritis can indeed be reversed through a change of diet; and to show what a delicious and enjoyable option it is!  I have always loved cooking but knew nothing about being plant-based when I first joined the Paddison Program, so when I discovered how lovely these very humble recipes were, I started writing them all down to be able to go back and make them again.  My friends and family who tried the food often asked for ideas so I kept collecting the recipes, so I could easily share them, and soon I realised I had a cookbook on my hands!

Tell us how a plant-based diet has helped you manage your arthritis? 

In very simple terms, it has helped heal my gut and restore it to good order, which keeps any symptoms away.  For me, getting this far was no walk in the park though and it required a lot of focus and determination.  I rigorously followed the steps on the Paddison Program because simply going plant-based wouldn’t have cut it; neither would I have known why I got sick in the first place!

What was the most challenging part of writing the book?  

Getting the measurements right!  To achieve the same result every time I had to learn to measure all the spices, get the exact right amount of fruit and veg etc. which was very different from my usual way of cooking, where I just experiment my way through a dish!

A Kitchen Fairytale

What has been the most satisfying part of the writing process? 

Getting feedback on the dishes from those who have kindly test-run recipes for me.  Having someone take a photo and send it over with a happy review is the most amazing feeling!

Did anything surprise you while writing A Kitchen Fairytale?  

The process of writing A Kitchen Fairytale has more or less taken three years, ever since I joined the Paddison Program.  During that time, I have found that the attitude towards eating plant-based foods has changed profoundly here in the UK. People have become really interested in trying plant-based foods and lots of people have even converted completely to this way of eating.  When I initially started out, it was very hard to find a vegan option on restaurant menus and I would often bring my own food when we went out to eat, or when we visited friends.  These days, it is very easy to find delicious vegan food out, and my friends have become more confident in cooking things that I am also able to have.  This has motivated me further in getting the book ready, because I know that many people want to get started but haven’t quite found the right inspiration. Hopefully A Kitchen Fairytale will help them on the way!

A Kitchen Fairytale
Breakfast of ryebread with avocado and lettuce, and porridge with persimmon and nuts

What sort of people would benefit most by reading your book? 

I would like to say that it would be most beneficial for a certain group of people, but if we follow the advice from plant-based health professionals around the world, we will find that eating this way has enormous health benefits for people all over.  These types of recipes can in fact reverse or prevent many common illnesses – illnesses that we currently may think are part of getting older, but that don’t necessarily have to be.  This is what makes this book suitable for everyone!  However, since I wrote the book while recovering from inflammatory arthritis, there is a fair bit of focus on my story, so people who have also been on the Paddison Program may recognise their own journey in the book, so it is very much suited for someone who is/has been on the program.

What’s your favourite recipe in the book? 

That changes all the time!  An all-time favourite is the ‘Sunshiny pancakes’ which I often make at the weekend and serve with fresh fruit, berries and coconut yoghurt.  Now, with the proper autumn chill setting in, I have found myself making the ‘Sweet and easy yellow split-pea stew’ for supper a fair few times – it is just so incredibly delicious and comforting, so it is definitely a favourite!

A Kitchen Fairytale

We are giving away a copy of Iida’s fabulous new book, A Kitchen Fairytale, on our Instagram account! To win a copy of her book, just do the following: 1) Follow @HHealthBooks and @akitchenfairytale on Instagram . 2) Like this post. 3) Tag a friend in a comment. Tag as many pals as you want to get more entries. Good luck! Winner picked on Monday 22 October. UK only. 

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Five Questions with Antonina Mikocka-Walus, author of IBD and the Gut-Brain Connection

What was the inspiration behind your book?

As a scientist interested in the gut-brain links in IBD, I collect articles on the topic. There are hundreds of them scattered around my various computer drives. One particularly rainy summer, when I still lived in York, I thought I should organise these articles and collate my scribbled notes into something meaningful, so that I could use it for my future papers. However, this organisational task proved more entertaining than I initially predicted. I found some fascinating studies I forgot about, and as I read on I thought: There is so much out there. It must be hard to make sense of it when one is a patient. Many of the papers also triggered some memories from my own experience as an IBD patient, negotiating my way through the healthcare systems of the three countries in which I have lived. That’s how the book came about, though until it was finished I considered it merely my personal diary, a collection of interesting studies and anecdotes. I then showed this manuscript to a friend, another IBD psychologist, who enjoyed reading it and encouraged me to publish it. And the rest, as they say, is history.

What was the most challenging part of writing the book?

It was to move away from scientific writing, to make what I write interesting and accessible to a lay person, but also, more importantly, sharing my life story. I do not hide that I have IBD but in this book I go beyond merely admitting I am a patient as well as a health professional. I discuss my symptoms and recall a bit of my family history. I believe these snippets from my own life make the story I tell more real but as is the case when one chooses to share their private matters with the whole world I feel vulnerable, and that’s not always pleasant.

What has been the most satisfying part of the writing process?

The most difficult part – sharing my life stories – was also the most fulfilling. When I decided this manuscript would become a book, I wanted to make it different to a book about IBD written by a health professional. But I also wanted to offer my readers more than my own stories, to go beyond ‘Me and my IBD’ narrative. I reached to what I love, science, and I merged interesting science findings about IBD with something personal. I hope I found a happy compromise in combining the perspectives of a patient, psychologist and scientist.

Did anything surprise you while writing IBD and the Gut-Brain Connection? 

Not the science itself because that’s my daily bread but the amount of the data, the presence of mutually exclusive recommendations. I followed the principles of evidence-based medicine to interpret what I read for the readers without a medical background. But nothing, even in science, is completely objective. I introduced the readers to systematic reviews, a scientific technique to try to make sense of the many studies out there and being critical about the evidence which surrounds us. I hope people find this technique of filtering evidence useful. On the other hand, I decided to also include my completely subjective perspective on IBD when I shared my own stories. The truth is somewhere on the verge of science and a personal human experience, I think.

What sort of people would benefit most by reading your book?

The book is addressed to patients living with IBD, their family and friends, to people of all ages and educational backgrounds, to anyone who wants to learn more about this fascinating condition. The brain-gut links and the gut bacteria have finally become topical and I feel really privileged to be able to speak openly about the gut health. Who would dare to discuss bowel movements publicly a few generations ago? Now, it’s becoming normal and I am happy to be part of this social revolution.

If you would like to learn more about IBD and the Gut-Brain Connection, the first chapter of Antonina’s book is available to read here

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Five Questions with Paul Brice, author of COPD Innovative Breathing Techniques

Paul Brice and patients

What was the inspiration behind COPD?

I had been working with COPD patients for nearly 7 years when I first considered writing this book. Initially this was because patients kept on telling me that they felt so much better using the techniques I used, and even people who had previously undertaken pulmonary rehabilitation told me that they had not been shown these exercises before. I did not think I was doing anything special until I researched what other pulmonary rehabilitation programmes delivered to their patients.

Without realising it, the skills and knowledge I had acquired as an athlete and a high-performance sports coach had helped me recognise how to use posture and movement to modify breathing and exercise capacity. I had found a way to communicate this to my patients in what they told me was clear, simple and logical.

I had developed a series of techniques to show my patients how they could use their bodies to breathe in a more natural and relaxed state, and a system to help them become more aware of the things that made them breathe poorly.

Only once patients had become more aware of how they could help themselves to breathe and move comfortably, would I introduce them into what could be called real exercise. The style and the intensity of exercise were staged and the rate of progress depended upon the individual patient.

Patients tell me they appreciate this gradual approach to their treatment, and I reiterate the fact by threatening to break into the song: ‘It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it….That’s what gets results!”

I started to write the book aware of the fact that the emphasis on posture and natural breathing meant that other conventional COPD techniques I had been taught were either no longer needed or were no longer relevant. It is with this in mind that I named the programme the ‘Brice Method’. I am very much aware that my method is likely to challenge some aspects of the conventional wisdom of breathing and exercise for COPD patients.

I had to write this book as I am passionate about helping other people with COPD benefit from the simple and effective techniques that my patients have benefitted from.

What was the most challenging part of writing the book?

There were two challenging aspects to writing COPD Innovative breathing techniques.

The first challenge was to ensure that the book was written at a level that would be suitable for patients with COPD, their friends and their families and not at a level for health professionals or practitioners.

When I started out writing the book, I was aware that other health professionals might skim read the book and look for evidence, references and a bibliography at the end of each chapter, all standard practice for medical/ health books. Quickly I realised that referencing the book in this way would make it totally unusable for the people who would gain the most from the book.

I was however, aware that because some of the postural techniques used at the start of the book can so dramatically modify the shape, size and mechanics of the patient’s lungs, there are a number of breathing techniques that follow, which would challenge the standard practice, and might stir up a bit of a furor amongst fellow professionals. In truth, I now welcome that latent debate.

The second challenge was to make patients aware that their COPD may not be the most restrictive health condition that they have. A high percentage of my patients find that once they have modified their postural habits and their breathing techniques, that their lungs are not the limiting factor when it comes to physical activity, but it is another health issue. Arthritis, chronic back or neck pain, acid reflux, shoulder immobility, and poor balance are all issues that can often restrict the patient’s ability to exercise. I believe that relaxed, natural breathing can only be done when the whole body is in a relaxed state and when it is relatively pain free. The unfortunate truth is that moving when you have not exercised in a while is going to be uncomfortable, so there is a section on identifying the difference between discomfort and pain, which is referred to at stages throughout the book.

What has been the most satisfying part of the writing process?

Having spent quite a lot of time on my own writing the book on my apple mac, taking the pictures and working with my daughter Lucy to adapt the images, the most enjoyable part of the book has been witnessing my simple word document morph into what I could recognise as being a proper book.

Before I started the project, I had a vision of how the book would look, and working with the publishing team has been a real eye opener as to the amount of work and expertise that goes into producing a completed book.

Surprisingly, having written the book, it has been particularly rewarding to search the top online book stores and see that the book is ready to order. I have searched for so many books over the years, wanting to learn things from other people, and to be referred to as an author on the likes of Waterstones, Amazon and Foyles will a take a little time getting used to.

What sort of people would benefit from reading the book?

The book is aimed fairly and squarely at the person who has been diagnosed with COPD, or a friend or family member. COPD is an overarching term that comprises many chronic lung conditions such as chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis and emphysema, plus many more.

In reality there are a large number of people who have problems with their breathing, who might benefit from the techniques used in the book. The techniques are split into specific sections and even if a person has physical imitations that mean they cannot do the more active, later chapters in the book, most people seem to benefit with their breathing with the postural exercises and breathing techniques that make up the first half of the book.

Paul Brice and patients

Try this simple exercise to see if the book might help you.

You sit down comfortably on a dining chair and take a deep breath. If you can listen to where you feel the air going into the chest. If you feel any of the following…..

  • That you have to suck hard to get the air in
  • That the breath is short and unsatisfying
  • You cannot feel your chest expand
  • You only feel the air going in the top of your chest
  • You use your shoulders to lift the chest

…then the likelihood is you will get some benefit from the exercises and techniques in the book

I believe that breathing should be as natural and relaxed as possible, and the whole aim of the book is to help anyone with COPD breathe more easily.

How will people benefit from reading the book?

The aim of the book is to help show people with COPD how to get the most out of the lung function that they have remaining.

The book is structured so that the reader can learn what they need to do using a tried and tested step-by-step approach. They are encouraged to take things at their own pace, and only move forwards to the next stage once they feel they have mastered the section before.

Firstly the book shows the reader how they should use their lungs, and help them recognise what bad habits they might have developed that could prevent them from breathing more naturally.

I explain what they need to do to help overcome their bad habits using basic changes to their posture and make them aware of how simple body movements can be sequenced with the breath to help the body find a more natural breathing pattern.

The book explains how you can learn to maintain these new breathing techniques, using a homework plan, these are essentially micro workouts of 4 or 5 exercises that last between 3 and 5 minutes that can be done up to 4 times a day. This is how my patients overcome decade’s worth of inactivity, poor posture and bad breathing patterns within weeks or sometimes within days!

The book then goes on to suggest a range of exercises to improve the readers stamina and strength, whilst explaining what pitfalls to look out for along the way.

There is a landmark test that the reader can take at several stages throughout the book to help them monitor their progress and check that they are on the right path before moving on to the following stages.

If you would like to learn more about COPD, the first chapter of Paul’s book is available to read here

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Thunder Dragon Half Marathon in Bhutan: A recap by Max Tuck

Finish line Thunder Dragon

This post was written by Max Tuck, author of The Fatigue Solution: my astonishing journey from medical write-off to mountains and marathons, published by Hammersmith Health Books. 

“It’s all perfectly runnable.”… or so I was told in the pre-race briefing. And I’m sure it would have been – right up until the time that the Indian tectonic plate smashed into the Eurasian plate 50 million years ago and created the Himalayas.

I consider myself to be a reasonable runner, and I’d put in a hard winter of training in the lead-up to this race, the Thunder Dragon in Bhutan. A week earlier I was competing in a half marathon on the Great Wall of China – 5126 steps into history, and I felt every one of them. I somehow came second in my age category, despite it taking me nearly an hour longer than pretty much every other half marathon I have run, with the 30 degree temperature sapping my energy like you could only imagine.

But the Thunder Dragon – this was something entirely different. At 11 miles, my pace had slowed to a crawl. Perfectly runnable? It might have been for the organiser, a former London Marathon winner in a time of 2 hours 9 minutes. But for me, a recreational runner who 28 years ago had been deemed incurable by the medical profession – this wasn’t running, it was survival. I was at 2500 metres, feeling sick, dizzy and gasping for breath. I poured water over my head so that my mouth could focus solely on the act of breathing. It didn’t help.

My pace slowed to a walk. I faced a long uphill on a stony track at 8200 feet. Hard enough at lower altitudes, the sharp stones particularly cruel for a barefoot runner like me, whose only acclimatisation had been a hike to the famous Tiger’s Nest monastery at 3600 metres two days previously.

Yet somehow I finished, even managing to run the last mile (mainly, I’m sure, because it was downhill). It was the hardest half marathon I had ever done, reflected in my very slow time.

A major surprise came later that day at the prize-giving ceremony. An American runner was announced as the winner of the over 40 age category. “That can’t be right, Max,” she said as she went up to collect her prize. “You were about half an hour ahead of me!”

I smiled and congratulated her. Immediately afterwards, I was announced as the winner of the over 50s age group. We were both amazed – I because I had won my age category in that savage race, and she because she thought I was about 42, not 55. This anti-ageing lifestyle certainly has its benefits!

Max Tuck was in China and Bhutan raising money for Dogs Trust.

See www.justgiving.com/fundraising/maxagainstthewall to donate.

Max’s latest book The Fatigue Solution: my astonishing journey from medical write-off to mountains and marathons, is published by Hammersmith Health Books.

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The Fatigue Solution: From Medical Write-Off to Mountains and Marathons

The Fatigue Solution by Max Tuck

I used to like filling in forms. What could be more satisfying than taking a blank document and experiencing the joy of completing it to someone else’s exacting standards? Does this make me odd? Maybe you’re just not with me on this one. And today, I’ll confess, I’m not feeling the love either. There are so many other things I’d rather be doing on a Saturday afternoon.

The form in question is a visa application to enter the People’s Republic of China. If someone had told me 28 years ago that in May 2018 I would be embarking on my biggest running challenge in years, involving a half marathon on the Great Wall of China, followed by a race of the same distance at altitude in Bhutan in the Himalayas, I would have replied that they were clearly wrong, because I wasn’t expected to live that long. Never mind not only still being alive, but to be taking on that kind of physical challenge? Definitely a case of mistaken identity.

The reason for my disbelief would be simple. In 1990 my body was wasted and exhausted. As a vet, if I’d had a patient with as few white blood cells as I had, I would be looking down a microscope at a blood film to check, because the machine must have got it wrong. My desperately low white blood cell count was mirrored by my startlingly low bodyweight and complete muscle wastage. I was so weak that even getting into my car to drive to work involved significant effort. As for the idea of running races for charity in challenging conditions – forget it.

But here I am. In my book The Fatigue Solution, I explain how I went from medical write-off to mountains and marathons; how I rejected exhaustion and rediscovered life. It sounds like a dramatic turnaround. It certainly was.

What had happened to me? I was overworking myself, never taking breaks, cramming far too much in, never saying no, refusing to give up… and ultimately I lost my most precious possession. No, not my house, my job or my car – my health. You never fully appreciate what you have until you lose it. And at the ripe old age of 27, I lost that completely. It disappeared in a fog of exhaustion, muscle degeneration and viral attack. Hello Epstein-Barr virus and chronic fatigue. Goodbye life.

Or… so the doctors believed, based upon other patients similarly affected. Not me. I’m tough. I’m stubborn. I take huge delight in proving people wrong. As you’ll read in The Fatigue Solution, I never give up. Tell me I’m incurable? I’ll show you. Don’t tell me I can’t.

And prove them wrong I did. Not only am I still alive at the age of 55, I’m thriving. I’m fitter, stronger and have more energy than most 25 year olds (or so my personal trainer tells me anyway). My muscles all came back, and then some. Drastic turnaround? You bet. Was it easy? No. Did it take hard work, dedication and determination? Of course it did. Was it worth it? Hell yes!

The Fatigue Solution by Max Tuck

How, you might wonder, did I do it? After all, if you’re in a similar exhausted situation, running to the next lamp-post might seem impossible. Step by step, that’s how. As I explain throughout The Fatigue Solution, by upgrading every aspect of my lifestyle. By researching and implementing all the factors that are known to make a difference. Applying the information and using it to fuel my recovery, consistently, every day. By believing that I could, and that I was worth it. I did it for me. Armed with the right knowledge and a will to succeed, you can do it too.

There’s now only one thing standing between me and my tough far-eastern running challenge – that wretched visa application form.

Max Tuck’s book The Fatigue Solution: my astonishing journey from medical write-off to mountains and marathons is available in print and e-pub versions from Hammersmith Health Books.

For more information visit www.thefatiguesolution.co.uk

To support Max in her charity fundraising, visit www.maxagainstthewall.com

 

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Natural Health Worldwide’s Registrar system – improving access.

For those of you who have read my previous Blog*, you will understand that the philosophy behind NHW is to connect patients from all around the world with doctors and health care practitioners, also from all around the world. So, a patient in Scotland may connect with a practitioner from Croatia.

Appointments are booked through the website, consultations are carried out by Skype, ‘phone call or email and then patients use NHW’s 5-star rating system to give feedback on their experience. This feedback is public and so informs not only the practitioner where they might improve but also the wider patient population of what their peers think of the practitioner in question. NHW puts the patient back in control of their own healthcare. This really is the path to a patient centred future**

The feedback from some patients has been very humbling. One practitioner recently received this email from a patient:

“Thank you so much for giving me your time and advice. I do appreciate it. It’s like a tangled ball of wool is being straightened out into some order and clarity. The detail in your notes is quite remarkable. You haven’t forgotten one thing we discussed.”

Excluding costs of tests, this patient has so far spent £30.

Dr Sarah Myhill (author of Sustainable Medicine, Diagnosis & Treatment for CFS/ME, Prevent & Cure Diabetes and The PK Cookbook) is the founder of this site and is also an NHW practitioner herself. This site is her gift to the patient community, and in particular, a gift to the ‘forgotten patient community’, those whom, like the patient above, have often been left to their own devices at a time when they feel at their most vulnerable. This site truly is a gift – Dr Myhill has funded the site’s development and its marketing and has simultaneously divested herself of any financial interest in the site.

And now we have a new exciting development – the NHW Consultant-Registrar system. One reason why Dr Myhill wanted to launch NHW was to cater for all those thousands of patients who have approached her for help in the past but who sadly she was unable to accommodate, simply because of time pressure. The NHW Consultant-Registrar is a further mechanism for reaching out to these patients.

This is how it works:

  • An NHW patient is consulting with an NHW practitioner
  • The patient and practitioner encounter a health issue on which the practitioner has little or no experience or perhaps just feels on shaky ground
  • By mutual consent between the patient and practitioner, the practitioner [the registrar] consults with Dr Myhill [the consultant] about this issue
  • Dr Myhill gives her views to the practitioner FREE OF CHARGE
  • The practitioner gets back to the patient with this advice and they can then carry on with their shared journey of discovery and improving health

As an example, one NHW practitioner recently was taking an initial medical history of a new NHW patient and had identified the following possible areas of concern:

  • Adrenal fatigue
  • Possible thyroid issues
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction
  • Potential workplace poisoning event

Both patient and practitioner agreed to pursue all avenues of concern. However, the practitioner felt that he needed guidance on the potential mitochondrial and workplace poisoning issues. So, by mutual consent, he consulted with Dr Myhill.

The upshot is that, as of now:

  1. The practitioner is helping the patient with her adrenal and thyroid issues
  2. Dr Myhill has referred the patient for a Mitochondrial Function Profile test and also a Comprehensive Toxic Urine test and will interpret both of those tests for the patient

So, this patient now has a ‘health-team’ supporting her and so far, excluding the cost of tests, she has spent £20. Also, in the process, the practitioner consolidates their base of understanding and often learns new techniques and skills. It really is a WIN-WIN.

In summary then, NHW has the aim of bringing high quality, affordable and supported healthcare to those forgotten patients who need it the most, and also to the population in general, with the ‘bolt on’ option of consulting, free or charge, with Dr Myhill via an NHW practitioner.

This really is a patient-centred future for healthcare, with access to health practitioners and lab tests all available at the click of a button, with that button being firmly placed at the end of the PATIENT’S finger.

 

Craig Robinson

 

Please see here for NHW’s Home page – naturalhealthworldwide.com

Please see here for the list of NHW Registrars – https://naturalhealthworldwide.com/news_content.php?chanel=14

References –

*My previous Blog on NHW can be found here – https://www.hammersmithbooks.co.uk/2017/06/22/natural-health-worldwide-changing-healthcare/

**My Blog on Sustainable Medicine can be found here – https://www.hammersmithbooks.co.uk/2015/07/23/sustainable-medicine/

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Sweets, treats and choco-mania

Just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean you have to go without sweets and desserts. My experience is that sweets, chocolate, ice cream and other treats can be included in a healthy diet that still allows you to keep your blood glucose under control. For instance, when I went on holiday to Cornwall at Easter, I was able to have an ice cream in Padstow because I was about to cycle back along the Camel Trail. And, at my friend’s birthday party, I was allowed a slice of birthday cake because I had an extra unit of insulin to deal with it. And, every so often, a cake or choc ice after dinner is not a problem at all.

Everyone knows that sweets aren’t the healthiest thing ever; it would be much easier if we all craved broccoli and Brussels sprouts rather than choccies and sugar-coated E-numbers. Sweets may be a totally delicious treat, but they’re full of sugar. And – for everyone, not just people with diabetes – too much sugar is bad.

So, how do you eat sweets and treats and avoid hypers? It’s simple. Try to save sweets for after lunch or dinner, because this way the starch in your other food slows down the sugar in the sweets, and the effect on your blood glucose is much less. Also, think about the types of sweets you eat. Chewing gum and chocolate are far better for your blood sugar than sherbet or lollipops. This is because the sugar in chewing gum is released from the gum slowly (that’s how it keeps its flavour) and the fat in chocolate slows down the emptying of the stomach so that the sugar gets into your system more gradually; whereas sherbet and lollipops are both virtually pure sugar, which doesn’t have to be broken down or refined once inside the body, so it can get into the bloodstream straight away. Another way to enjoy sweets and chocolates is by eating them whilst you are playing sport, doing other exercise or taking part in a P.E. lesson.

So being diabetic doesn’t mean you can’t have sweets or desserts, but you do have to think about their effect on your blood sugar, and there are instances where eating sweets would just be out of the question (for instance if you are hyper). It can be really annoying, and as ridiculous as it sounds, it can become a kind of psychological barrier. I’ve experienced this myself.

A couple of months after I was diagnosed, I was starting to become used to the idea that I had a condition that would not go away. It was hard to get it into my head, though, that I’d have to have injections every day just to stay alive. I used to get upset almost every time I did my Lantus (glargine), then get angry with myself for being so miserable, and try to justify my anger by thinking up all the things I hated about diabetes: I had to stick needles in myself every mealtime, which hurt; I was always going hypo or hyper and it made me feel ill; I was constantly having to worry about my blood sugar and I could never just go and help myself to sweets or chocolate.
I told Mom about the way that I felt so angry a lot of the time. “Think about it,” she said, “What are you actually missing out on? Is there actually anything you used to do that you can’t do any more?”

There was only one thing I could think of: I couldn’t just have sweets whenever I felt like it. I picked up on this and felt really annoyed about it. It may seem like a really sad thing if you’ve never experienced this yourself, but I became practically obsessed with chocolate.

Dad tried to rationalise it by pointing out that I wouldn’t be allowed to just go and help myself to sweets whenever I wanted to anyway. It didn’t make a bit of difference, though. The thing is, I wouldn’t be allowed, but I could have. Now not only would I get in to trouble for gorging on sweets, but it would actually make me ill. And there was no point in arguing that I’d still feel sick after eating loads of chocolate anyway – I may have felt sick but I wouldn’t have actually been medically ill. Now I would be.

I decided that this was the thing that diabetes actually stopped me from doing and quickly became fixated on sweets and chocolate; I used to feel depressed if I missed a P.E. lesson and therefore couldn’t have my chocolate exercise snack, and I used to get what I can only call cravings for sweets. Chocolate, chewing gum, mints, ice cream, even dextrose tablets; as long as I had something sugary to eat I’d be okay. But when I couldn’t have anything sweet I’d get annoyed or upset, and feel like I simply had to have something. I turned to sugar-free gum. I bought massive multipacks of the stuff with my pocket money and often had three or four packs on the go at one time. At my worst point, I was chomping through four pieces of gum daily – and that was on a good day.

The gum worked well, but although I always tried to make sure I was stocked up, I sometimes ran out. I usually managed okay for the day or so until I could go to the shops and buy some more, but sometimes I ended up sneaking an extra exercise snack in P.E., or serving myself slightly more ice cream with dinner than I was supposed to have.

And gum didn’t stop me wanting sweets forever.

Once, I had had a really boring day at school and got home feeling really fed up. I wanted some chocolate – but I knew that I wasn’t supposed to have any between meals. I wanted it anyway, so I tiptoed into the kitchen and took a bag of mini chocolate eggs, rummaged around the bag to find one that had broken in half so that I could just have part of it and not go hyper; then I ate it.

I wanted more. I tipped a few chocolate eggs out into my hand and ate them all in one go. Then, still craving more, I took another few and tried to keep them in my mouth and savour the chocolate. A minute or so later, they’d melted and dissolved. But I still wanted more.

I knew that my brother would be able to tell I’d had some of his sweets if I took any more, so instead I took the packet of dextrose from my blazer pocket and ate a couple of the tablets. I suddenly realised I was going to go really hyper if I didn’t have any extra insulin.

So I found my insulin and injected another half unit. But while I was holding the needle in my stomach I remembered that too much insulin would make me go low, too – and I had no idea how much insulin I needed for what I’d just had because I couldn’t remember how much I’d eaten. I pulled the needle out of my stomach before I’d counted ten seconds. Now I had no idea how much insulin had actually got into me either. I got really upset and into a real panic.
Then Mom and my brother came into the kitchen and I burst out in tears and told my Mom what I’d just done. I knew all along it wasn’t really sensible, but all that had mattered at the time had been that I wanted the chocolate.

Half an hour or so later, my blood sugar went up a bit to about 13 mmol/l, but it came down quickly, dropping to 4 mmol/l about another hour on, because of the insulin peaking. I had a snack at this point and then my blood sugar stayed okay for the rest of the day.

After this experience, I started to think that perhaps I had a mental problem or was developing a literal addiction to sugar. I felt really bad about myself and thought I seriously could be going mad. Now I know I wasn’t going mad – I’m sure other people are like this when they feel like they’re not allowed sweets any more…

Unfortunately, there’s no substitute for willpower. The thing that made me stop chewing so much gum was when I was sorting out my bag ready to go on holiday and found that I had (I’m not joking) about six packs of gum on the go. In the cupboard I found a brand new pack that I’d just bought, and I realised just how much I was getting through. I’d also spent most of my pocket money for the last few weeks on chewing gum. I decided it was getting ridiculous and made a pact with myself that I would take one pack, and one pack only, on holiday. I wouldn’t buy any more while I was away, and if I still had some left by the last day, I could keep the rest that I‘d left at home. If I didn’t manage it, I thought, it could possibly mean that I was actually addicted to chewing gum, in which case I would throw away every last piece of gum in the house and never buy any again. I would have to stop the habit.

I did actually manage it. However, when I got back, I’d pretty much stopped feeling like I had to have gum or sweets. I finished off what I had left – but this time it lasted much longer. Since then, I have continued to buy gum, but only occasionally – and because I want to, not because I feel I need it.

If you crave sweets…

  • It’s important to remember that you can still eat sweets. And if you eat only a reasonable amount with meals or exercise, they will cause you no problems.
  • If you’re a chocoholic or have a serious sweet tooth, try sugar-free gum instead of your usual sugary stuff.
  • When you’re out with your friends, you might find it less tempting to eat sweets if you keep a pack of sugar-free gum in your pocket. You can offer it to your friends, too, so you’re not the only one having gum rather than sugary stuff.
  • Bubblegum containing sugar is better than sweets that are swallowed, too, as one piece will not affect your blood sugar nearly so much as a pack of chewy sweets or a tube of sherbet. It also has the advantage that it lasts for longer – a piece of bubblegum can be chewed for an hour or so until it loses its flavour, but a chewy sweet of the same size and weight satisfies your sweet tooth for only a minute or so, and then you want another one.
  • Be aware, though, that most brands of sugar-free gum can cause laxative effects if you get through loads and loads of it, so if you find yourself getting through half a pack every day, try to cut down a bit.

This blog is an extract taken from Fibi Ward’s book, No Added Sugar – A chatty but practical guide to coping with a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes in your teens, by a teenager, for teenagers