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Be aware of allergies as the root cause of many problems including fatigue

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Blog written by Sarah Myhill, author of Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Ecological Medicine, and The PK Cookbook

Allergy is the inflammation which results from response to substances (called antigens) from outside the body. Some of these present no threat to the body. Examples include pollen, house dust mites, animal dander and foods. Some antigens do pose a threat in high doses, such as metals (lead, mercury, arsenic, nickel), toxic chemicals (pesticides, solvents) or electromagnetic radiation (wi-fi, mobile phones, cordless phones etc).

Allergy has been known about for centuries. For example, 5-10 per cent of people with asthma are also allergic to sulphites. Pliny the Elder wrote of this when he reported the case of an asthmatic patient (rare for his times) who died from a bronchospasm in 79 AD after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The patient had lived a ‘normal life’ but for this ‘one incident’.

Allergy is the great mimic and can produce almost any symptom. Furthermore, one can be allergic to anything under the sun, including the sun! Allergy is also common – at least 30 per cent of the population are allergic to some foods. However, by the time allergy has produced fatigue (the major focus of my work as a doctor) it has usually caused other problems beforehand. Suspect an allergy problem if any, or a combination, of the following are present:

* The onset of fatigue is pre-dated by, and/or there is a long history of:

* asthma, sinusitis, rhinitis, eczema or urticaria

* irritable bowel syndrome with wind, gas, bloating, abdominal pain, alternating constipation and diarrhoea

* migraine or headaches

* joint (arthritis) and muscle pain

* mood swings, depression, anxiety, PMT

* almost any unexplained, recurring, episodic symptom.

  • Childhood problems – This would include being a sickly child with recurrent ‘infections’, such as tonsillitis (actually probably allergy). Indeed, a colleague who is a consultant paediatrician considers it medical negligence to surgically remove tonsils without first doing a dairy-free diet. Rhinitis, sinusitis, catarrh and colic are typical dairy allergy symptoms.
  • Symptoms change with time – Often the allergen is the same, but the symptom changes through life. Allergy to dairy products typically starts with colic and projectile vomiting as a baby, followed by toddler diarrhoea, catarrh and glue ear, recurrent infections (tonsillitis, croup, middle ear infections) and ‘growing pains’. Teenagers develop headaches, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, PMT and asthma. In adult life, muscle, tendon and joint pain (arthritis). Any of the above may be accompanied by fatigue.
  • There is a positive family history – I have yet to find a patient who is dairy allergic who does not have a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, child) who also has symptoms suggestive of allergy to dairy products. Allergy to gluten grains also runs in families.
  • There is a tendency to go for a particular food – One of the interesting aspects of allergy is that sufferers often crave the very food to which they are allergic. This was illustrated by one patient who told me that when he died he wished to take a cow to heaven with him. It was dairy which was his main problem! If wheat appears with every meal, then allergy to such is likely.
  • There are symptoms of fermenting gut – Microbes from the gut are minuscule and easily spill over into the bloodstream. This is called ‘bacterial translocation’. These bacteria do not cause septicaemia (blood poisoning), but they may cause allergy reactions at distal sites. I suspect many clinical pictures can be explained by this, including irritable bladder, interstitial cystitis, intrinsic asthma, chronic urticaria, chronic venous ulcers, polymyalgia rheumatica and arthritis (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and so on).

How to identify your personal food allergies

I never do tests for food allergy because they are unreliable. False negatives are common – so, for example, many people who are intolerant of gluten will test negative for coeliac disease. Often, when the test is negative, they are told by their doctor that it is safe to eat that food – not so! There are many tests for food allergy on the market, but again I find positive results can be misleading, not least because the patient believes absolutely in the accuracy of tests and ends up avoiding foods unnecessarily or eating foods which are causing them symptoms.

The only reliable way to diagnose food allergy is by an elimination diet. The key is to cut out those foods that one is consuming daily. The reason that reactions may be prolonged or delayed is that daily consumption masks the link between exposure and symptom. Western diets include daily consumption of grains, dairy products and often yeast. If in addition one is eating other foods, such as potato, soya or tomato, or drinking regular tea, coffee or whatever on a daily basis then this too should be excluded. One should stay on this diet for at least one month before reintroducing foods to the diet – this should be done cautiously since reactions can be severe. Dr John Mansfield developed a practical, easy-to-follow elimination diet that is described in his last book, Six Secrets of Successful Weight Loss.

The Stone-Age or Paleo diet is a ‘best guess’ diet and a useful starting place, hence my recommendation of the PK (Paleo-Ketogenic) diet as explained in our book Paleo-Ketogenic: the Why and the How. If it transpires that there are multiple allergies, then these days I do not put people on a more restricted diet – that is because some people get completely stuck on two or three foods and are unable to bring in new foods because of the above severe reactions. Instead, I put in place the interventions I recommend for a general approach to inflammation together with specific desensitisation techniques to switch off allergy (see our book Ecological Medicine).

Increasingly I am finding that one does not have to be perfect to reduce allergy and allergy symptoms. Simply reducing the total load is helpful – attention to the general approach is as important as specific desensitisation. However, the key steps are:

  • The PK diet
  • Extinguishing the inflammatory fire with my Groundhog Chronic regime (see any of our books) including antioxidants, especially vitamin C
  • Identifying possible causes, not forgetting micro-organims in the upper gut that should not be there, and eliminating or avoiding them
  • Detoxing to reduce the factors that cause inflammation
  • Reprogramming the immune system with probiotics, micro-immunotherapy, enzyme potentiated desensitisation (EPD) and neutralisation – all explained in detail in Ecological Medicine.
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Young people and the importance of healthy eating  

Blog post written by Hanna Purdy, author of ‘Could it be Insulin Resistance?’

Insulin resistance and its corresponding effects, such as obesity, are alarmingly common issues in young people. In addition to excess weight, it is less commonly known and acknowledged that the effects of insulin resistance can also manifest as depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. This is due to the interconnection between the enteric nervous system, a collection of millions of nerve cells lining the gastrointestinal tract, and the central nervous system. This gut-brain axis means that our diet has a substantial influence over our moods. Therefore an unbalanced gut microbiome, hormonal imbalance and chronic inflammation, which are all effects of an unhealthy diet, go hand in hand with insulin resistance and negatively influence our mental as well as physical health. These effects are highly damaging to developing children and young people.

 

What is insulin resistance?

To briefly outline this concept, insulin resistance is where our cells are not responding to the effects of insulin in the way they should. The main cause of this is the overconsumption of sugary and starchy foods, as well as eating too frequently (e.g. snacking throughout the day). As a result, too much insulin is produced in the body, a hormonal problem also known as metabolic syndrome. A diet consisting of an excess of sugar and starch and a lack of integral micronutrients can also have an adverse effect on the good bacteria in our gut, causing abdominal problems such as IBS as well as mental issues such as depression. An excess of insulin and a deficiency of good bacteria can affect other hormones in the body, causing problems such as early puberty, acne and PCOS.

Children and young people are especially vulnerable to the consequences of insulin resistance, and therefore it is vital that parents are educated as to its cause and effects, as well as how to reverse it.

 

Educate your young people on insulin resistance

A common misconception held by both adolescents and adults is that you need to eat less to lose weight. It is important to understand that weight loss does not work that way, and under-eating can only do harm. It is essential for children and young people to eat the necessary nutrients (e.g. proteins, healthy fats) and the right amount of food to fuel their bodies. Excess weight is the result of too much insulin in the body, not too many calories, and exercising more does not solve this problem either. We also need to have an understanding of the micronutrients we get from our food, and why they are needed.

Education is one of the most important things if you want to bring about a lifestyle change, as cutting out sugar and starchy carbohydrates may be challenging. Educating your children and young people is very advantageous, as building an understanding of the topic of insulin resistance and healthy eating could motivate them to opt for healthier foods themselves. The WHY is very important. Simply making them eat more healthily “just because” will not help create long-term changes.

 

Learn to cook a wide variety of tasty and healthy meals

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about healthy meals is salad. It might be worth reminding young people that healthy meals can actually be delicious and tastier than fast food when cooked right. You can eat all your favourite foods if you just make them yourself, from good ingredients. A fun way to get creative is to make alternatives to your favourite junk foods and desserts. There are many websites online that provide delicious recipes for you to follow and tweak to your liking (and there are some in my book Could it be Insulin Resistance? also). Personally, I find that the healthier alternatives taste better and they make you feel great. Here’s an example recipe from my book:

Chilli con carne

For 4 people

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped, or grated
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1-2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • sour cream
  • grated cheddar cheese for serving

Method:

  1. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a pan
  2. Add the mince and cook until it is brown
  3. When the meat is nearly cooked, add the onion and peppers and continue cooking for another 5 minutes
  4. Add the garlic, tomatoes, tomato purée and all the spices, including salt and pepper, according to your taste
  5. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Serve with grated cheese and a spoonful of sour cream on top as well as a green salad

 

Replace fizzy drinks with water, kombucha and herbal tea

Soft drinks such as Coke or Pepsi can be very addictive. Kombucha is a great alternative. Not only is it pleasing for the taste buds, but it also provides probiotics, which are essential for gut health. If you can’t obtain kombucha, then herbal tea with some honey should suffice.

Now, if you think that replacing sodas with diet sodas is better, you have been misinformed. There are many articles on the Internet that provide valuable insight on the subject, but in short, diet sodas are very harmful to the body, containing artificial sweeteners as they do. Don’t forget, fresh water is always the best alternative for hydration.

 

Please read my book,Could it be Insulin Resistance?’, for more information on this topic.

 

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What Survivors of Major Illness can Teach us

Blog post written by Dr Jerry Thompson, author of newly released Curing the Incurable: Beyond the Limits of Medicine.

Could we have underestimated our ability to heal ourselves from even the most serious of diseases? Could our innate powers of recovery be far greater than we realise?

This book examines healing from an unusual angle: it looks at those remarkable people who have recovered against the odds? I believe they have something absolutely crucial to tell us. Whether we have a serious illness or we just want to keep illness at bay they have information that can make a profound difference.

But how did they succeed? What did they do after their doctors told them they had an incurable disease?

I have been fascinated by these people that I call “survivors” for years. This book explores their stories and what they did. Recovering from a life-threatening illness is no small feat and you can be sure they did not get better by chance. They achieved it by following certain fundamental principles of health. And it is these fundamental principles of health that this book explores.

They used four main strategies, typically in combination. The book covers each one.

Few will be surprised that one of those principles, eating healing foods and avoiding harmful ones, was a popular and successful strategy amongst survivors. Combining information from case studies, research on the effects of food extracts on cancer cells and population studies this section gives us a useful guide on using food to heal.

Many know that our minds can powerfully impact on health but can mind power cure a life-threatening illness? In fact it can and there are many examples using many methods. We can use our mind to up-regulate our immunity, to go into healing mode or to create health. The case histories in this section are some of the most extraordinary in the book. The methods may surprise you and many are simple to use.

Mainstream medicine largely ignores toxicity but survivors cannot afford this luxury. How many carcinogens and neurotoxins do we meet in an average day and where do they come from? Which are the most dangerous? How can we reduce our and how can we excrete our accumulated chemical load. All this is covered in the book.

Changes in our energy field precede disease. They also precede healing. So understanding energy makes sense.

Again the stories could surprise: cancers the power of groups to bring about extraordinary healing, how lethal cancer can be cured from thousands of miles away, cancers disintegrating in minutes, and energetic blocks to healing that could prevent a good treatment working.

What emerges from these many remarkable accounts of recovery from major disease are basic and powerful principles of health and healing. Using them can make the difference between health and disease and many of are surprisingly easy to put into practice.

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome & Giardia – A Q&A with Susan Koten

What was the inspiration behind your book?

Experiencing the trauma and desperation of my life being turned upside down with the sudden onset of IBS symptoms fifteen years ago, and the lack of help available. This experience stayed with me and when I started to see and treat patients in my clinical practice who were going through the same experience, I knew I would one day write a book about it and Irritable Bowel Syndrome & Giardia is the end result of all that experience.

What was the most challenging part of writing the book?

This is my first book and when I started the project 10 years ago, I had no idea the amount of work that lay ahead to finally get it published.  This book has the potential to change people’s lives for the better so it was important extreme care and research went into writing it. With a busy practice to run, I would often start writing at 10pm and finish at 2am – this has always been my quiet time and I could concentrate with no interruption.

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

My aim is to pass my knowledge on to those who need it and as I delved deeper into the subject matter, to understand how and why the clinical observations and patterns of my patients were presenting themselves, I have found writing it down and putting all this information together in a manuscript, has allowed me to achieve this.

Did anything surprise you while writing IBS & Giardia?

About seven years ago I changed my treatment strategy to a more gentle approach and the results surprised and amazed me which is reflected in the book.

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

This book is for anyone who is struggling with the health of their digestive system and other related disorders. It is also aimed at health professionals, both allopathic and alternative, who are treating these patients.  It is my hope that the information contained in this book, and the personal testimonies of my patients who were suffering with what is currently a chronic and untreatable diagnosis, (IBS), will bring hope and healing to those who are unwitting hosts to the Giardia parasite. Of course I appreciate this parasite is not responsible for all digestive issues but in my experience a Giardia infestation is very often overlooked as the cause of digestive problems and this then leads to misdiagnosis and a life of misery for those affected.

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Understanding BRCA: The breast cancer gene

BRCA (pronounced ‘bracka’) stands for BReast CAncer susceptibility gene. There are two BRCA genes – BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes function as tumour suppressors, helping to prevent the formation of cancer. When either of these genes carries a mutation, a woman has a high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, and men with these mutations are also at increased risk of breast and prostate cancer. Mutations in these genes have also been associated with a small increased risk of several additional types of cancer.

At the age of 35, I was found to carry a harmful mutation in the second breast cancer (BRCA2) gene and statistics suggested that I had a 45-85% chance of developing breast cancer and a 10-30% risk of developing ovarian cancer during my lifetime, which is much higher than in the general population.

Finding out that you carry a BRCA mutation is hard, and if this happens to you, you will have a great many questions that you will feel desperate to find the answers to. I felt overwhelmed and scared of the future that lay ahead. I desperately wanted to connect with other women who were going through the same thing as me and to find answers to my many questions. I looked for a BRCA support group locally, but there were none. I also looked for a book but none seemed to offer what I was looking for. I was eager to meet with the consultants that I had been referred to, but this process takes time and it was frustrating waiting for these appointments. I hoped they would be able to answer all of my questions but, in reality, even the consultants didn’t have all the answers as we do not yet fully understand the BRCA genes and their impact.

I felt very frightened, alone and frustrated that there seemed to be so little help and support and I wanted this to change. I decided, therefore, that once I had come through my own journey, I would write a book with the aim of helping others.

This book aims to improve your understanding of BRCA gene mutations and the various ways in which a carrier can manage his/her mutation, including screening, risk-reducing surgery and chemoprevention, with reference to relevant research. In the last part of this book, I share with you my own personal journey of undergoing risk-reducing surgery, including the removal of my ovaries and fallopian tubes (known as a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, pronounced oo-for-ek-tuh-mee) and the removal of my breast tissue while retaining my nipples (known as a bilateral, nipple-sparing mastectomy).

I detail, openly and honestly, the emotions I felt before, during and after my surgeries, along with the physical experience of undergoing these operations and the surgically-induced menopause which follows the removal of both ovaries. I will share the effect, if any, that these operations have had on my body image, identity and sexual functioning.

This book aims to answer the many questions that I personally had, including those that you may feel are simply too uncomfortable to ask. I felt anxious about so many things but, having come through my own journey, I realise now that I needn’t have worried anywhere near as much as I did. I really wish I had known then what I know now; it would have spared me a lot of fear and anxiety.

If you have been found to carry a BRCA gene mutation, I hope that by sharing my journey with you, you will see for yourself that this journey, albeit very tough, may not be as terrifying and as insurmountable as you may be feeling right now. You will get through this – I did and you can too. And, while I appreciate you may not be feeling this way now, you may even be nicely surprised by the positive ways in which this journey may change you as a person.

I am an Advanced-level Human Biology teacher and have experience of teaching both GCSE and Advanced-level (A-level) Human Biology. I also have experience of medical writing and have drawn from both of these skills throughout the writing of this book. My desire to help others has inspired me not only to write this book, but also to set up a website to offer my support to women and men worldwide who have been found to carry, or who believe they may carry, a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.

 

This blog was taken from Clarissa Foster’s new book Understanding BRCA: Living with the breast cancer gene is now available on the Hammersmith Health Books website.

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Why Diets Fail You

Nowhere is hope over experience more prevalent than in the world of the multimillion-dollar diet industry.

There is a growing amount of evidence suggesting that for many people going on a diet which restricts what you eat as a way of achieving enduring weight loss does not work and is not sustainable in either the mid or long term.

If restrictive or calorie-controlled diets worked, then by now one ‘super diet’ would have emerged and it would work for everyone, but this is definitely not the case. Hundreds of diet books are published every year and no doubt this trend will continue.

Any diet that encourages you to eat fewer calories, or to radically cut out whole food groups, in order to achieve weight loss is scientifically flawed. Denying yourself food to the point of going hungry convinces your subconscious mind that you are living in a time of food shortage or famine and passes messages to your body to hold onto its fat as your mind is not sure for how long the food shortage will continue. As you can imagine, this is counter-productive to good health as the body feels under stress.

If you have dieted in the past, and most people have, your mind will have a ‘memory’ of experiencing those periods of reduced food intake. Periods of self-induced calorie reduction where you experience hunger pangs are very difficult to maintain and are often the trigger for a stint of bingeing or excessive eating. This is what is meant by ‘yo-yo dieting’. Yo-yo dieting like this can negatively affect your metabolism, making it even harder in the future to regulate your weight. If you recognise you have a pattern of dieting and bingeing, then it is even more vital that when you commit to eating real food as part of nutritionally balanced meals that leave you satisfied, and that you do not go hungry, as this will quickly plunge your metabolism back into fat-storing mode.

A holistic, all-body approach to eating real food means that there is no advantage to going hungry or feeling deprived. This approach is diametrically opposed to the usual diet model. In How to Feel Differently about Food, we encourage a way of eating that promotes reassuring your mind that nutritious food is available to you and that your body is no longer under threat of impending food shortage. This reassurance enables habitual stress levels around food to be reduced and when the stress symptoms of emotional eating are reduced, your body reduces its production of cortisol – the stress hormone that can also inhibit weight loss. Feeling less stressed also ensures that the nourishment in the foods that are eaten becomes more ‘bio-available’ and advantageous. Later in the book we explain how stress shuts down many of the processes of digestion, leaving sufferers deprived of essential nutrition.

Our methodology promotes resetting your metabolism into fat-burning mode instead of fat-storing mode and this is achieved through selecting appetising and tasty foods that encourage satiety. In addition, this approach HOW TO FEEL DIFFERENTLY ABOUT FOOD 10 focuses on the effect of refined sugar as a key cause of weight gain. Sugar and simple carbohydrates are rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream and affect your body’s production of insulin. Rapid spikes in blood sugar cause insulin levels to rise and take sugar out of the bloodstream and into storage in the liver, muscles and (if they are full) fat cells; the high glucose level is therefore followed by a rapid drop in blood glucose levels. This in itself can be the cause of sugar cravings and the trigger for compulsive eating. The cumulative effect of eating in ways that spike insulin production eventually leads to what is called ‘insulin resistance’. This is a condition in which the cells of the body become unresponsive to increasingly high levels of insulin and this is a key predictor of diabetes.

The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC, 2014) in the US show that almost 10 per cent of the US population has been diagnosed with diabetes. The equivalent figures from Diabetes UK (2015) show figures approaching 3.5 million in 2015 and all predictions expect these numbers to grow year upon year. In addition, many, many more people the world over have ‘pre-diabetes’ (also known as metabolic syndrome) and remain undiagnosed until their health deteriorates with associated serious health problems – heart, circulation, eyesight and kidney damage – that bring them to medical attention and the confirmation of type 2 diabetes. Going back to health risks associated with being overweight, the incidence of pre-diabetes and diabetes itself is higher in patients who are classed as obese.

There are two other important hormones found to affect a person’s ability to manage his/her weight. The first is called leptin. It is made by fat cells and works to decrease appetite. This can become unbalanced in response to insulin resistance caused by spikes in blood sugar levels. Leptin is responsible for sending messages to your brain that you’ve eaten enough and feel sated. When leptin’s signalling goes awry, the hormone stops being produced so the messages that you have eaten enough are no longer sent, which leads to an inability to determine satiety. This is called ‘leptin resistance’. Medical professionals are now focusing more on the part leptin plays in the development of obesity, and how the hormone responds may actually be the result of obesity.

The second key involved with appetite is called ghrelin and its job is to signal to you that you are hungry. It also influences how quickly you feel hungry again after eating. Ghrelin naturally increases before meal times and is then designed to reduce after eating for around three hours until it once more naturally increases to signal the need to eat again. However, this hormone too can become unbalanced and send hunger signals more frequently, encouraging a reduction in the time between meals or even promoting the habit of constant grazing on food. One way that ghrelin becomes out of balance is through stress, which disturbs sleep patterns. This can affect workers who work unnatural hours such as night shifts. Not getting enough sleep has been shown to increase levels of ghrelin and cause an increase in appetite.

In simple terms, the hormonal responses that help manage appetite and weight are like a house of cards that are all interdependent on each other to maximise your health, weight management and wellbeing. Although designed to be perfectly in balance, a key element that can cause the whole house of cards to collapse is the eating of sugar and simple carbohydrates. It doesn’t take long before sugar spikes begin to undermine the complex hormonal interactions.

The good news is that by reducing stress levels, improving sleep patterns and changing the types of food eaten it is possible to re-calibrate the hormones’ signals to the brain to promote a feeling of fullness and enhanced wellbeing. On the food front this is achieved by cutting out refined sugars, simple carbohydrates and processed foods and replacing them with real foods, including plenty of good fats, such as olive oil, oily fish and nuts that your body can naturally process.

 

This blog was taken from Sally Baker and Liz Hogon’s book How to Feel Differently About Food

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Rethinking Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes has always been defined by high blood glucose levels. Most people now think of Type 2 as a lifelong battle against high blood glucose levels, usually beginning with tablet treatment, then more tablets, and finally possibly insulin. After twenty years of basic scientific research and some recent clinical trials, we’re now in a good position to understand what drives Type 2 diabetes, and to start using more logical approaches to the basic abnormalities of the condition – and perhaps to change this standard, and feared, course of diabetes towards ever more treatment.

The real problems lie in the liver and pancreas, the two key organs that process our food after it’s absorbed from the intestine. We know that both these organs have been struggling for ages, perhaps as long as 30 years, before the fasting glucose level peeps above 7 mmol/l, the blood glucose definition of diabetes. They’ve been struggling because of overeating, especially carbohydrates. Although they’re robust organs, they weren’t intended to cope with patterns of modern eating, which floods them with food every 4 hours or so during the usual working day, often with snacks between. The liver and probably the pancreas respond to the food-carbohydrate overload by accumulating fat. Eventually the liver can’t store carbohydrate efficiently, and starts breaking it down into glucose again which escapes into the circulation, especially during the night. The pancreas struggles too, by not producing insulin efficiently enough to bring glucose levels promptly down after meals. The heroic liver and pancreas have been battered for years before they finally fail to keep blood glucose levels normal.

Overeating is the problem, but as with most of the population, individuals developing diabetes are usually overweight. But they aren’t necessarily obese. However a combination of genetics and a strong family history of Type 2, low (or high) birth weight, and many other factors, all contribute to their being more easily overloaded with the same amount of food compared with others. Years, before blood glucose levels climb into the diabetic range, important conditions, intimately linked to Type 2 diabetes, can come to light, though they aren’t sufficiently recognised as such: these include fat in the liver that we’ve just mentioned, but also hypertension, gout, polycystic ovarian syndrome in women and obstructive sleep apnoea – all linked to inefficient insulin action and grouped together as the metabolic syndrome. Because we are so focused on blood glucose levels, these conditions are considered separate from Type 2 diabetes: but they are much more sensitive indicators of metabolic abnormality than blood glucose levels, which at this stage are likely to be completely normal.

Recognising that the roots of Type 2 are in our internal organs becoming fat overloaded has stimulated some remarkable research, especially by the team in Newcastle. They stopped thinking about Type 2 as a blood glucose condition, and focused on the liver and pancreas. They used a simple approach. Reduce over-nutrition by restricting calories to 600-800 a day, compared with our usual intake of 2000-2500, see whether fat in the liver and pancreas also reduce, and as a result expect to see blood glucose levels fall, and all the other complicated metabolic blood tests improve as well. As predicted, after 8 weeks of the very low calorie diet, which resulted in about 15 kg weight loss, all the metabolic machinery was rebooted back to near-normality, nobody needed any diabetes medication, and not surprisingly they felt hugely better. Of course, this radical approach didn’t work in everyone, especially if diabetes had been around for a long time, but a recent report found that everything remained stable for at least a year, even when the liquid diet had been replaced by normal food containing the same low calories.

Type 2 diabetes is therefore not a condition of high blood glucose, but one of fat accumulation resulting from long-term overeating that eventually can lead to high glucose levels, by which time the associated high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels may already have caused serious complications – for example heart attack or stroke. Focusing mainly on glucose levels means that we don’t always concentrate on these other factors, which are more important in causing the long-term complications of diabetes.

The second major recent research theme is the type of diet we should adopt. There is no topic more controversial, but there is now encouraging clinical research to guide us. The PREDIMED study showed that a true Mediterranean diet with added extra-virgin olive oil (or nuts) had a huge effect in reducing cardiovascular disease, whether or not you had diabetes. Because most people in this study didn’t have Type 2, there was no particular focus on blood glucose levels, nor actually on weight reduction – but the Mediterranean portfolio reduced the medical complications that really matter – stroke and heart attacks. The earlier DASH diet which has a lot in common with the Mediterranean diet also nicely reduced blood pressure – an opportunity for Type 2s to reduce their blood pressure medication with support from their healthcare team.

Sadly, no individual ‘superfood’ (current hero is the avocado) has any long-term beneficial effects except on the bank balances of people promoting the latest one. Though there’s no shortage of candidate herb and spice extracts that have shown real potential for treating glucose levels in Type 2 they haven’t had big enough trials. Exercise? There’s no doubt that the recommended weekly 2½ hours of moderate exercise improves cardiac and respiratory health, and that after losing weight, this level of exercise might help reduce the tendency to regain weight. Exercise itself doesn’t prevent prediabetes developing into Type 2, and doesn’t help much with weight loss, but fatty liver seems to respond well to structured exercise. Gentle walking is fine for taking in the view, but in clinical trials people with Type 2 needed to do moderate or vigorous exercise to reduce long-term complications of diabetes – and if they managed that, the heart attack rates were much lower.

In summary: too much fat in the liver and pancreas caused by years of food overload can be detected way before blood glucose levels rise to ‘diabetic’ levels, and is associated with the health problems associated with the metabolic syndrome. Weight loss of 15 kg in weight often reverses these abnormalities. We need to focus as much on blood pressure and cholesterol levels to reduce the long-term complications of diabetes as we do on blood glucose measurements. Evidence-based portfolio diets such as the Mediterranean and DASH approaches will reduce diabetes complications: superfoods don’t.

David Levy, physician at the London Diabetes Centre, was formerly consultant physician at Whipps Cross University Hospital (Barts Healthcare NHS Trust) and Honorary Senior Lecturer at Queen Mary University of London. He has written extensively on diabetes for healthcare professionals, most recently the Hands-on Guide to Diabetes Care in Hospital for trainee doctors (Wiley Blackwell, 2016), which was highly commended at the 2016 British Medical Association Book Awards, and the 4th edition of Practical Diabetes Care (Wiley Blackwell, 2018). His book on Type 1 diabetes (Oxford Diabetes Library, Oxford University Press) is now in its 2nd edition (2017). Get Tough With Type 2 Diabetes (Hammersmith Publications) is his second book for people with Type 2 (Available Spring 2018).

 

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The Health Benefits of Going Alcohol Free for Dry January

To coincide with the public health campaign ‘Dry January’, which urges people to abstain from alcohol for 31 days, we bring you three brief extracts from Hammersmith Health Books which touch upon just a few of the reasons for avoiding alcohol:

Drug and alcohol misuse

Drug and alcohol abuse can cause great distress, leading to social isolation, low self-esteem, loss of work or school, and estrangement from family and friends – all events that can build a core of stresses that may lead to suicidal thoughts and contemplation. Substance abuse also can increase impulsiveness and decrease inhibitions, making the teenager more likely to act on suicidal thoughts.

Overcoming Self-Harm and Suicidal Thoughts: A practical guide for the adolescent years
By Liz Quish

Alcohol always leaves an acidic residue in the body and aggravates many conditions. It has no place in the health seeker’s diet. Alcohol has been proven over time to be a potent destroyer of bone structure. Alcoholics have a four-times greater incidence of osteoporosis than the normal population. In addition to rotting the bones, it causes considerable damage to liver and brain cells.

Make no mistake: alcohol is a drug, and a rather dangerous one at that. In addition to destroying liver and brain cells via its breakdown pathway which produces acetaldehyde (chemically similar to formaldehyde), it has been demonstrated to be exceptionally damaging to bone health. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcohol interferes with calcium and bone metabolism in several ways. Acute alcohol consumption can lead to a transient parathyroid hormone deficiency and increased urinary calcium excretion, resulting in a loss of calcium from the body.

Love Your Bones: The essential guide to ending osteoporosis and building a healthy skeleton
By Max Tuck

Hazards to Human Health – Alcohol

‘Alcohol’, or rather ethyl alcohol (ethanol), refers to the intoxicating ingredient found in wine, beer and spirits. Alcohol arises naturally from carbohydrates when certain micro-organisms metabolise them in the absence of oxygen, in the process called fermentation.

Recent studies show that moderate use of alcohol, especially red wine due to its reservatrol content, may have a beneficial effect on the coronary artery system. In general, for healthy people, one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men, would be the maximum amount of alcohol consumption to be considered moderate. This is pretty impossible to implement, because most people drink for the relaxing effect, which generally takes more than one or two glasses to work.

Nature Cures: The A-Z of ailments and natural foods
By Nat H Hawes

 

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Psoriasis: Natural Remedies

Natural remedies for Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic skin disorder that affects 1% to 3% of the world’s population. It is characterised by periodic flare-ups of well-defined red patches covered by a silvery, flaky scale on the skin and the scalp. There are several variations of psoriasis, but the most common type is chronic plaque psoriasis. The exact cause is unknown, but it is believed that a combination of several factors contributes to the development of this disease. In a normally functioning immune system, white blood cells produce antibodies to foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. These white blood cells also produce chemicals that aid in healing and fighting infective agents. With psoriasis, though, special white blood cells called T-cells become overactive; they attack the skin and set off a cascade of events that make the skin cells multiply so fast they start to stack up on the surface of the skin. Normal skin cells form, mature and then are sloughed off every 30 days, but in plaque psoriasis the skin goes through this whole process in three to six days.

DAMAGE
Sometimes an injury to the skin can cause the formation of a psoriasis patch. This is known as the Koebner phenomenon, and it can occur in other skin diseases, such as eczema and lichen planus. It can take two to six weeks for a psoriasis lesion to develop after an injury. Types of damage that can trigger a flare include: abrasion – even mild abrasions; increased friction from clothing or skin rubbing against skin in folds, such as armpits or under breasts; sunburn; viral rashes; drug rashes and weather damage.

DIET
Alcohol, sugar, coffee, fatty meats, refined processed foods, additives and deficiencies in minerals and phytonutrients can induce attacks of psoriasis.

DRUGS THAT CAN INDUCE OR WORSEN PSORIASIS

  • Chloroquine – used to treat or prevent malaria.
  • ACE inhibitors – angiotens in converting enzyme inhibitors, used to treat high blood pressure. Examples include fosinopril, captopril, and lisinopril.
  • Beta-blockers – used to treat high blood pressure. Examples include metoprolol tartrate (Lopressor) and atenolol (Tenormin).
  • Lithium – used to treat bipolar disorder.
  • Indocin – an anti-inflammatory medication used to treat a variety of conditions, including gout and arthritis.

INFECTIONS
Infections caused by bacteria or viruses can cause a psoriasis flare. Streptococcal infections that cause tonsillitis, or strep throat, tooth abscesses, cellulitis, and impetigo, can cause a flare of guttate psoriasis in children. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) does not increase the frequency of psoriasis, but it does increase the severity of the disease.

PSYCHOLOGICAL STRESS
This has long been understood as a trigger for psoriasis flares, but scientists are still unclear about exactly how this occurs. Studies do show that not only can a sudden, stressful event trigger a rash to worsen; the daily struggles of life can also trigger a flare. In addition, one study showed that people who were categorised as ‘high worriers’ were almost two times less likely to respond to treatment compared to ‘low worriers’.

WEATHER
Weather is a strong factor in triggering psoriasis. Exposure to direct sunlight, which usually occurs in the warmer months, often improves the rash. On the other hand, cold, short days seen in the winter months can trigger the rash to worsen.

NATURE CURES FOR PSORIASIS
Raw juice therapy can effectively improve psoriasis. The best organic natural foods to juice are: apricot, beetroot, carrot, celery, cucumber, grapes, lemon, spinach and tomato.

EXTERNAL REMEDIES FOR PSORIASIS
The following can be used as external remedies for psoriasis: burdock root, Chinese rhubarb root, egg white (beaten to fluffy stage), mango, oats, parsley, pine needle tea bath and tamanu oil.

 

This extract was taken from Nature Cures by Nat Hawes. Check out her website at http://www.naturecures.co.uk/about.html

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Pumpkin Power: Your Halloween Health Kick

Pumpkin Recipes

It’s the one and only time of year where we see hundreds of pumpkins lining supermarket shelves and garden paths, often with a rather wicked smile grinning back at you. But don’t be fooled, they’re actually one of the greatest superfoods out there. Pumpkin seeds are one of the best plant-based sources of zinc, which works wonders for the human body by improving the immune system, preventing osteoporosis and reducing cholesterol. Pumpkin seeds are also a fantastic source of protein, fibre and magnesium. They help with weight loss, relaxation and increased fertility in both men and women, and their high levels of L-tryptophan make them an effective mood booster – particularly useful as the cold weather sets in!

Extracted from her book, Love Your Bones, Max Tuck provides two delicious recipes to help you make the most of this Halloween superfood:

 

Pumpkin seed pesto

In this recipe pumpkin seeds replace the traditional pine nuts that can be so very expensive. For optimum nutrition and digestibility it is important to soak the pumpkin seeds for a few hours beforehand.

  • In a food processor mix all of the following to a smooth paste:

½ cup soaked pumpkin seeds

¼ cup water

The juice of ½ lemon

Optional: splashes of tamari or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos to taste

A medium clove of garlic

¼ cup of cold-pressed olive oil

 

  • Separately, chop a medium-sized bunch of fresh basil leaves very finely. Stir them into the pumpkin seed mixture or pulse for a second.
  • Serve the pesto stirred into pasta, preferably into ‘courgette pasta’ made from thin shavings of courgette cut with a potato peeler.

 

Pumpkin seed and walnut loaf

2 cups pumpkin seeds, soaked for six to eight hours

2 cups walnuts, soaked overnight

1 cup carrot, chopped

1 cup red pepper, deseeded and chopped

1 cup onion, diced

1 cup parsley, chopped

1 cup dried mushrooms

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon raw tahini (optional)

Sprig of parsley to garnish

 

  • Process the pumpkin seeds, walnuts and carrot in a food processor until smooth. Remove and place in a bowl.
  • Pulse the remaining ingredients except the parsley together in a food processor until they are of a chunky consistency. Place in the bowl with the pumpkin seed mixture and combine thoroughly.
  • Place on a serving dish and mould into the desired shape. Garnish with parsley.

 

These recipes were taken from Love Your Bones by Max Tuck.