Information about coronavirus

With thanks to Dr John Campbell Retired Nurse Lecturer in Cumbria and his daily You Tube updates:  to Dr Dietrich Klinghardt Physician from Washington state USA; Robyn Puglia, Nutritional Therapist with the immune system as a speciality; Liz Butler, Nutritional Therapist and former colleague at Penny Brohn Cancer Care as Lead Nutritionist; The Body Chemist;  Ninja Nerd Medicine on You Tube for detailed, understandable explanations of science and immunology.

Here is an attempt to distil some of the masses of information about the virus and what to do about it.  It is not exhaustive, but may help to give some direction.

Facts

  1. Very few young children are affected by the virus or have virus symptoms.
  2. Virus is a slow mutator so once you have immunity it is likely to last for the foreseeable future.
  3. Men are catching the virus more than women and are more likely to have serious symptoms. Experts don’t know why.
  4. Serious complications occur in just 4% of cases.  80% of people will have a mild form of the disease.  12% will be poorly and may need hospitalisation.  These figures seem to be the same in most countries.
  5. Prevention measures:- vitamin D3 and sunshine support the immune system, melatonin, quercetin an antioxidant found in red onions, red apples, berries and broccoli,  zinc, vitamin C, vitamin A and NAC,  probiotics, low stress, good rest and sleep. Stop smoking.  Eat lots of vegetables and some fruits.  8 to 10 portions a day! Bone Broth is good and nourishing to the immune system. Avoid sugar as it has a disproportionately suppressive effect on immune function.
  6. The virus attacks the respiratory system, especially all the mucus membranes from the mouth down into the lungs.  Complications occur when the immune functions of these areas are overwhelmed and the disease process becomes well established.  Help must be sort with breathing problems.
  7. Treatment 1- let the fever develop. The fever stimulates the immune response and is the immune system fighting the virus.  It is uncomfortable but letting the fever run is likely to result in less complications.
  8. Do not use medications that will bring the fever down, so no paracetamol or aspirin or other pain reducing medications. Reducing the temperature of the patient is more likely to increase morbidity (by 5%) and complications.  Instead treat the cause.
  9. Do not use anti-inflammatory medications like NSAID’s as the inflammation is part of the healing process.  Using anti-inflammatories is more likely to lead to complications.
  10. Taking drugs like paracetamol and other temperature reducing drugs increases the duration of the disease and the duration of infectiousness (increases spreading of the virus).
  11. Dangerous fever only occurs when the body temperature is over 41.1 C
  12. Normally fever is self limiting so won’t get this high.
  13. Treatments 2 – drink plenty of fluids. This prevents the mucus fluid lining the respiratory tract from becoming too thick and gumming up the flow of contaminated fluid being wafted up and out of the lungs.
  14. Don’t lie flat. Consider sitting up or reclined.  Keep your space well ventilated with fresh air.
  15. If you have no appetite, don’t make yourself eat.  If you do want to eat, have thin soups, like bone broths.
  16. Taking vitamin C in several doses a day can support immune function.
  17. Stay isolated within one room of your house to avoid giving a high viral load to your family members which would give them worse symptoms.

Nursing a person who is sick with the fever

Environment

Firstly, for healing,  sick people need calm, quiet, and warmth. A pleasant room, comfortable bed, chair or sofa, and relaxing activities will support healing.  The immune system has to work hard when we are ill, and distractions are best avoided.  Avoid background noise, bright light, perfumes, and cooking smells as all a person’s senses are heightened when we are ill.

Use a hot water bottle to warm a cold bed and warm clothes on a radiator before putting them on.

Fresh air is also important, so ensure the room is well ventilated.  Allow the patient to spend a short while outside in the garden if it is not too cold.

Fluid in the form of water or juice should be given regularly. Drink lots of water.

Appetites are usually low so give small managable portions of food.

Carers need to keep calm so as not to communicate worry and anxiety to the patient so try to stay relaxed.  However they also need to care for themselves so that they have the strength to care for the ill person.

A carer should be alert to various signs in a patient.  Use the power of your observation to notice the colour and pallor of the sick person, including noting breathing rates and depth, alertness vs sleepiness etc.  If you are concerned at any time, contact the NHS helplines or call an ambulance.

People can get dehydrated very quickly.  Use the pinch test where you pinch some loose flesh between the your fingers – but not hard!  The back of the hand is a good place to try.  If the flesh goes flat very quickly the person is ok but if it takes a long time to go flat, then they are dehydrated.  Compare with your own flesh as long as you are not dehydrated.  Also look for dry lips and the inside of the lips which could be dry.  Eyes may get dry too with dehydration.  Encourage the child to drink small sips frequently.

Remedies

Take Vitamin C in large doses.  Amount recommended varies from 8g to 18g or ‘bowel tolerance’ (running to the toilet).  Probably take 10g unless your stomach is upset.  This will help the immune system fight the virus and help avoid a cytokine storm which leads to fatalities.

Use decongestants like eucalyptus, thyme, or Vics vapour rub.  Give a steam inhalation a couple of times a day or when needed.  See below.

Have root ginger teas as ginger has a powerful anti-inflammatory action.  Put a slice of ginger in a mug of hot water 2 to 3 times a day.

Keep warm but ventilate the sick room, without letting a draft come in.  REST

Practise deep ‘yoga’ breathing, taking air deeply and slowly into the bottom of your lungs during a count to 3, hold for a count of 4 then release over a count of 5.  Repeat several times a day.  This will help remove stagnant air in the lungs and build lung strength.

Several sources say that humming helps.  It seems to increase nitric oxide in the nasal passages and this inhibits inflammasomes which may stop the cytokine storm.  Hum your favourite tunes.  Alternatively, apply a vibrating tuning fork to points on the chest.

Switch of your wifi unless you really need it, but especially at night.  There is some evidence to suggest that wifi frequencies inhibit actions of the immune system, and may aid viral entry to cells. Put your phone down some distance away from where you are resting.

Inhalations can help keep the airways clear.  Use Thyme oil or Ecualytpus oil.

Inhalations

What you need:

1 Large bowl and a large towel

Herb tea or oil suspension – Any of these in boiling water

Scatter a small handful of chamomile flowers in bowl or use 1 chamomile herb teabag

Or an infusion of Thyme tea (1-2 teaspoons/ 500ml) or fresh thyme (handful) boiled for 1-2 minutes

Or an infusion of Sage tea (1-2 teaspoons/ 500ml) or fresh Sage (handful) boiled for 1-2 minutes

Or 3-5 drops of Eucalyptus oil or Olbas oil

Procedure

1. Prepare a good quantity i.e. 1 – 2 litres of herb tea or a few drops of oil in boiling water and pour it into the bowl.

2. Sit patient comfortably at a table and place bowl in front of them so they can bend forward over it. Make sure feet are warm with socks or slippers or the feet are placed on a hot water bottle. Be careful that the face does not come too close to the steam, as it can burn.

For younger children this method requires great care, because of the hot water. A parent can sit with the child under the towel – holding both hands of the child, or under an umbrella.

3. Place large towel over the head so it makes a tent covering the bowl. The patient should inhale the steam for as long as it rises from the bowl. Encourage the patient to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. The tea or oil suspension should be as hot as possible to produce a lot of steam.

4. Remove bowl and towel. Dry patient’s head and forehead and put on a hat or scarf to prevent cooling down too quickly: The patient should rest and be kept warm for an hour after the inhalation to prevent catching cold because of temperature.

5. Apply calendula or hypericum/calendula cream around nasal area of if sore or inflamed.

6.  Rest after the inhalation and repeat when needed.

Diet and Nutrition

While it would be wonderful to see everyone eating a really healthy diet all the time, people have the freedom to choose how they eat.  However, at a time when ones health is particularly at risk, eating well will help to support the immune system and maybe even ensure that any infection is a mild one.

Firstly, eat lots of vegetables and some fruits – around 8 to 10 portions a day.  Have a wide variety and lots of different colours to cover all the different anti-oxidants.  Have them fresh, steamed, or sautéed in a meal.  Where possible, avoid boiling them.  

Eat lots of nuts, seeds, beans, and pulses for their protein and nutrients. Sprouted seeds are excellent sources of nourishment. 

Have eggs, fish, chicken, lamb and game for protein if you eat animal proteins.

Use lots of herbs and spices as they are rich in anti-oxidants too.

Eat whole grains but avoid eating a lot of wheat products even if it is whole grain wheat.  There is some evidence that it interferes with some immune function and some liver functions so you won’t be operating at top rate if you eat a lot of it.  Instead have whole grain rice, or buckwheat, millet, or quinoa.

Reduce dairy products and have more fermented products like live yogurt and keffir.

Use olive oil, goose fat or coconut oil for cooking but only at low temperatures.

The spring is an excellent time to be supplementing your diet with wild foods like wild garlic, nettles and dandelion leaves. All of these plants have very high levels of minerals and anti-oxidants so will give you more nourishment.

Drink lots of water – around 2 litres is recommended but more if you are exercising or sweating a lot.

Foods to avoid: pork products, coffee, alcohol, vegetable oils unless it is virgin olive oil, salt, sugar, additives, flavourings, preservatives, artificial sweetener, soya protein like TVP, quorn.

Have simple colourful meals with ingredients that you have prepared at home. 

Helen Cranston

Nutritional Therapist.

http://www.helencranston.co.uk

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We need the Sun!

Although the days are noticably longer now, it is still pretty gloomy in February and it can seem like a long time until the warm sun of May.  Many people find their mood low and even have bouts of depression.  Other people without a young family can go off on winter sun holidays around now, but that is not an option for all of us.  For people with Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, a full spectrum light source can help, as it is thought that the lack of sunlight is what makes us depressed.

Actually, in our modern world, where we can spend 5 days a week incarcerated in an artificially lit office, the full value of natural sunlight is often forgotten.  You may remember that you need vitamin D from sunlight to make strong healthy bones and teeth in children.  However sunlight and vitamin D is also needed by adults to keep bones strong and healthy, especially as we age and become at risk to osteoporosis. 

But that is not the end of the benefits of vitamin D. Research has found it to be essential for a strong immune system, so needed to help keep winter lurgies at bay, as well as protecting against worse things like cancer. 

Vitamin D is made in the skin by the action of sunlight on a cholesterol molecule.  If we didn’t have cholesterol then we wouldn’t be able to make vitamin D, so people with low cholesterol (Statins lower cholesterol) are at risk of deficiency of this essential vitamin.

Did you know that your body produces cholesterol itself in quite large amounts?

This is because the body needs it for all sorts of things like making vitamin D but it is also the basic molecule for making many hormones including the stress hormone cortisol.  Even if you didn’t have any cholesterol containing food, like butter or cheese, your body would still make around 1000mg a day – because it is essential.

Vitamin D is also found in some animal products like butter but not in very high quantities. As the body is quite good at storing it, what we really need is a good long dose of sun in the summer and early autumn to carry us through the winter.  Then when the first warm weather comes we need to sit outside in our favourite sunny spot and soak up the rays.  It is possible to take it as a supplement too and it works well for people whose immune system is compromised and for some people with SAD.

There has been such bad press about sun over-exposure and skin cancer that medical advice has everyone reaching for the high potency sun block to stop any possible rays from penetrating our skin.  You can see now, covering our skin in clothes and chemical films might not be the best policy. 

In fact what we really need is plenty of sun but not enough to get burnt, which will of course vary from one person to another.  Either leave off the full sun block and spend a shorter time in the sun, or get the best quality filters creams that allow the less harmful rays in. 

I am have found that Green People and Dr Haushka products are very good at preventing sunburn, while still letting enough sun through to make my skin tan.

And of course, sun light lifts our mood and makes us feel better.  We are more than half way through February, so not so many weeks until we get some sun – hopefully!

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Healthy Eating in Mid Winter

So have you started on a healthy diet with lots of salads and raw vegetables to get healthy again, after the Christmas excess?  Maybe you have been feeling under the weather for quite a few months and decide that this is the time to make changes.

“A new year, a new you” as they say.  Well there is nothing wrong with looking after yourself and getting healthier.  However, you might be struggling a bit by now, if you started just after New Year.  Are you feeling the cold, feeling sluggish, craving a nice juicy burger or piece of cake?  Maybe you have managed to stay on your healthy eating regime but can’t work out why you are feeling more bloated not less?

There are good reasons why a going on a new diet doesn’t always work in January, and that is at least partly due to the weather and that it is cold!  In Chinese medicine the advice is to eat lots of cooked food at this time of year, including lots of root crops like swede, turnip, carrots, beetroots, celeriac and parsnips.  This is because when it is cold and wet outside, our inner Digestive Fire is rather low so we don’t cope well with a diet of salad and raw green leaves.  Digestive Fire refers to our stomach and the ability to ‘burn’ food to break it down so we can absorb it.  Raw foods take a lot of digesting and too much can put out our ‘fire’ leading to bloating, flatulence and feeling cold and sluggish, which is not helpful.  

What is helpful is a nice big bowl of thick parsnip soup followed by roast root veg and your protein of choice.  Sound more appealing? Then give your body what it needs in the depths of winter, stoke up the fire with cooked food and enjoy it!  The time for salads and green leaves will be here in two or three months.

 

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January Resolutions

Is there something you want to change about your life?  Have you made a New Year’s Resolution?  Did you plan it before New Year with a view to starting on 1st January?

If you have celebrated Christmas in the traditional way like our ancestors did with a huge feast – or three or four, then you might be feeling somewhat jaded – not unsurprisingly.  From a nutritional standpoint, all that rich food, alcohol, sugar and indulgence is highly acidifying and makes us feel tired, lethargic with the odd headache throw in too, so it makes sense that many people vow to eat a healthier diet over the coming months, to rebalance.  The foods we really need plenty of, are the same ones we are always being nagged to eat – vegetables!  This is the ideal time to increase your veg intake with some good winter warming root veg and hardy greens.  Carrots, parsnips, celeriac, swede, turnips, and beetroots are warming and nourishing.  Cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, broccoli and kale are cruciferous vegetables and have anti-cancer properties (indole-3-carbinole) which means they also support the immune system.  Then onions, garlic and leeks help with liver metabolism and getting rid of the by-products of all that self indulgence.

And forget the ‘5-a-day’ slogans.  Did you know that before that slogan for healthy eating was chosen, researchers found that actually people really needed to eat nearer 8 or 9 portions of veg a day?  However, they knew they wouldn’t be able to persuade people to do that but thought that 5 was acceptable as a minimum to aim for for!  So dig out your recipe books, visit your local organic farm/market/supermarket to buy lovely fresh veg and pile them in to all our dishes.

Root vegetables taste great when they are roasted, and hardy green vegetables a lovely stir-fried with a good oil like coconut oil or goose fat or butter.

Eating 8 or 9 portions of veg a day will chase away the winter blues and get your feeling full of vitality again!

So maybe a New Year Resolution of intent to eat 7 plus portions of vegetables a day would be a really good way to start the year and a healthier new you!

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Healthy Eating to Save the Planet

A couple of years ago, I realised that my training in Naturopathic nutrition taught us a Systems Approach to health through the naturopathic philosophies.  A Systems Approach theory stresses the interactive nature and interdependence of external and internal factors in an organization or system. Nothing exists in isolation, everything is connected and more like a network or web than a simple logical structure.  It is how life is, complex, chaotic and often unpredictable.

We learnt how organs and tissues are inter-connected and what affects one system will have a knock-on effect on other systems and tissues.  The human body cannot be likened to a car where if a part fails, you just replace with a new part.  Instead, if there is a problem in one organ, its lack of optimum function will be affecting other organs, and very importantly, the problem organ is probably being affected by less than optimum functioning elsewhere.  In a systems approach there cannot be a magic bullet solution, as all the issues have to be addressed until there is enough good function in the whole body to facilitate self healing.  Besides naturopathic medicine, other medical paradigms with a systems approach include Chinese 5 Element medicine and Indian Ayurvedic Medicine.  In the farming world, permaculture takes a Systems Approach and has developed it massively.  Some people might call this a holistic approach, one of considering all the possible causes and implications and how all parts of a system relate to each other.

Increasing knowledge (hopefully the wisdom of the years)  and reading is confirming my view that everything in life is inter-connected on some level. 

However in the world at large, the general approach is a more linear one of 0ver-simplifying problems into single cause and effect.  

For example, to take food and health, we know that what we eat affects our health and there is lots of evidence to show that how we farm affects our food, which in turn affects our health.  At the same time we are increasingly becoming concerned about climate change and sustainability and how what we eat can affect that. However if we only look at this from a simplistic perspective it is easy to jump to inappropriate conclusions.

So first let us look at what is health?  It could be simply, the absence of disease.  But there are plenty of people who do not have a disease who could be assessed as unhealthy so it is about more than the absence of disease.  Health could be considered to be when a person has the optimum function of the physical and mental body leading to a feeling of vitality.

Likewise, there are numerous definitions of living sustainably.  Some see it as living in a way that maintains the Earth’s status quo, or perhaps living in a way that does not undermine the ability of the Earth to support life.  There is another quote which more all encompassing than this.  A recent Quaker text, quoted in Resurgence magazine says:

living sustainably “should spring from a place of love rather than from fear” and that, although we may struggle to describe it, it might well be characterised by words such as “care, respect, love, symbiosis, honouring, valuing, hospitality, stewardship, nurture, humility, adaptation and accommodation, peaceable living, interconnectedness, awe, wonder, relationship, harmony, consecration, sacramental or holy living”.

For both ‘health’ and ‘sustainability’ there is no simple definition, rather each is descriptive title for a much larger and deeper meaning of the concept.

I want to illustrate the problem of simplistic linear thinking by linking health and sustainability, and then to offer a more complex solution to some of our current problems.

Throughout January, there have been many companies and organisations promoting a vegan lifestyle for health and for sustainability.  The advice is to give up eating animal products which produce high levels of CO2 and methane (another greenhouse gas) in favour of a completely plant based diet which will go a long way to averting climate change, and thereby promote sustainable living.  Consequently, the land used to farm animals could grow crops to replace the meat production.  In addition, this will dramatically reduce animal suffering.

There is good linear logic to this but the actual facts behind the headlines ‘Eat Vegan Save the Planet’ tell a different story.

There is no doubt that in general we all eat too much meat and that it is bad for our health to do so. A large proportion of the meat consumed is farmed in unsustainable ways which is cruel to animals, promoting huge suffering.

Rainforests are being cut down so farmers can grow soya to feed to cattle being intensively farmed in small areas.  Most cattle, wherever they are reared, are fed on grains to fatten them up to increase profit margins but grains are not their natural food.  

In UK, 70% of land is in agriculture and this includes uplands and moors where sheep are farmed.  Of all the land in agriculture, just 36% of the total is under crops and arable.  The remaining 64% is in pasture – that is for farming animals.  Half of arable land is growing cereals, a large proportion of which is fed to cattle to fatten them up.  

If we all stopped eating beef, and dairy products, then theoretically more land would be released for growing food crops for humans, as well as the land currently growing cereals to feed to animals.  However, most of the land under pasture is not suitable for growing crops.  The reason it is in pasture is because it is not possible to grow food crops the modern way with sophisticated heavy machinery.  Often the land is too wet, or with heavy clay by rivers or in flood plains, or it is too steep or inaccessible or the soil is too thin such as on hills and moorland.  So if farms stopped producing meat, most of the 64% of agricultural land, currently in pasture, could not necessarily be used for large scale growing of crops.  The land currently growing cereals to feed to cattle could however, be used for crops for people.

If people are not eating meat or dairy products, then another source of protein needs to be available.  Plant protein foods include pulses such as lentils and beans, plus nuts, and seeds.  There is some protein in grains but they need to be eaten with pulses to provide the full spectrum of essential protein constituents.

When it comes to eating healthy sustainable food we should be looking to eat locally produced food, to keep food miles low and reduce emissions for transport.  This can be a problem for the protein part of a vegan diet in UK.

Currently, the UK produces little plant protein and most of the protein in a vegan diet comes from abroad.  Lentils, beans, nuts and seeds could be grown here but not much is.  This could of course be changed, though the range of plant protein is going to be restricted by what will grow in our climate (almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios and many other nuts only grow in warmer climates).   Soya will grow in UK but there are good health reasons why it should not be a major part of the diet. 

Soya beans are high in plant oestrogens, which may be problematic for people suffering from hormone related conditions (except for women in peri-menopause). They have a high level of goitrogenic compounds which suppress the function of the thyroid gland, and they contain a high level of oxalates which bind with minerals like calcium and magnesium making them insoluble and unusable by and in the human body.  Most of these problems can be reduced by turning the soya into tofu as the Japanese have done for many centuries and tofu is a relatively healthy food.  Turning soya into texturized vegetable protein or TVP provides a protein food but in a highly processed way with concerns for health, plus quite a lot of ‘embodied energy’ used in the processing of the soya beans, so it should not be an option for the climate conscious.

If everyone who currently eats meat were instead start to eat a lot more conventionally farmed plant foods, the net result could actually be an increase in the use of fossil fuels to make the necessary fertilisers, pesticides, insecticides and herbicides and consequent increase in CO2.  In addition, large scale arable agriculture leads to soil degradation and loss, leading to higher use of fertilisers and loss of carbon from the soil.  Conventional agriculture is not sustainable and contributes to climate change.

If you want to go vegan and reduce your planetary footprint then you have to eat only organic or preferably permaculture produced food.  In fact we should all, meat eaters and vegans, be eating from small scale organic producers.

There has been quite a bit of research showing that eating meat can lead to cancer and other chronic and often fatal conditions, which is, of course, of great concern.  However more detailed research into the source of the meat eaten,  suggests that the meat that is so unhealthy comes from animals fed on cereals.  Many cattle are fed on grass during the warm part of the year when the grass is growing but are fed on cereals during the winter because there is not enough grass, or they are ‘finished’ on cereals in order to put on weight.  Eating cereals causes the animals to make an unhealthy type of fat that would not have existed in the animals our ancestors ate. Cereal fed beef fat is pro-inflammatory and cancer promoting and it is low in a chemical called CLE which is anti-inflammatory and health promoting.  Beef which are raised only on pastureland throughout the year do not have this damaging type of fat and are actually health promoting.  After all our ancestors often thrived on a mixed diet, and in winter time there were few plants around so they ate a lot of meat then, and cancer was a very rare disease.

So, if we are to source at least some of our protein locally,  save on food miles, and cut fossil fuel use in transport, then it would make sense to eat meat that is 100% pasture fed. In addition, the high levels of methane gas which have been recorded being released from cattle would seem to be a result of the grain diet they are fed, while pasture fed animals release much lower levels of methane. Eating animals, not just cattle, raised on land unsuitable for arable crops would make good use of pasture producing animals that are healthier, and even better, preserve pasture land which is good at sequestering carbon, thereby reducing the carbon foot prints of consumers.  In an ideal world, animals that are raised sustainably for local consumption would be slaughtered locally by the most humane methods available and not in large abbotoirs (but that is another story).

You can buy certified pasture fed beef on-line from small farm producers. See https://www.pastureforlife.org/news/100-grass-fed-certification-mark-approved

To summarise, eating conventionally grown plants on a vegan diet will not necessarily reduce the production of CO2 and methane or reduce fossil fuel use.  It is not necessarily a healthy approach to eating either.

A sustainable and healthy diet is one where a large proportion of the diet is made up of locally produced organic or permaculture grown plant food, with a small amount of pasture fed beef plus some organic free range chicken and eggs.

The subject of lamb production is another complex issue from a more Systems Approach.  The feeding patterns of sheep are such that wherever they graze they dramatically reduce the biodiversity of the landscape.  In reality, our so-called beautiful Lake District fells are sheep induced deserts with few species of plants, animals or insects. 

Pasture land by contrast, can have a much higher level of biodiversity and pasture land is a good sequester of carbon,  much better than conventionally farmed arable crops.  Going several steps further along this track, we should support rewilding our landscape – biodiversity and soil sequestration is the answer to climate change.

Conclusion

To support a sustainable lifestyle

Eat a lot less meat.

Eat some certified pasture-fed meat

Eat lots more vegetables, but only organic, biodynamic, permaculture grown ones.

Buy from organic farms, small-holdings, mixed farms and farmers markets where possible.

Buying food from small farmers supports sustainable agriculture and carbon sequestration.

 

References

Rewilding by Isobella Tree – there are lots of supporting references here.  Highly recommended reading.

Statistics from Wikipedia using information from DEFRA – in a more digestible form!

Some Stats

70% of UK land is in Agriculture

36% of all agricultural land is arable

64% of all agricultural land is pasture.

50% of crops are grains, a large proportion of which is grown as animal feed.  Of all cereals grown, wheat accounts for 65%.

Soil nutrient levels have dropped continually since the 1920’s.

Levels of nutrients in standard vegetables have therefore also dropped.

1926 MaCance made first analysis of vegetables

1940 McCance and Widdows produced  The Chemical Composition of Foods

100grams of different veg, fruit, cereals, meats, seafoods, beverages, sugars, preserves, sweetmeats, condiments and dairy.

In 51 years – to 1991 there has been

49% loss of Na

16% loss of K

24% loss of Mg

46% loss of Ca

27% loss of Fe

76% loss of Cu

Carrots have had a 75% loss of Mg

Broccoli has had a 75% loss of Ca

You need 10 tomatoes in 1991 to get the same Cu content as in 1 tomato in 1940

NPK  fertiliser encourages plant growth without the plant being healthy or having good nutrient levels.

In 2019, we are 28 years on from the date of the last big study so it is to be expected that levels will have dropped even more.

The soil is sick, so plants are sick which can only lead to sick people.

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Why can’t I stick to my healthy diet?

There are many reasons why it can be hard to eat a good healthy diet.  Temptation is of course the number one.  You see other people around you eating sweets, donuts, cakes and biscuits, drinking sugary drinks and you just want to join in too!  It is natural to want to be able to have the same experiences as those around you, because it helps you feel as if you belong.  Cravings are number two, probably.  There is often a time when the only thing you really want is a crunchy, sugary fix and nothing else will do.  

There are people who will say it is just a question of will power.  If you just have the will power you can do anything.  This is all very well but it comes from the “pull yourself together” school of helfulness.  That is, unhelpful, unsympathetic advice that you just don’t have the power to take on board because things are out of balance. 

People with some severe chronic diseases like diabetes or coeliac disease absolutely must stick with a restrictive diet or their health will deteriorate massively, but for some even the threat of osteoporosis or continuing irritable bowel is not enough to force the changes needed.

A friend of mine is an eye surgeon and she was telling me that more than half of her patients were diabetics, and she was treating them for diabetic retinopathy – a disease of the eye caused by high blood sugar levels.  If blood sugar levels stay high for a length of time, the sufferer will go blind.  If diabetics would only reduce their sugar levels and keep them under control by following the prescribed diet, she said she wouldn’t have many patients to treat. She also said that if she was told she would loose her sight if she were in the same position, she would definitely stick to the low sugar diet.

As most of us would agree, the threat of loosing ones sight ought to be a big enough motivator for healthy eating.  Yet so many people still can’t resist the foods that are making them blind and my friend wondered why.

There is an answer in the ancient philosophy of Chinese 5 Element Medicine. This philosophy with over 2000 years of observation on life, explains  how the human body is controlled by 5 governing and interrelated elements: Fire, Water, Wood, Earth, and Metal.  Each element governs the actions of two or more major organs, so, for example, the lungs and large intestine are governed by the metal element.  It may seem that these two organs are unrelated in function or appearance  so why would they both come under the same governance? However, both organs are organs of elimination.  The lungs rid the body of surplus carbon dioxide produced by the production of energy from food (and thereby regulate the pH or acid alkali balance of the whole body), and the large intestine eliminates solid food waste.  Another part of the body, not always considered to be an organ, the skin, is also an organ of elimination as the body eliminates salts and other unwanted metabolic waste, via sweat, so it is also a Metal element organ. 

As well as these organ and function correspondences in each element, there are emotional attributes too and the metal element is associated with the emotion of grief, or the need to let go – as we do to evacuate the bowels.  There is a flavour associated with metal and it is pungent, so spicy foods can be supportive to the Metal element provided they are not eaten in excess.

However when we look at the Earth element, we can start to see why sugar and sweet foods are so hard to give up.  The organs of the Earth element are the stomach and the spleen/pancreas.  These organs are concerned with digestion, with taking in nourishment and breaking it down ready for use by the body later.  The stomach secretes a protein digesting enzyme and hydrochloric acid which help to split large protein molecules into smaller ones ready for absorption, and the pancreas secretes many enzymes for the breakdown of protein, fat and carbohydrate foods groups.  Once broken down, the now small food particles can be absorbed from the gut into the blood stream. These functions make nourishment available to the cells and organs of the body, as our food has to be processed in order to be useful. Just as the Metal element was about Elimination, the Earth element is about Taking Things In. The flavour associated with the Earth element is sweetness.  This element also governs cycles such as menstruation, sleep, hormones, and our body clock.  Yellow and orange foods and sweet foods nourish this Earth aspect of our being. The Earth element is the most important because it is the source of all the others.

If the Earth element is deficient or in excess all the functions associated with it could be affected.  This will mean that we may not digest food well due to a lack of stomach acid or digestive enzymes, so we are not properly nourishing our body.  But also, on completely different level, if we are stressed our digestion (Earth Element organs) doesn’t work very well and so our Earth Element mal-functions.  Maybe you have noticed that food takes longer to ‘go down’ if you are stressed or you don’t feel like eating at all.  The same also applies if we have poor relationships with those around us. To cut a bit of a long story short, if we are emotionally undernourished it is difficult to stick to a nutrition program that eliminates sugars which is the sweet flavour which supports a feeling of well being.  We get cravings for sugar when we could really do with a cuddle or a sympathetic friend.  Sometimes we have got so used to shutting other people out due to feeling unsafe or being emotionally abused that we loose the ability to accept emotional nourishment when it is offered. Part of emotional nourishment is the sense of touch which brings connection.

Many years ago I was asked to recommend a healthy diet and supplements to a young man with special needs at a home which was part of a special college.  He had had a traumatic time during his early teens, often living on the street and having to go hungry.  At first the treatments went well and he was responding nicely, but then after about 4 weeks everything, not just the diet but also his behaviour deteriorated dramatically.  I asked the house parents if anything had changed recently and they said he was no longer receiving a weekly massage.  It seemed as if the massage was fulfilling some deep need in him that allowed him to take in the nourishment that was offered in this caring community.  But once the massage – and close touch connection, was withdrawn he relapsed again.  His Earth element was just so undernourished that he could not take in other forms of nourishment like food and as a result he collapsed on many levels.

So to get back to the question, “Why can’t I stick to a healthy diet?”, perhaps it is because you need to look at other areas of your life first, to find support for the Earth element so it is strong enough to take in and process our food properly which will then support the rest of the body, and then to feed the will (will-power). 

There are many ways to do this.  The Earth Element likes routines and regular habits.  Meals don’t have to be eaten at exactly the same time each day but a regular routine so that the body knows what is going to happen next is good. Do things that make you feel good.  Go for walks in nature, barefoot is you can – you want to connect with the Earth if possible and this is grounding.  Go to a comedy performance that will make you laugh or do fun things. Spend more time with the friends who are sympathetic and less time with those people who stress you out.  Have long soaks in the bath with lavender oil or some other pampering bath gel.  Book a series of massage sessions or healing sessions and turn up and relax. Avoid stressful films and TV series where there is violence and a sense of threat, instead watch things that make you feel positive.  Wear some yellow clothing!

Once your Earth element is more nourished, you may have less sugar cravings and more ‘will power’ to do what you need to do to get healthy.

This theory may be the root cause of the success of slimming clubs, where the comradarie and support of fellow dieters, is as important or even more essential than the diet programme itself.

If you like this theory and want to know more than see Traditional Acupuncture: The Law of the Five Elements by Dianne M Connelly

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Time to Ditch Wheat

Ever since I changed to a restrictive, but healthy, diet to address Chronic Fatigue syndrome, over 25 years ago, I have prided myself on continuing to eat organic and healthy food.  Then, two years ago, after a time of huge stress, I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, an auto-immune disorder where sufferers react to gluten in foods, even in the smallest amounts.  The test result astounded me.   I am a nutritional therapist and eat a healthy diet so how did that happen!  There was a strong sense of irony as I had recommended avoiding gluten containing wheat to lots of clients and now it was going to be off limits to me too – for ever.

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The change to a gf diet was actually not too difficult for me as I didn’t eat wheat-laden junk food, or cakes and biscuits regularly – or so I thought.  However what I didn’t realise at the beginning, is just how pervasive and invasive gluten is in our home, our food, and our environment.

Not only do Coeliacs have to exclude all wheat containing products like the obvious bread, pastry, biscuits and cakes, but also foods with a little wheat in them which includes less obvious things such as burgers and meat balls, sausages, black pudding, ham with a breadcrumb crust, sauces, taramasalata, guacamole, crab pate and many others.  My husband has become very used to hearing ‘Why on earth do they put wheat in that!”  Very often wheat is not a necessary ingredient, just a filler and there are lots of alternatives. 

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When one takes out other gluten containing foods like barley, rye, couscous, bulgar wheat, and oats plus foods containing extracts from them, another huge batch of foods has to be excluded.  Some coeliacs can tolerate gf oats but its best to avoid them as they still contain a form of gluten though different from wheat gluten.  Spirit vinegar and malt vinegar and malted products are out too as they are made from barley, and this includes most chutneys and many sauces.  And then there is wheat in cosmetics such as when vitamin E or wheat germ oil is used, and I can testify that it does cause a reaction.  

So what does one eat?  Well obviously meat, fish, eggs, veg, fruit nuts and seeds.  Ah, but not necessarily.  If you read the small print on packets you can find that it says ‘may contain gluten’ or packed in an environment where gluten containing products are packaged”.  Coeliacs are so sensitive that this immediately cuts out another large number of products.

When I got my diagnosis I thought I could continue to eat mostly organic food, often bought from the health food shop.  But I was wrong.  The only uncontaminated grains and pulses sold by my health food shop are – quinoa and brown rice flakes.  I cannot buy rice, millet, nuts, seeds, or lentils because their supplier buys these products from China, presumably where they are grown, but all packaged in the same factory that handles wheat flour. (I am not sure that I would trust a Chinese organic certification label in any case).

This makes trying to have a healthy organic diet very difficult though I have found that Waitrose’s range of organic foods is not contaminated, and is presumably grown in other countries than China. But Waitrose does not offer a full range of the usual Health Foods.

The whole experience of being a Nutritional Therapist with Coeliac Disorder has made me realise just how pervasive wheat is in normal diets. It is probably present in around 80% of foods that people routinely eat.  Medical authorities wonder at the explosion of wheat allergies and autoimmune disease, and at the huge growth in the demand for gf food. Human digestion has not yet evolved to eat a diet containing the modern form of gluten, as wheat is amongst the most highly selectively bred foods in farming, and in any case, gluten is a very difficult protein to digest, which is why our ancestors allowed it to ferment with yeasts to help it break down.   It would seem that we are being set up, albeit by accident, to suffer from wheat allergies and intolerances.  

Most Nutritional Therapists will ask their clients to cut down or exclude wheat from their diet when giving health advice.  From a naturopathic perspective, wheat is considered suppressive to liver metabolism, pro-inflammatory and with negative effects on the immune system.  It is difficult to recover from ill-health while essential organ systems are operating below par. A colleague has said that she has observed that patients don’t make any progress unless they stop having wheat (and dairy which has similar problems).

Today, walking round the health food shop in search of brown rice flakes, it occurred to me that the whole ethos of the health food industry is based on eating wholemeal wheat. 

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There are so many products made with it and which take centre stage that it is as if the industry has forgotten that this is just one grain amongst many, and that it isn’t necessarily healthy even if it is organic and wholegrain. A loaf of home-made organic bread has become synomynous of the most healthy food one can eat.  And yet it isn’t – not by a long way.  

The acceptance of wholewheat as a healthy food means that a blind eye is being turned to its insidious use in a huge range of health food products.  Many people won’t realise that they are consuming so much of such an unhelpful food, thinking that they are eating a healthy diet because they buy their food from a Health Food Shop.

It is about time the health food industry caught up with its customers and modern science, to sell what customers are increasingly demanding – and it isn’t wheat products.  The upsurge of clean eating, detox diets and food sensitivities shows there is a demand to reshape what they offer.  It’s time to ditch the wheat.

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