Category Archives: Diet

Preachy – When Health Blogging Gets Ugly

As health bloggers, we want what’s best for our subscribers.

We want to make sure that we’re bringing good content which can help readers achieve their goals because we’re passionate about living healthier and happier lives.

Spreading the joy of a healthier life is good.

Well, yes and no…

We’re treading a fine line between what can help people and what can come across as bossy, preachy or overly invasive lifestyle advice.

When you become a preachy writer, you’ve reached the end of the road. It implies there is no more to learn about your subject. You’ve reached the pinnacle of enlightenment, which we know is impossible in the world of health.

New research and data crashes through the internet every single day. Scientists and health professionals are only just beginning to tap the potential of the human body for self-healing through diet and exercise. We barely understand the basic process by which our bodies function. How could we ever say to the people we write to: ‘I know it all, that’s it amigo, just follow me and you’re cured!’.

But how do you avoid that trap?

Can we go back to the place it all began? Why are we doing this? What did we want to achieve in the beginning? Even asking some of the harder questions we might be avoiding. Do we still care the same way that we did when we started? If we don’t, can we find a way back to caring?

When we look back on our starting point, we can come home to roost on our values and desires.

I started to tackle my own health issues which had become too pressing to ignore. I remember that feeling of helplessness, of not knowing what to do and the depression that followed. I was begging for someone to help me, to show me some compassion.

More doctors visits, more half-mumbled explanations, more anxiety and fear. Nobody felt the need to explain anything to me properly. They either didn’t feel it necessary, or they couldn’t be bothered. I’m the sort of person who likes to know how something works before I use it. Why should health be any different? Don’t we all deserve a clearer explanation?

I never wanted anyone to feel the way that I did. To suffer in silence and to be so paralysed by the sheer spread of information as to have no clue where to start, who to follow, and what health problem to target first.

We health bloggers need to keep in mind why we started blogging. Remind ourselves that we’re on a journey with our subscribers to better overall health, and that we don’t have all the answers, but we’re doing our best to find out what works. We’re trying to connect with the reader, demonstrate our driving values, our origin story, and walk with our audience arm in arm on a road to better understanding.

When we’re preachy, we’ve taken a wrong turn. We’ve shirked our responsibility for self-development, and we’re letting our followers down by giving up. That’s not fair to us or them. Never stop learning, growing and developing your ideas. And most importantly, take your readers with you from ignorance, to less ignorance, but never to full knowledge.

One more thing.

There’s a certain irony in this post that I think some may pick up on. ‘Well, Julian, this all seems a little bit like you’re telling us, rather than joining with us.’, and you would be right. I am telling. But the difference lies in what you’re trying to achieve. This is kinda autobiographical. I’m telling you, so that I can remind myself. This medium lends itself to telling. Telling stories, facts, opinions or the events of inspirational lives. We have to tell people things because that’s what we’re doing. We’re writing to people all over the world about how to improve their health.

As long as we remember that we’re teaching ourselves as well as others in the process, we’re not going to end up preachy. That’s the important bit. Listen to your voice and make sure it’s authentic, insightful and self-reflective.

We’re going somewhere. We don’t know all the answers, but we’re trying our best to get some clarity on some life-changing topics. We’re telling people what we’ve learned, but we’re not preaching that we have all the answers. We’re discovering together, and that’s what makes this whole thing so much fun.

Five Daily Habits That Can Help Aid Digestion Without Changing What You Eat

Changing you diet is hard, right?

This is a process that takes time. Eating scallops on a fresh bed of organic leaves, with an exotic coolie of immune boosting fruits and vegetables is not something most of us have time for, and it can be a little intimidating on day one of a big change.

That’s why I believe in small changes to habits which net a global positive impact on health.

If you’re still struggling to get your five a day, then that’s ok! No judgement here.

Remember, I’m somebody who has struggled all their life with food cravings and a crippling habit for junk food. I get it completely.

And besides, like I said, the best way to get into turning your diet around is to make incremental changes.

So, that got me to thinking. How do we positively improve digestion without changing anything about the core diet? Is it even possible?

Well, as always, I advocate for changes in diet as the fundamental basis for digestive health, especially in cases where food sensitivities may be present. That being said, I do believe that there are some things we can all do without upsetting the status quo, that can help support better digestive health.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at five changes which don’t uproot your lifestyle too much:

1. Drink More Water:

Some of you may be laughing in frog as this comes in as rule number one, but water is, in large part, what we’re made of. We’re approximately 50-60% water. We need lots of it for an array of vital metabolic processes, including digestion. If you can’t change anything else, try and carry a bottle of water with you wherever you go. When you’re sat down at work, on a walk, or going to school keep that bottle on your person. Wherever you are, even if you’re not able to kick some of the other drinks which might not be so healthy, adding water will help your gut health by assisting digestive enzymes in breaking down food. It’s actually the key ingredient, water, which allows enzymes to split molecules of food down into digestible chunks! Don’t underestimate it!

2. Take An Acid Supplement And Digestive Enzyme With Your Biggest Meal:

Those of us who are struggling with our digestion may not be producing enough enzymes and stomach acid to break food down properly. This is more important still when eating large meals, especially at the end of the day, when we actually have time to make something filling. Taking these digestive aids can ease inflammation by fighting the number of undigested particles which end up in the large intestine. This is where pathogens pounce, growing stronger and producing toxins which can breach the intestinal wall, create cellular damage in the body, and excite an irregular immune response.

3. Eat Fruit As A Snack:

I know this one sounds very straight forward (and possibly a little cheeky given the title of the article), but habits form through convenience. If you carry some fruit around with you, especially fruit that you enjoy eating and can access easily, you’re much less likely to slither over to the vending machine, lusting after forbidden snacks. Fruit is a better alternative to chocolate and sweets because it has natural vitamins, as well as fibre, which slows a sugar spike and feeds the good bacteria in your gut!

4. Meditate Once A Day:

As I mentioned in Meditation For Gut Health, your digestive system will thank you if you take a moment out of your busy, stressful day to breathe and relax. A stressed gut is a poor digester, and that will only contribute to undigested food reaching the large intestine, where nasty little bacteria and yeasts feast at our expense. Remember, we’re looking at what we can do without an entire diet overhaul, and ten minutes out of your day to breathe and relax the body can contribute to better gut health.

5. Get Your Shoes On And Go For A Walk:

Exercise encourages the good bacteria in the gut to produce butyrate, an extremely important biological molecule, which can help seal a compromised gut lining. The more butyrate your body is able to produce, the better your gut is able to seal itself and prevent bacterial toxins and undigested food from entering the blood stream. When this happens, we see a range of autoimmune reactions, and in the long term, multi-organ degeneration and chronic disease. A 30 minute walk during the day should help your body make more of this substance and help fight leaky gut! What’s not to like? Time to tie those laces and hit the tarmac!

Remember, everything we’re trying to do is fostering small changes for wider net benefit. Maybe you could try out one or two of these things, maybe you’ll want to do all of them! Whatever your decide, know that this is a process which takes time. Habits form when they’re sustainable, so I hope some of these are sustainable enough for you to have a go at in your day to day life, without rocking the boat too much.

Drink your water and step outside in the sun, let’s get this butyrate!

J

Students, You Should Get More Dietary Support At University

After living as a student for the typical three years in the UK, I KNOW for a fact that only the most minor fraction of students eat a healthy balanced diet.

Throw in copious amounts of alcohol, poor sleep, too much coffee (though coffee should not be seen as the enemy of digestive health) and stressful deadlines/ social engagements, and you have a recipe for DISASTER.

All of these factors have been shown to impact digestive health massively, and universities do absolutely nothing to support this process.

Many of you savvy readers may have heard of the gut-brain axis, how the state of your gut reflects the state of your mind. Depression is more and more seen as an issue of systemic inflammation in the body, which naturally impacts the brain (we should never think of the brain and the body as separate entities, they are very much reliant on, and influenced by, each other).

Students are the highest risk factor group in society for mental health issues, ranging from depression and anxiety most commonly, all the way to schizophrenia and bipolar less often.

In my mind, it doesn’t take a genius to pull the chords of connection together.

Students, having some of the most unhealthy lifestyles of any group in society, are suffering a mental health crisis because universities do not do enough to support their digestive health.

What blows my mind, having known that these places claim to be the epicentres of enlightenment, the pinnacles of intelligent discovery, is that there is still no self-reflective awareness of the impact of this stressful student lifestyle on student mental and physical health.

This is a tragedy which has lasting ramifications.

Though I am a firm believer in the power of the gut to heal itself under the right conditions, I also know that this is a process that can take YEARS. People can be set back whole periods of their life just because they are not being properly supported by their institution.

What is more, not everyone’s digestive health is equal. Some people make it through unscathed, others are brought to their knees. Those who already experienced mental illness before university, those who have neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD and autism, and those with autoimmune disorders need even more care during this stressful time. I don’t think it’s fair that those who start out with poor digestive health should end up paying for that more than those who are resilient.

We need to be acknowledging this crisis and should be providing health workshops for university students. Showing them the tips and tricks which can bring health back into their lives, but won’t burn a hole in their wallet (we know you’re on a tight budget). Exams need to be arranged to avoid unreasonable stresses and allow good sleep. Controversially perhaps, I think freshers week is a disaster. Alcohol promotion gone wild. Stop pushing alcohol on young people who’s gut flora are more sensitive (studies are beginning to demonstrate that gut flora becomes more stable as you age, but may still be easily influenced in young people). Instead, foster a community where people can talk and play games together, even eat or cook a healthy meal together. This emphasis on booze is a catastrophe for students and irresponsible of learned institutions.

I spent three years at university and on reflection, I let the stress of this lifestyle damage my mental and physical health massively. Looking back on it, there was very little support and I had a sensitive constitution to begin with. I really suffered. My health deteriorated to such a point that by third year I had to move back in with my parents and drive to university for lectures and seminars. I was a wreck.

Students, don’t blame yourselves for your depression, anxiety or struggles with university. This is a very unnatural environment which puts multi-pronged stressors on your body. You are going to feel the impact of that, especially if you have a sensitive constitution. Instead, empower yourself and others to heal the damage, by learning which foods you can and cannot tolerate, and affording yourself the rest and relaxation needed for recovery.

I know I felt very alone in that environment and I could sense something wasn’t quite right, but it’s hard to put your finger on it when you’re in it.

I’m rooting for you and I hope this post makes you feel a bit more normal in a really strange place.

Please also like, comment and subscribe to heathen.life in the right top hand corner for more healthful information.

Keep well and learn to nourish your body.

J

How Your Nose Can Be A Window Into Your Digestive Health

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had acne.

Many people experience this in their teens, but the unfortunate few will continue to experience this problem into their adult lives.

I am one of the unfortunate few.

I was confused too. Yes, I was a chubby child and weight can contribute, but I spent a good few years of my adult life at a relatively healthy weight range. The acne persisted!

I was always aware that my nose was constantly inflamed, always red and sometimes blistered with acne. Some days I would wake up and my face hurt so badly I could barely move it.

And when I went to the source of authority, the doctor, they just blamed a genetic predisposition to excess sebum production (sebum is a natural oil that the body makes and excretes through the skin). I left with a sense of ‘there’s nothing you can do’ about the whole thing.

Still, that never really clicked with me. Something intuitive inside me had related diet to nose redness and acne. I noticed that when I drank alcohol I would experience severe flare ups in a few days, and I’d wake up from a hangover with skin that was far more oily than usual. If I went and binged on sugar or bought fast food, I’d experience the same thing. There was something going on. I knew that, but I couldn’t put the pieces together until much later.

So what does a red nose mean?

Primarily, it signals inflammation in the digestive tract and problems in the immune system. When the immune system completely fails, you get autoimmune diseases like lupus (often diagnosed by a rouge butterfly rash on the bridge of the nose and a bright red nose). Alcoholics who drink far too much end up with bright red noses, signalling liver failure. A red nose can also be a risk factor for heart disease.

What people don’t realise is that all of these issues are linked and they originate in the gut. Your skin is an incredibly complex organ which wants you to understand that there’s a problem. Signs like redness or acne indicate an internal problem, requiring an internal solution.

Please, if you take nothing else away from this article, believe that your skin issues can be reduced significantly by tackling your digestive issues.

I want to show you how my own nose has improved after about a month of eating less inflammatory foods, intermittent fasting, drinking kefir and making sure to hydrate regularly.

Image may contain: one or more people and close-up

[ABOVE] One month ago, eating a standard diet with lots of preservatives and carbs, as well as milk products. Notice the typical blotchy effect on the nose, which has begun to spread further out across the bridge of the nose. 

Image may contain: one or more people and close-up

[ABOVE] A photo from today, following a much cleaner diet with wholefoods, no dairy, kefir and lots of water. Notice, the nose is no longer blotchy, there is a smoother appearance and less red/ purple discolouration. 

As you can see, we have definite improvement! I don’t recommend massive changes, but small incremental ones which can impact overall health. I make sure to test these things on myself before recommending them, because I want to make sure that the facts are really verifiable. The diet industry is full of misinformation.

You will, of course, experience some setbacks. Your body will occasionally react to something and you may see a flare up, but if the bottom image is your general state, give or take a few flare ups here and there, you’re moving towards better digestive health.

And though this is a blog for sharing information about better health, it is also a place to share my own progress on this journey. I was so hopeless and depressed when I began. I couldn’t see a way back. I thought my life was going to be a slow and steady decline in health, filled with more and more miserable doctor’s appointments. I couldn’t carry on like that, so I am really proud of myself for taking a step in the right direction. Reading, researching and sharing with my subscribers keeps me on the right track and hopefully helps you figure out your way too. That’s really all I can hope for. Let’s keep going together!

I hope you’re all staying well during this time and feeding yourself good, nutritional foods that support your overall health.

Have you experienced any similar skin improvements when changing your diet? Post your before and after pictures below, I’d love to see them!

Please like, comment and subscribe to Heathen.life for more health and well-being information and keep yourself on the road to recovery!

 

Three Common Ideas In Keto, Paleo and Vegan Diets That Actually Promote Total Health

If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly searching for the latest information and breakthroughs in the world of health. You’re searching because you’ve been affected by any number of setbacks which you’ve pinned down to your diet. You’re an intelligent person. You know that research can put you ahead of the curve and pull you out of your own physical and mental obstacles. 

Diet is a key pillar of overall health, along with the other basics, so you know it’s important to nail right? But it’s stressful! We are constantly bombarded by information, most of it bad, some of it ineffective, if not harmful, and yet fewer golden nuggets, truth bombs which work every time. 

Now, I won’t claim to have all the golden pieces. But, I can tell you that I’ve sifted a lot of dietary information. The perks of being something of a hypochondriac will drive you to rinse the medical literature for answers. I’m not proud of that weakness, but it’s something that improves every day my health does. 

Nevertheless, after sifting through that information and the prevailing popular diets of our era, there do appear to be some rules which apply across these very different approaches that could be the key to better health REGARDLESS of how you want to approach it. With that in mind, let’s quickly blast through a few notable connections that you can remember when you’re choosing foods at home. 

1. No Artificial Products/ Focus On Wholefoods: 

It’s quite clear that serious paleo, keto and vegan dieters all share a profound aversion for artificial products. When I say artificial, we’re talking anything which has a list bigger than ONE food item, or, consists of less than FIVE items, all of which you can reasonably understand the origins of. For example, all whole foods are just one item in their ingredient list. Items which might have more than one ingredient, but could still be very healthy are things like organic breads and maybe even some cheeses which are combined with dried fruits etc. If you don’t understand the ingredient as a wholefood in itself, DON’T buy it. Generally, the more complex the list, the less healthful the product! 

2. Focus On Organic Produce: 

Again, all three of these diets ask you to look at what organic produce you can buy. Organic foods tend to have less hormones, antibiotic, pesticides and genetic modification than their commercial counterparts. These added poisons can be hard to remove and can hurt the healing process. 

3. Focus On Healthy Fats:

Keto and Paleo encourage fatty cuts of meat so that your body can absorb the healthy omega 3 and 6 unsaturated fats. Vegan diets focus on a lot of coconut oil, avocado and olive, as well as a push towards naturally fatty products like avocados. These healthy fats really contribute to healing the gut lining by providing the body with the building blocks it needs to heal. Remember, a huge portion of the body is made from fat, the brain is almost entirely fat! 

That’s three connections across these prevailing big boys of the dieting world. If you are finding it tough to follow any one diet, avoiding multi ingredient foods, trying to eat more organic produce and getting more of your nourishment from saturated fats may help your digestion improve without the need for strict adherence to any one of the three.

The whole point of this blog is about demystifying the dieting world for my subscribers. I love to find patterns and trends which can act as hacks for better health! 

Let’s see what we can find!

J

 

 

Caffeine Is Not The Enemy

Caffeine has long been implicated in anxiety and depression disorders, as well as a range of physical ailments like IBS, stomach irritation and even conditions of the bladder and pelvis, like interstitial cystitis and chronic pelvic pain, affecting both men and women.

And it’s true that caffeine does appear to exacerbate irritation in already compromised bodies where inflammation is already surfacing.

This is purely anecdotal information by the way, but I do feel that my own experience is really important in shedding light on this issue, so I’m going to give you my view. Please, take it with a pinch of salt and if you need to do your own independent research, I absolutely welcome an independent mind.

For years, I tried to quit coffee. I was addicted. I just loved the taste, and it was one of the only things that could give me a lick of focus, just a little respite from the constant brain fog that affected me daily. I thought that if I could just get rid of this addiction, I could focus again, but I was looking in the wrong place. The single biggest change for me in my health and cognition was reducing sugar and ELIMINATING dairy.

I was suffering with chronic pelvic pain, which I thought was being caused by the irritative effects of caffeine, as so many medical advisory articles suggest. I had developed this pain after a recurrent uti, which is uncommon in men, but nevertheless affected my quality of life significantly. I found myself embarrassed by the number of trips to the toilet I had to take in the office and concerned that it might be brought up by management. I didn’t really want to discuss something like that, which as some of you who suffer with bladder discomfort will know, often seems too private to discuss with colleagues or bosses.

Men, this is especially important for you, as nearly all of us will experience this at some point in our lives, often caused by prostate inflammation or acute bacterial infection. Prostatitis, as it is named, is uncomfortable, and reduces quality of life in people who experience chronic versions that persist for months and even years.

The prostate is close to the intestine, and the lymphatic systems form the bridge between the large intestine and both the prostate and bladder. This is really important when you see your bladder and prostate health within the context of your digestive health. Organs that lie adjacent to the intestine are inevitably affected by the poor health of the gut and can contribute to these painful bladder issues. If you suffer with this kind of chronic inflammation men and women, you must look to your digestion to fix the problem. I really cannot stress that enough. Clean up your diet and things will improve in nearly every other system of the body.

Fast forward to today, after making a huge effort towards better gut health, my bladder problems are almost non-existent. Just by introducing goat kefir every day, a prebiotic/ probiotic supplement, lower overall sugar intake and elimination of all milk products, many of my health problems have improved significantly.

I still drink coffee mind you.

I drink it black.

My bladder and digestive health has never been better.

I have to be honest and say what I see. Caffeine is not the monster for me, though many medical establishments would say it is. It’s those other insidious substances which have really wrecked my health.

So, from my perspective, you don’t have to give up coffee to improve your intestinal health and subsequently, your overall health. You really need to focus on eliminating your food sensitivities. Often dairy is a massive problem. Processed sugar is terrible for your digestion. Additives can really cause harm (no more diet coke please!). Clean up these areas and you’re going to become healthier, happier and more productive, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up coffee!

A bit of good news for everyone I’m hoping.

Enjoy your beans people!

J

Blame FAT SOCIETY, not fat people

The blame game.

We love to play it, but does pointing the finger really help us move forward?

Often when we reflect on blame, we find that it’s not always as satisfying as we expect, even though in many cases, it might be our first impulse.

Fat people.

The last acceptable bias in society.

Free game for laughter, shaming and bullying.

Most people will tell you that a fat person is an acceptable object of abuse because they can change their habits, they can become thin.

And they would be right. It is definitely possible to become thin when you started out fat, but we aren’t looking at the bigger picture.

Over the last few centuries, people have been getting bigger.

Obesity is the single largest (forgive me) health crisis in the west. We are spending astounding amounts of money on the end stage results of fatness.

Roll it back 2-300 years and almost nobody was fat. It just didn’t happen.

So, if society as a whole was thinner a century a go, is it fair to blame the fat individual for their weight? Do fat people just not try hard enough to eat well?

Based on everything we’ve seen so far, with rising obesity levels throughout the entire population, that would imply that society is losing its willpower? That every subsequent generation is just that little bit lazier, more sluggish and weak minded. Does anyone really believe that? I don’t think there is any evidence for it. So why do you say that about the individual fat person? Why is the onus on them to be thin, when all of society is wider than ever? It just doesn’t make sense to bash fat people in light of the scientific trend toward obesity documented copiously in the medical corpus.

This is where we come to the title of this article. Pointing fingers at individuals is never helpful and completely misplaced. We are facing an obesity epidemic because society is FAT.

Let me explain.

Antibiotics are pumped into all of our meat and dairy, pesticides, growth hormones and a myriad of synthetic fertilisers engorge our plants and make them grow to monstrous proportions. Our fruits and vegetables are genetically tweaked to include MORE sugar, to yield MORE oil and to stay fresher for longer. Our water is flooded with flouride, hormones and even antibiotics. SUGAR, the number one substance contributing to this epidemic, is cheaper than ever and in more of our foods.

When we head to a shop, everywhere we are bombarded by snacks filled with inflammatory oils like canola, sunflower and palm, added sugar, which goes by names so exotic you’d need a masters in food production to decode a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, and preservatives of such abundance and diversity as to make jelly belly beans corp… well… jelly.

We are drowning in chemicals. Seemingly harmless products like yogurt and prepackaged salads contain teaspoons of sugar while claiming to support health. The food industry is deceitful to a fault, and if they were not regulated, we would be even worse off than we are now.

And what is it doing to us? Our digestive system cannot handle the abundance of damaging foods which are put on us unknowingly. Those of us who have become overweight have been the first to fall. Thin people, thank your good genetics amongst other things for your ability to stave off the fat, but eventually, even good genes will fail if we continue on this path.

Studies of the microbiome of the intestinal tract of obsese mice present some astounding findings. The most important of all being that in these mice, the microbiota are less diverse. Fat intestines are emaciated digestive landscapes. We are blaming fat people for the forest in their abdomen, but while they suffer with a digestive wildfire, their thin counterparts have stronger and more diverse intestinal landscapes.

When the gut biome fails, it makes room for pathogenic bacteria and glutinous carb/ sugar loving organisms. These bacteria, as described in GUT, could theoretically influence the host’s satiety and hunger levels, forcing them to eat more sugar by signalling the body to crave them. This reminds me of the cordyceps mushroom which takes over the host ant and makes it climb the canopies of trees to give the mushroom lots of light, to grow our of the dead ants HEAD (yuck). In this respect, we should treat the microbiome as something which can work in our favour to promote health, or against us, parasitically influencing us to gobble down more sugary fuel for their benefit.

Again, should we blame obese people for their fat bodies when we are only beginning to learn that our own intestinal tract, populated by a range of influential bacteria, can influence what we want to eat? And, that our society, pumping us full of the things which promote pathogens, is not at least somewhat to blame for fat people becoming fat?

What about fat children? You might say it was the parents. But, what about in cases where the child is fat, but not the parents? Children don’t actively attempt to gain weight and if their parents are not always fat as well, how can we blame them for their own obesity? Something else is at play here and it is not fat people’s unbridled gluttony.

So, fat people, unburden yourself from the shame which has been levied against you. You are not to blame for your weight (you probably already knew that anyway).

That doesn’t mean that you should continue to do the same thing. There are many ways you can start to improve you health. Two posts I created recently on fermentation and intermittent fasting can help you begin to regain some control over FAT SOCIETY.

At any rate, don’t forget that there are still whole foods, and cooking from scratch/ eating fruits, vegetables and free range meats and dairy are the best options in fat society. Go for foods that you know are single label. I’m talking bananas, cabbage, carrots, lettuce. Anything that comes with a list of ingredients is probably doing your body a disservice. Make it from scratch and claim back your health!

FAT SOCIETY WILL NOT WIN.

Leave a comment, like or share this with a friend!

J

 

 

 

Fermentation – An easy way to store veg and promote gut health.

It has been my pleasure in recent weeks to soak up the art of fermentation.

This involves something close to pickling a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but not quite.

Lacto-fermentation does not involve added sugar, so many products are more savoury once they ferment. Nevertheless, the range of foods that you can use in fermentation are staggering, each blend unique. The process is quick and simple, yielding probiotic pickles that help support your gut biome.

I had dabbled in this for a while, reading about it online and researching recipes for a range of fermented foods like Kefir, Kimchi and Saurkraut, but I took a dive and bought The Noma Guide To Fermentation on Amazon, plunging into it’s passionate and informative manual of frothy foods and drinks.

This is a wondrous book which provides all the central theory on fermenting your own foods, and the best bit, the lack of prescription. Noma advises us to play around with fermentation, finding blends of fruits, vegetables and spices which create exceptional flavours and unique taste bud experiences.

The key is salt.

Salting your foods in a correct ratio, somewhere at about 2% of the biomass of fruit and veg, will yield a fermented product in 3-5 days.

You can also try adding spices and herbs to these ferments to bring flavours together.

Kimchi blends cabbage, chilli, garlic and ginger with salt, creating a delicious gut friendly addition. I did in fact have some of this today with my lunch. It makes a delicious accompaniment to an omelette or scrambled eggs, as well as with a sandwich, maybe even as an addition to your healthy salad.

Fermented fruits and vegetables, touting all of the above qualities of ease, health and flavour are also among some of the most versatile foods in the world. What savoury dish does not benefit from the tart fizz of fermented foods? I challenge you to come up with one! You can add fermented foods to almost any dish to enhance flavour. The juices can help to build up a stock or gravy, can be poured over a prepared meal for some added zing, and can even added to deserts to make them pop! Fermented fruits and veggies are literally oozing complexity and utility from simplicity.

Aside from Kimchi, I plan to use my monstrously fertile rhubarb plants (seriously, these ancient garden stalks are like a hydra, they cannot be killed and grow back stronger when you cut them down) for a lacto-fermented rhubarb recipe which I found here. What I love about this is the blend of fragrant cardamom and fiery ginger with a seriously unique use for a tart vegetable (yes, rhubarb is a vegetable! hard to believe, I know). Some of the most fascinating ferments involve salted fruits and veggies which you might normally find in sweet dishes. One of Noma’s most famous ferments involves the gooseberry, a sour green hairy grape that pairs beautifully with fermentation. Sour fruits and vegetables shine in this process. The natural sourness of these fruits and vegetables can create beautifully tart surprises.

To boot, fermented fruits and vegetables can last months in the fridge. They don’t really go off, if prepared correctly, but be warned, the taste can become pretty intense the longer you leave them! Nevertheless, if everything else I’ve said on the subject hasn’t swayed you, what will you do with all your greens and colourful fruits come winter (the gardeners among you especially will want to make the most of your painstakingly raised produce)? At the end of the summer season, when you harvest your garden’s bounty, what better way to pay homage to your labour, than to preserve and pickle your hard work, letting it give back to you all through the winter!

Fermentation provides a literally endless supply of opportunities for us humans. It allows us to venture into a weakly explored territory of new flavours and culinary experiences (arguably something our ancestors understood well, but largely forgotten in a modern setting). It can add something special to almost any meal you make. Every blend produces a new and exciting flavour combination, influenced by the type of bacteria growing on the fruits and vegetables you use (all the more reason to grow your own!). It naturally aids our digestive tracts, which are constantly bombarded by unnatural chemical soups and processed junk. And finally, it lasts, giving you the benefit of your hard work all through the winter!

What more could you possibly want? It’s a no brainer to get into fermentation!

Keep well and enjoy learning, and if you liked this article, please share it with a friend or loved one who can benefit!

J

Intermittent Fasting – An easy, simple and powerful aid to better health.

As with many trends in the dieting industry, us seasoned veterans apply a liberal amount of scepticism to new and rising health fads.

We know, for instance, that you’ll often only hear the good, when there are certainly hidden consequences or trade-offs that come with making these drastic changes.

It’s our job to cut the wheat (yuck) from the chaff, and make sure that we make informed decisions based on a thorough understanding of both the pros and cons.

Keto has become a massively popular dietary trend in America, and has genuinely helped epileptic patients when drugs fail, and anecdotal evidence is growing that it can help diabetics shut down a cycle of sugar dependency, lose weight and become healthier.

All well and good, but the research is up in the air.

Studies suggest that long-term, the diet is hard to stick to, and when it fails, many dieters end up back where they started. Also, what are the side-effects of a long-term high-fat, high-salt diet? Some research suggests kidney damage, dangerous blood lipid profiles, and in some cases, death. In the short term, many users can experience horrible side-effect such as serious constipation and diarrhoea, palpitations, cramping, thirst, hypoglycemia, orthostatic hypotension and low-blood pressure.

It’s all too easy to find a new diet that touts extraordinary health benefits, wrap yourself up in the concepts and notions which support it, and turn a blind eye to the criticisms. More so when we consider that the internet is an echo chamber. Youtube’s algorithms show you what you want to see. Re-affirming what you watch. It’s force feeding you a truth that you want to hear. We must remain vigilant to the comforting cotton-wool like nature of social media and video sites which wrap us up in a cosy spool of ignorance.

So, what can we do? Remain critical of dietary trends, absolutely. Search google for literature on the efficacy of Keto for example. Search for side-effects, long term success rates, dangers and limitations of current data. This will give you a much more impartial attitude to your health and hopefully lead you to some safe and healthy middle grounds.

And of course, the best way to know how effective a diet or lifestyle change is, is to try it. We perpetually offer ourselves up as lab rats, eating the latest health food and documenting the effects. Thankfully, being in an age of relative enlightenment, we usually find either something doesn’t help at all, or it helps a little, or even a lot. We’re not usually faced with things which can really make us seriously ill. Thank you ancestors for poisoning yourselves for our gain!

With that in mind, I have been trying Intermittent Fasting, which displays promising evidence for being achievable every day, simplifying a busy lifestyle, and most importantly, reducing insulin sensitivity and promoting cognitive focus!

As I said earlier, we need to be careful with these kinds of changes. Intermittent Fasting can put the body into starvation mode, slowing the metabolism and destroying the bodies ability to deliver appropriate nutrition and energy to vital organs. The impact of this can range from fatigue, brain fog and low mood, to severe eating disorders and systemic organ failure. However, this tends to become a problem when people reduce their caloric intake as well as fast and continue to do this for long periods of time – not my approach!

So I’ve been fasting for two weeks on a 16:8 plan, which means that I fast for 16 hours a day and eat in an 8 hour window. It usually means I eat at 12 and stop eating at 8, with a little give and take here and there. I usually eat 2 meals a day of a relatively good size, with my first meal containing almost no carbs from wheat, potato or rice etc and my last meal of the day may contain a moderate amount of these carbs (though I try to avoid wheat and potato as both gluten and nightshades may irritate a sensitive digestive system). This actually prevents my body from going into ketosis, which it does not tolerate well, for all of the short term side-effects already listed above.

So, what has it been like?

Well, I have been really happy with the results!

As someone who has a big sweet tooth and is a bit of an emotional eater, fasting has completely curtailed my need for sweets. I just don’t feel a craving for them anymore. I haven’t had any chocolate the whole time and I haven’t wanted any! Miraculous and probably one of my favourite things about this change. This shows that my blood sugar is more controlled and that’s really important in staving off chronic illnesses like diabetes.

My blood pressure has also come down from about 140/90 which is just about borderline high blood pressure, to anywhere from 120/ 80 – 130 -80. This is an incredible reduction in just two weeks. I tried a lot of things prior to this to bring that number down, but very little I did seemed to work. This has been such a simple change to implement and is already significantly impacting my health and well being.

My skin has cleared up. I suffered from moderate acne all of my life. I still have the occasional spot, but the number of breakouts has reduced significantly. I’m losing weight. My trousers are baggier and my stomach is flatter. I have Sebhorrheic Dermatitis which is a more severe form of dandruff, which flairs up from time to time in a very bad way. This has also reduced, though not fully disappeared yet. Joint pain had begun to set in. Periodic sharp pain in my hip and knees became less noticeable and problematic. Asthma, which I acquired recently has been barely a concern since I made this change.

Overall, I am very pleased with the progress I have been making with this change, which has also simplified my lifestyle and is really quick and easy to implement. I’m seeing real, tangible health benefits which are not coming with nasty side-effects. It almost seems too good to be true!

We’re still in the early period at the moment and the proof in how effective this change is will come after I can say I’ve managed to stick with it long-term, but so far, it’s an exciting start to better health!

Join me if you can and try it out for a week, maybe it will help you as well!

Keep safe and well,

J

Childhood Obesity is Not a Child’s Fault

I was always big on food.

Since my earliest memory, I coveted chocolate and found comfort in sweet fruits and sugary snacks.

And loving food isn’t exactly the problem that causes obesity, but it was a problem for me.

By the age of ten, I was significantly overweight. By my late teens, I was on the cusp of obesity.

I had experienced an extreme and persistent emotional storm up until my 20s, where I began to settle a little and figure out where I was and how to fix it. I would describe my childhood as memories wrapped in fine web. They are not clear to me, but, like the spider who spins the silk, some insidious creeping evil lingers on thin, webbed sheets. Emotional abuse? Maybe? I am not sure. Memories a mind wraps in cotton wool, like the webbing that wraps a spider’s lunch, suggests some mind gore not easily tended to or mended.

I think, my point it this…

That, before I could even process that I was eating poorly, under the trust of parents, my body was wrecked before I had a chance to realise what had happened.

The legacy of that damage has caused mental and physical health problems that have severely impacted my life in many areas.

I have some degree of hatred for my body, so internalised these days that I actively avoid bringing this up with anyone. It’s just normal for me to feel disappointed in the way that I look.

I often have feelings that link my self-worth to my shape. It’s so hard not to do this when you absorb so much of the language and feel of the culture that you live inside. A language which is very much hostile to your existence.

And, when I think about it, is that just and fair to the children who suffer with being overweight and obese?

I hated my body as soon as I realised society hated it too. I have carried that burden since I came into my prime. The years of my life which were supposed to be so enriched with vitality, excitement and purpose, have been wracked with anxiety, spiritual desiccation and self-flagellation.

So many years of my life stolen to misery for something I had almost no control over. I was a child. I had no idea the ramifications for social status, happiness, longevity and vitality, but still I have felt ostracised and vilified.

It is not fair to assume all fat people have only themselves to blame. Childhood obesity is a problem that arises outside of that individual’s control and insidiously chews at their happiness and well-being before a chance is given to process it and address it.

I have struggled with my weight all of my life and am still lighter than I was at my heaviest. I try my best to exercise and work on my health, but much of the damage is already done and it was done before I even knew.

Not all fat people come to be fat through gluttony.

Some just existed, often within houses of emotional volatility and neglect, and then they woke up to adulthood. They were fatter than they should have been, but didn’t know why.

With love and well wishes to all bodies,

J