Tag Archives: digestive health

To Beat Chronic Illness You Have to Trust Your Gut

When dealing with chronic physical and mental illness, who will help us but our instincts?

Chronically Ill People

Nobody can tell you why you hurt. People call you ‘whiner’, ‘hypochondriac’, or even worse, they ignore your pain altogether. 

You’re hurting, not just inside, but in your very bones. It’s difficult living with pain you can’t pinpoint and symptoms as mysterious and worrying as they are diffuse and intangible. 

You’re not getting any where with doctors. They tell you over and over again: ‘your bloods are fine’, ‘you have depression’, ‘you need to take it easy’. And you try your best to do this, but you aren’t winning. So, you continue to push for answers. 

The problem is, nobody has the answers. Nobody who we consider reputable anyway. And by reputable, I mean medically sanctioned. The issue here is that medical sanctions apply to medical research, and when the research comes up on chronic illness, it comes up extremely short indeed. 

University was a trigger point for me. I didn’t fit in. I wasn’t part of the cut throat bullshit that kept the private school feeder college kids energized. They loved to jibe and poke at each other, find ways to get underneath the skin, and into the mind. It was an unpleasant, jarring experience. For a while, my mind took the brunt, but eventually, like an ass overburdened, my body broke too. 

I started getting ill more often. At first it was just small things, like breathing problems during the summer after exams, when the quiet period allowed my body to feel the emotional pain it had endured during the whole year. By the end of second year, however, I was a wreck. I had a slipped disk which had caused all manner of painful nerve problems, and a degree of numbness that persisted. It got so bad that I could not walk properly at one point. The MRIs spat back data suggesting it was ‘nothing serious’, but it didn’t feel like that to me. 

I endured increasingly bizarre health complications. I couldn’t breathe — something like asthma was taking hold. I had heart palpitations, more severe by the day. I experienced numbness and tingling in my hands and feet. My bones ached in my ankles, knees, and hips. My blood pressure was extremely high all of the time. The list of problems spun out of control. 

Nobody could help me. The doctors were not listening, and appeared unconcerned by the raw data they were getting back — all the while, my quality of life plummeted. I was getting nowhere. 

It’s at this breaking point —  when you really have to decide to give up and die, or get up and do something —  that you really put your life into perspective. 

I realized, ‘Julian, nobody is going to save you from this, you have only yourself, and your intuition to guide you — use it, and get better.’

So, I listened to that voice, telling me to guide myself, to trust my gut, ironically, one of the first places I focused my healing energies. I’d always had some digestive issues, but I largely ignored them. What can you really do about it? You feel kind of powerless when it comes to your stomach. It’s used every day. You seem to feel as though it should handle the task its set without complaint. Everyone else seems to manage it, why can’t you stomach it too? 

Well, I started to realize, our bodies really do have weak points — places, organs, or points that need fortifying. Many have a weakness in the stomach, but it’s just not something that we try to manage or intuitively fix. We just carry on until something really bad happens and we need surgery. This is a disaster. We need to fortify these weak points before we end up in hospital. Every single one of our organs can do its job well if we give it what it needs. 

But it takes a lot of work. We have to do research. We have to be prepared to look outside what is considered scientifically justifiable. There is so much that science has the barest grasp, and people with chronic illness are the first to know about this. They are the first to learn the limitations of science when it comes to fixing their health. Once you realize just how thin the net is, you learn to make your own net. You cannot rely on medical interventions for your health. Some of them are ineffective, some still are down right dangerous and unnecessary. Now, I am not anti-science, and I am not anti-medicine, but I do think that when it comes to chronic illness, we have a disastrously poor grasp on what is causing it. An open mind is the only way to better health. 

I’ve read some very out there stuff. How about Anthony Williams, the ‘Medical Medium’? He writes about chronic health issues, and he gets his answers from a spirit that guides him by talking to him in his head. Do I rule it out as fraudulent? No, I let my intuition guide me. Does the message seem genuine? Are people getting better? If the answers are ‘yes’, then who am I to discount it? 

I’m serious. If you’re battling chronic illness, you need to be open to ideas that fly directly in the face of the concrete bastion of the scientific method. You are not going to get the answers that you need or want there. It is going to be grueling, and you are going to doubt what you are doing at times, but you must trust yourself. If nothing else, having faith in your mind and body will help you get better. Many people who suffer from chronic illness have lost both, and that is a tragedy. 

My point is, there is much we don’t understand, and when nobody understands you, or what you are going through, you are going to have to find ways to understand it yourself, many of which will seem very bizarre indeed to the vast majority of society. That’s none of your concern. You are listening to your intuition and following a path of learning. You’re a pioneer, and a marauder on the edge of understanding. You have got to believe in yourself and use your feelers to find the truth. This truth may be heretical, even absurd to many, but that is not for you to worry about. What you care about is getting better, so get better, by any means necessary. You’re going to learn a lot about yourself on the way, and trust me, it’ll be worth it. 

Just in case you don’t know, I’m doing better everyday. Many of my health issues are clearing up. I’m becoming happier. I trust myself and my body. I listen to the birds, the trees, the earth, and the sky, and I believe in that. I believe that the universe supports us when we listen to it, so I’m letting it guide me, by putting my faith in that spiritual reality. I’m only at the beginning, and all because I listened to a man who hears voices in his head. I think I’ll keep an ear out for the plants and trees, maybe they’ll have something to say about it too? Nothing is too weird. Keep pushing for the confidence in your life, your soul, and the spirit of Earth. It is waiting patiently for you to listen.

Trust your gut. Heal it, if you need to. Be prepared for a bumpy ride. You’re going to end up in places nobody else understands. What an exciting opportunity. Use that gift to build confidence in your life and spirit. It’s a turning point for anyone. You might need to walk on the fringe, but if that’s how you get better, does it matter? I guess that’s for you to decide. 

Follow Heathen for more stories on the cross section of health, spirituality, and mental wellbeing. Share with anyone who needs the message of love and support that lies within.

Three Coffee Hacks That Will Change Your Life

Drink better coffee today following these sexy hacks

I’m not joking when I say coffee is more important to me than everything I hold dear in this world. I’d push my own mother off a cliff for a bag of beans. I’d throw my sisters in jail for one last whiff of grounds (I’d throw them in jail for a lot less and all, they’re very annoying). If you tried to take my morning coffee, I’d fight you. I’d wrestle you naked in the mud, screaming like an ape. I’d take everything you loved in this world if you threatened my liquid, warm, coffee-joy. 

Having said that, I am a compassionate man who is always looking for ways to help his community. I want to share with you three changes which dramatically improved my access to good quality coffee on the go, healthier blends, and a healthier experience. Don’t say I’m not kind, you’ll thank me at the end of this (that is not a supposition). 


Get an Aeropress — Seriously, GET ONE

The aeropress changed my life. Before, reliant on revolting instant misery (might be a cool band name, noted), I was a shade of a man. Today, I pack light, and live on cloud nine. You can get them on Amazon super cheap. If you buy a metal filter, you can get literally thousands of uses out of this thing, which you can easily take with you anywhere. 

This piece of kit is immense. It’s lightweight and uses your own physical pressure, paired with boiling water, to press a shot of coffee at a time. I think it has other uses too, but that’s of no interest to me, I just use it for the raw, brooding pleasure of delicious coffee, any time I want. 

AeroPress – Official Store, Replacement Parts And Recipes
The AeroPress coffee maker is a better coffee press that makes delicious coffee quickly and easily.

Not only does this piece of kit make itself uniquely portable, but it’s also saving you money. Historically, you might have had to use a cafetiere (I never liked them much, personally), or a proper coffee machine (yikes, expensive!), but now you can get your own grounds, often for much cheaper than at a cafe! I mean, let’s face it, nobody is going to enjoy a coffee shop anymore, what with a shuffling queue system, grumpy, militant employees, and the unnerving ambience of an operating theatre. Skip the queue, do it at home, or on the go, and save yourself MONEY. 


Choose a Medium Roast No. 3–4 for Ultimate Health Benefits

You might be partial to some reaaaallly dark coffee. We’re talking so dark, it’d crack an inappropriate joke over your grannies funeral casket just for kicks. But the science says you’re missing out if you go too far north on the cooking scale. Too well-done, and you’re going to be skipping some of those vital nutrients, abundant in medium to light roasts. 

Photo by Ochir-Erdene Oyunmedeg on Unsplash

That’s because this study found that lighter roasts contain more chlorogenic acid and higher levels of antioxidants, which contribute to lower levels of inflammation in the body. Antioxidants can reduce your risk of heart and liver disease (as well as a host of other inflammatory diseases), so making it a part of your diet is a great boost to overall health. Just make sure you’re getting everything you can from that delicious, bitter bean (I’m sure that could have been my nickname in high school). 


Drink It Blaaaaaaaack

Like the colour of my soul. No, I’m kidding, we’ve clarified that I’m actually a really nice guy. Drop it, would you? 

The thing I’m trying to get at, isn’t so much that black coffee is any different, it’s just less likely to be filled with things that can antagonise your immune system. I realised I couldn’t hack milk. That’s right, an abyssal character such as myself cannot drink milky wilky cos it makey my tummy achey. Don’t make fun, I’m still terrifying and powerful and dangerous, oh wait, no, scratch that, I am very nice. 

Lactose intolerance is much more common than you’d think. 30 million Americans suffer from the disorder in which the body cannot break down the milk sugar lactose. It’s not usually serious, but over time, it can have a negative impact on digestive health. Even if you’re not intolerant, you might still be sensitive (not me, I’m hard as nails), which can mean that milk still irritates your digestive system. 

Photo by Tania Malréchauffé on Unsplash

Additives such as sweeteners have been linked to rising obesity levels. Do not put sweeteners in your drinks. You are not bypassing, cheating, or otherwise tricking your body’s mechanisms in a clever way. You’re just trying to do things the easy way. Nothing in life is easy, don’t cheat, especially not with such an elegant mistress as caffeine. She’ll think you’re tacky, and may even file a court order for abuse in a domestic setting. Don’t ruin this good thing you have going.

Sugar is the final, and potentially most yucky of all additives. I don’t even feel the need to provide any kind of research backed evidence for this. Sugar kills. You know it, I know it, it’s not controversial at this point. Try not to have so much, especially in drinks where sugar can get to your blood stream faster than in solid foods. Get it from fruits, not processed sources. Also, coffee deserves better. Don’t you think it deserves better? I’m not really asking you anyway, but you already knew that.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Coffee Made Easy, With Me, Your Host, The One And Onl… 

So that’s three things you can do today to improve your coffee drinking experience. You’re welcome. Don’t thank me. I already thanked myself. You should get an aeropress, make sure to drink a lighter roast for optimum health, and keep added shit out of your coffee! Drink it black, and never go back! 

Please like, comment and subscribe – I won’t beg, I’m not desperate, just chill about this whole thing. No big deal. No sweat at all. Don’t worry about it.

We Are Way Past The Point Where Fat People Only Have Themselves to Blame

There are no words in the English language to describe the ire I feel when I hear ignorant, narrow-minded opinions about fat people.

Why are we here today? With one of the last acceptable prejudices being against someone’s weight, which as I’ll explain, has less than ever to do with victorian values of ‘personal responsibility’ and ‘a jolly good helping of elbow grease and grit’, the stuff of real characters! Go-getters! Nay, dare I say, thin people?

You’ll regularly here from thin people that ‘fat people only have themselves to blame’, but that just isn’t true. Society is playing an ever greater part in obesity, and I cannot sit by any longer and hear all about the erudite, no, transcendental wisdoms of the general public, who more often than not, have no understanding of the science of obesity whatsoever.

I’ll admit, I’m coming on a little strong, but remember, if you even have a niggle in your mind that society is at least partly to blame for fatness, then this is not directed at you. Remember that. If you’re on the fence, then this is probably not directed at you either. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and it’s hard to know without a thorough rummage through the science, what exactly is true on the topic of obesity.

No, this piece is about that charming selection of people in the audience who take no greater pleasure than provocatively poking fat people with metaphorical sticks and other sharp, pointy things, telling them how disgusting and lazy they are, and how their health is declining because they can’t stop shoving pork pies in their mouths. Well, I’ve got news for you, nasty, you’re wrong, and I’ll tell you why right… now.

Despite what you may think about fat people, they are still people, and people have been peopleing now for a very long time. People have been the same, physiologically speaking, for at least long enough for me to make my next point. If, accepting that human physiology has not changed in any discernible way in the last millennia, even in the last thousand years, why, in the last hundred, have people become fatter and fatter? Obesity levels are reaching record heights. People are fatter than ever. Not just fat people, but people in general.

More people are morbidly obese, proportionately speaking, than at any other time in history. Since 1991, obesity levels in the UK have risen by 65% in males, and 25% in females. To believe that fat people are lazy or disgusting is to admit unbridled ignorance. Society is changing the proportionality of obesity. It is fair to say that the amount of human willpower, or our propensity towards good old-fashioned elbow grease has not decreased. We are still animals of fortitude, tenacity and endurance by all accounts. So what has changed? Fat people are not the hinge on which obesity generates itself, they are but a byproduct of something much more sinister and creeping.

Dr Giulia Enders in Gut tells us that the concept of obesity is far more complicated than just willpower. Our gut microbiome plays a significant role in our propensity to eat the wrong things. The most memorable test she illustrates was done on a unique set of lab rats without any bacterial colonies in their digestive systems at all. They were completely sterile. These rats then received various colonies of bacteria in transplantation. The rats who were given strains of bacteria known to cause disease became disproportionately obese. The rats given a healthy cocktail of lactobacillus and friends continued to maintain a slim weight.

What is more, the gut biome, much like the cordiceps mushroom or the parasitic wasp, may actually influence host behaviour. When you have an overgrowth of bad bacteria, you are more likely to crave carbohydrates and processed sugars, Enders says. These bacteria can produce chemical signals to request more food from the host. This symbiotic relationship between our gut bacteria, which help us digest our food and us, has been a pact of understanding for aeons. We are only just beginning to understand the mechanisms by which these tiny microorganisms can have such large effects on our behaviour.

Genetics, method of birth, food eaten, trauma, antibiotics, sleep and exercise, all impact the gut biome. A compromised gut makes room for pathogens, which leads to obesity as cravings increase for processed sugars and carbohydrates which feed these bad bacteria. This mixture of influences is a fairly common list in how to be healthy or unhealthy, but it’s not as simple as ‘do these things and you will be healthy’. We are now contending with an environment which actively wants to take these things away from us.

During the birthing process, the mother provides a great deal of beneficial bacteria to the baby as it leaves the birthing canal. Cesarians are on the rise. Cesarians prevent this important transfer of beneficial bacteria. Breast feeding has also been displaced by formula milk. Breat milk contains huge amounts of beneficial bacteria to an infant, as well as lots of important antibodies. From birth, our gut biomes are under onslaught from westernised influences which can set us behind, or even lead us to obesity.

Look at sleep, for instance. Sleep deprivation is on the rise. From 2010 to 2018, sleep deprivation (classed as anything under 7 hours), rose from just over to 30%, to just over 35%. That might not seem like a lot, but if we account for the fact that this has happened over just 8 years, we can see that modern life is coming for our z’s.

Physical exercise becomes a chore when so many of our waking hours are consumed by menial tasks, work commitments and socialising at the end of the day. Jobs demanding physical activity are falling as more people work at a desk for at least 8 hours a day. A poll of 2000 UK residents found that, during the lockdown, physical activity fell by 30 minutes, leading to weight gain over time.

Antibiotics are a blessing. They provide a way for us to perform surgeries without sepsis. They allow common infections to be treated and cured with relative ease. They’re essential to saving lives. Unfortunately, they’re also overprescribed needlessly for common complaints which might improve with rest, and they’re devastating for the gut biome. When antibiotics are used long-term, they can kill off many of the important fibre digesting bacteria which support health, which then leaves space for hardier pathogens to take root in the gut lining.

Finally, the food that we eat is laced with additives which promote weight gain. Drinking a diet coke to be skinny? The artificial sweeteners are known to cause obesity. Our meat is drenched in hormones and antibiotics to meet high meat demands and the growing prevalence of disease and antibiotic resistance in intense agriculture. Pesticides riddle our produce. Tomatoes are bred to contain more sugar. Food is a constant onslaught for our insides. All of these factors are detrimental to our gut health, and poor gut health correlates with weight gain, autoimmune diseases and metabolic syndromes.

Society is fuelling obesity, perhaps not consciously, perhaps not with malicious intent, but definitely, and powerfully, and even, dare I say it, clandestinely. We just see fat people and their fatness, and it makes for an easy target. They’re there, we can observe that they are fat and therefore, by some kind of cave man logic, they must be the source of fatness, but, as with anything that’s worth researching about, it’s not that simple.

People like to blame what they can see because it’s much easier to live with than what they cannot. The Cold War was a time of anxiety, deep suspicion and secrecy. The sort of contextual backdrop which leaves the hairs on your nape on end. Not knowing your enemy, or when he will strike is fear itself. Without fat people to take the fall for obesity, who would we point the finger at? It’s not easy when you can’t see the problem, but it is there and it needs addressing now.

Fatness is endemic.

Fatness is spreading.

Fatness is not about fat people.

Society plays a bigger role than ever in fatness. Fat people have agency, yes. We all have agency, but agency is also effected by societal structures. Big food corporations, employment law, covid isolation sanctions, stressful lives and so much more. To say that fat people bring about their own health issues is to ignore the mounting scientific evidence. The walls are closing in on us. We’re being squashed in our freedoms, liberties, and desires for healthier lives. You can’t fight a shrinking room with no doors. Not without looking at the problems in our modern lifestyles will we begin to make better choices.

The paradox of it all is this.

As our world shrinks in around us, we’re all going to get bigger.

Fat is symptomatic of an imbalance in the social fabric of our lives. The sooner we recognise that, the faster we can begin to heal.

And for the last time, repeat after me, fat people are not the cause of fatness, society is.

Beat The Heat – Five Health Foods That Can Keep You Cool This Summer

Summer is here.

We’re sweating buckets, and begging for shade.

When it’s hot, it’s all too easy to grab an ice cream or a cold lemonade for a frozen sugar rush, but are there any health foods that can naturally aid your bodies ability to regulate its temperature?

Homeostasis is the system by which the body maintains a number of checks and balances. Temperature, heart rate, blood glucose and pH to name a few, are all regulated by this system. Your body is in a constant balancing act to maintain homeostasis. When you’re not at your healthiest, it can struggle or become sluggish to environmental pressures, taking much longer to respond, which in turn takes a toll on the body.

Core temperature is sensed by fine nerves in the skin, the great veins and the spinal chord, among other systems. When temperatures drop, sensors alert the hypothalamus and the brain sends signals to initiate vasoconstriction, a process whereby all blood vessels (especially those on the extremities) shrink in diameter. The opposite is true when temperatures increase. Your blood vessels are commanded to relax and open up (advice I could use myself).

The effect of vasoconstriction and vasodilation is one of thermal conservation or loss. Constriction prevents blood flow over the larger extremities where surface area is increased, allowing heat to be lost more rapidly. When dilation occurs, more warm blood is able to get to the most heat wasteful areas of the body to cool down. Think of your body as a very efficient 2 in 1 radiator. You give off heat, or you close the pipes, depending on environmental temperature.

Not all of us are in prime condition when it comes to these processes however. Some of us have compromised homeostatic abilities due to unhealthy lifestyles or chronic conditions. For instance, those who suffer from heart disease may not be able to cool or warm up because the effectiveness of their heart muscle is compromised and arteries may be damaged. In those with Reynaud’s a type of spasmodic vascular response, vasoconstriction may happen even when temperatures are not too cold.

What can we do to support the process of vascular constriction and relaxation? Here are five foods you can incorporate into your diet to help support your bodies ability to react to temperature changes, especially important as it gets warmer!

As a shout back to my post on ‘What Would Jesus Eat?‘, many of the foods that ancient israelites ate supported excellent circulation. I suspect this is due to the climate’s extreme temperature. The bodies ability to dilate the blood vessels effectively seems very importantin these hot conditions. Pomegranates, garlic, onions and wine are all excellent foods to support circulation and vasodilation. Check the post out for more examples!

Green Leafy Vegetables

red and green leaves on white surface

Green leaves are full of nitrates which the body can convert into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator which can improve circulation and lower blood pressure. Eat your veggies if you want to stay cool!

Oranges, Lemons and Limes, Oh My!

bunch of orange fruits

Ok, well it’s not just oranges and lemons, you’ve also got grapefruits and other citrus fruits too! Citrus fruits are packed with antioxidants which can reduce inflammation in the lining of the arteries. Inflammation causes hardening in the arterial walls which, over time, leads to a poor temperature response. An artery that is less flexible will not respond well to the demands of temperature change. Support your bodies response by eating lots of citrus which will keep your vascular system bouncy and supple!

Cinnamon, Hot But… Not?

brown wooden sticks

Maybe you ought to have your spiced orange wine in the summer rather than at Christmas to incorporate your citrus and your cinnamon! Cinnamon is a great spice that goes with many things and makes them taste even better. It’s implicated in better blood flow and heart performance under stress. For once, we’re barking up the right tree (it’s a pun I’m so sorry).

Berry For Your Thoughts?

blueberry fruits

Berries are delicious. You can’t NOT like berries, right? Anyway, like citrus, berries are brimming with antioxidants which support the bodies ability to elastically respond to temperature changes in the atmosphere. Berries are usually cheaper in the summer as well, so go mental! Get as many berries as you can, make your face look like a jammy mess. I’ll allow it, just this once.

Walnuts, As Sexy As They Are, Wrinkly…

bundle of white seeds

I absolutely SWEAR by walnuts. These blossoming, nutty brain sculptures are excellent for a whole range of ailments. They will help if you experience chronic skin issues, prostate or bladder problems, diabetes and will even improve heart health. Which is kinda why we’re here. They are packed with beautiful antioxidants that will soothe the lining of your vascular system like a luxurious, sexy oil rub for your insides. They are also filled with prebiotic fibre which supports digestive health. I’m a firm believer that many of our bodies health issues originate in the gut, so these little powerhouses of nutrition should be pouring out of your cupboard. I’m serious. Just put these nuts in your bed, by your computer, in your car. Wherever you are, they is, kapiche?

As you might expect, a lot of these foods are already health foods and something you should try to incorporate in your diet. If you have to choose just one though, try and add walnuts, as I really do think they are an absolutely phenomenal health food which can tackle all of the important issues that anyone with chronic disease or poor circulation may have.

But the good thing about many of these foods is that they are in season during the summer when your body needs that support the most to keep you cool. Berries and citrus fruits can be bought cheaply and you should take advantage of this! I’m a big believer in buying foods which are in season. Nature made them that way!

I hope some of this can give you an insight into how to tackle the summer heat. The vascular system is so complex and fascinating. Learning a bit of science while you eat can’t be bad, right?

Please like, comment, and subscribe for more interesting health tips.

Julian

100 Followers!

So here we are, 100 followers!

Thank you so much for joining with me on the road to better health.

I started this blog as a way to reconnect with nature and our health. This is something I strongly believe in and want to bring to everyone who’ll listen!

The thing is, health is often taken for granted, or not made a priority in our busy lives, and that is wrong.

We have never needed to prioritise our health more than we do now, as we are bombarded by stressful lifestyles, shorter time windows for eating, and food that is killing us, all while saying it’s curing us.

So, anyway, this is a brief thank you from me.

I know it’s early days yet and 100 doesn’t seem a lot, but I am so so SO grateful for the support of every single one of you.

This is as much a journey for me, as it is for you.

I think we can learn a lot together, raise each other up and grow into healthier people. I am so passionate about health and wellbeing, reclaiming your energy and autonomy from all the chronic pain and fatigue that can set in from poor diet, and generally living a happier life. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than share what I find with you beautiful people through this medium.

Here’s to unbridled self-improvement and personal success to all of us!

Keep learning, keep healthy and keep happy.

Julian

What Would Jesus Eat?

I’m trialling a new series.

I’m looking at diets from around the world and seeing if anything we used to do has any merit today.

Jesus would have eaten an ancient Israelite diet, so let’s see what that involves.

Surprisingly, a large number of health foods were regularly consumed by the Israelites, so we’ve got a pretty solid anti-inflammatory diet here.

Jesus is always depicted drenched in amber glow, kissed by the warm silken banner of the almighty, but could a portion of that be due to a diet full of healthful foods promoting beautiful golden skin?

Let’s check out some of the staples in Jesus’ day:

Olive Oil

Olive oil and olives grew well in this mediterranean climate, so they were abundantly used. Olive oil was likely to have been cold pressed, avoiding the damage that other heated processes can cause to this stable oil. Oilve oil is high in unsaturated fats, which are linked to lower levels of heart disease and related disorders, like high blood pressure.

Figs and Dates

Figs grew well in this climate and are an excellent source of prebiotic fibre. Prebiotics support the natural gut flora and suppress the growth of pathogenic settlers! Dates are sweet, but also contain some fibre which slows down digestion and prevents unhealthy insulin spikes from occurring. Dates were also fermented into a drink called ‘Shechar’. Fermented beverages contain probiotics which help to colonise the gut with helpful bacteria.

Pomegranates

Pomegranates are unlikely to have been a huge part of the ancient Israelite diet, but they nevertheless tout a number of health benefits. A recent study found that pomegranate extract could reduce inflammation by bringing down blood lipid levels (a known risk factor for heart disease, obesity, diabetes and a range of other inflammatory conditions). Israelites probably would have eaten this fruit fresh in season, and may have fermented it into wine to preserve it out of season.

Wine

Many of you know that too much wine can cause inflammation and liver damage over time, but a little every day can actually support health. Red wine, which is what Israelites would largely have had access to, can reduce inflammation because it contains lots of antioxidants which inhibit cellular damage.

Dairy

This is where it gets really interesting. There were no cows in ancient Israel, so milk, cheese, and yogurt were made solely from goats. Goat milk is widely accepted as anti-inflammatory. Many who cannot tolerate cows milk can drink goats milk without difficulty. Due to the naturally warm temperatures, this could also be made into a range of probiotic yogurts and even something similar to ghee or clarified butter, which has become a popular health food.

Fish

Coastal and river dwelling inhabitants would have had access to a range of fresh fish. Fish is naturally high in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, both of which are shown to support longevity and provide anti-inflammatory effects in the ratios naturally found in marine foods. Fish were also salted and dried, producing a lean, protein rich food source that could be transported and kept in storage without going off.

Leeks, Onions and Garlic

Potent prebiotics, these three vegetables were often added to a range of cooked dishes for flavour and nutrients. These three in particular have been praised in the scientific literature for contributing to the health of the gut due to their high levels of prebiotic fibre, which help good bacteria populate the large intestine, crowding our pathogens which cannot digest it. Leeks, garlic and onion are all related, coming from the onion family.

Wheat

Any of you Keto/ Paleo people will reel in horror at the notion that wheat was a staple in ancient Israel, but this was not the refined wheat you are used to today. Most widespread was Emmer Wheat, an ancestor of Durum Wheat. Durum wheat is a much heartier grain which contains more fibre and is less processed. It also contains less gluten, which is inflammatory to the gut lining.

Overall, to eat like Jesus, was to eat surprisingly well! Lots of healthy oils with anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. Fruits and vegetables with prebiotic fibre. Dairy from goats instead of cows, and fresh fish some of the time! On a side note and not mentioned above, meat was rarely eaten during the year, and when it was, it was largely goat, with some chicken, duck and goose. Too much meat has been implicated in heart disease as well as some cancers, most commonly colorectal.

Jesus is known for his wisdom as a prophet in Christianity, and is a guiding light for Christians across the globe, but even those of us who aren’t religious could probably learn a thing or two about health from this historical figure.

If you enjoyed this short insight into diets from around the world, let me know in the comments, and as ever, please like and subscribe for more to come!

J

Can Big Food Corporations Really Claim To Care About Us?

Coca Cola and other big brand names are pulling ad funding for Facebook due to some novel kind of ‘moral obligation’ to themselves and the general public.

Yet Coca Cola is one of the largest funding bodies for the American Diabetes Association, who’s CEO’s are paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for leading a ‘non-profit’ organisation.

Just think about that for a second. The largest advisory board for diabetes health is also taking huge sums of money from Coca Cola et al, to give advice to people suffering with the condition.

Does that sound very moral to you?

Coca Cola, both full fat and fat free, are seriously contributing to diabetes and obesity in America. Both the added sugar and the artificial sweeteners have DEFINITIVELY been implicated in rising obesity and diabetes numbers.

Do you really think coca cola and friends have any kind of moral obligation to anyone, least of all you, the every day man or woman, to avoid platforms or products which are causing division and disease?

Facebook has been involved in a number of data breaches and security scandals, it is also run on algorithms which thrive on negativity (please take a look at this article where I talk more about that), and it’s losing ground to more popular visual platforms like snapchat and instagram (but it still owns these companies, so be aware).

It’s much more likely that big corporations are sensitive to these aspects of Facebook’s recent behaviour which can potentially harm their image, than due to any arbitrary sense of ‘moral obligation’ to the public.

All I’m asking is that people remain vigilant and alert to language which takes on a moral tone, when it’s coming from large multi-national companies. The likelihood that morality plays any part in choice is low to none in most cases. Where you see language like ‘we care’, or ‘we have a duty’, or virtue signalling regarding current world affairs, you would be safest to take that language with a pinch of salt.

As always, do your research, listen to all sides of the argument, and never dismiss the idea that businesses may not be working to make your life better.

It’s not out of the question that they might not be rooting for you in the way that they say they are.

Stay safe and aware, and please like, comment, and subscribe for more information on digestive health, diet and society.

Julian

Stoicism On A Diet – What Would Marcus Aurelius Do?

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

― Marcus Aurelius

When we think about health, we think of ‘new beginnings’, of turning over a new leaf, or starting afresh.

It’s a time for throwing away our past defeats and diving into the kick with a revived child-like vigour.

‘This time it’ll be a success. I’ll have the willpower, time, and energy to make it work, and I’ll never give up!’

Admirable, in a ‘not gonna work, but I admire your zeal’ kinda way.

I’m not saying the effervescent optimism of a health kick isn’t charming, and useful, even, when used properly, but to win in the health game, you have to buckle down for the long haul. The honeymoon period doesn’t last long, and before you know it, that deliciously crisp ceasar salad, filled with antioxidants and nourishing vitamins, is a wilted, sweaty abomination, sending you overboard into a miserably deep ocean of relapse, filled with sweet carbs and sumptuous, forbidden fried delights.

That’s why I love that quote by Marcus Aurelius, a Grecian Emperor and stoic philosopher from ancient times.

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Stoicism is the belief that all you can change is your perception. The only control that you have is in the way that you tackle the chaos that sweeps your daily life.

When you apply this to dieting, it provides you with a refreshing approach.

Instead of getting bored and giving up, then slipping into a spiralling pit of despair coated in syrup and lard, you can change your approach.

Having a bad day? Did you eat something naughty?

Ok, well now we get to analyse what we could do to prevent that. Could we take something out of our day that then makes everything more easy to tolerate? Could we maybe find a different way to approach a difficult or stressful task which makes it less of a monster? Do we need to think that all our hard work is destroyed because we ate something bad?

When we start questioning the habits that cause us to react poorly, we can begin to regain some control over them.

The obstacle becomes the way.

We want to look at what is making our life more difficult. The boulder of hardship. Can we find a way over it, a way under it or a way around it?

If we can, can we do it every time we come across it? Better to slip past, or chip away at an obstacle than to spend hours and days crumpled in a heap over the whole agonising weight of its total mass, like a behemoth of misery and despair that we, personally, have to lug up hill.

Changing our approach to dieting by making our lives easier, adapting our habits, and maybe even recruiting the help and support of our friends and families, can make the whole burden of the task so much easier to face.

That’s why I love stoicism.

I just like the simplicity of self-analysis it affords.

You just need to look at your biggest problems and find better ways to tackle them.

And I know, seriously, I know, that that is easier said than done when you’re already overwhelmed. Your plate is already well past full (your metaphorical plate, but your real plate can also be full so long as it’s mainly wholefoods, don’t limit yourself).

I’m just saying that self-care is really important, and if you don’t give yourself some time to reflect, you’re going to burn out faster than a tealight from poundland. Sometimes we need five minutes just for us to get some perspective and start tackling those problems, one at a time, bit by bit.

Meditation can also be great for this. Asking yourself a question, just dropping it into your subconscious. ‘How can we tackle x?’. Not demanding an answer, just taking 5 – 10 minutes and just dropping the question. Eventually, answers bubble up!

So anyway, next time your start to feel like flinging your salad, ripping all of your clothes off, and screaming from your cubicle in the office, just think, ‘how can I approach this differently?’. Give yourself five minutes to relax, maybe even take a meditative minute to drop that question in the dimming pool of your mind. See what comes up. ‘The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way, becomes the way.’

Diet is an obstacle. If we keep approaching it the same way, we’ll never keep going with it. We need to constantly find new ways to approach it, or the obstacle will overwhelm us. Just remember, there is always a way around, through or under your health obstacle, you just need to find out which way works best for you, and allow yourself the space to get there without judgement.

Now get your chisel, there’s a big bully boulder ahead, waiting to be slugged down to size.

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