Chocolate Fruit & Nut Clusters

These fruit and nut clusters are ideal as a sweet treat over the Christmas period, or even as a lighter alternative to Christmas pudding.

Kohlrabi Slaw

Kohlrabi is one of the ugliest vegetables I know. It looks like it should be a root vegetable but it is, in fact, a brassica – part of the same family as broccoli and kale. You can eat all parts – the bulb and the leaves – both raw and cooked. It is delicious steamed, sautéed, roasted, in soup or stew, or eaten raw. • To roast, steam the bulb for 5 minutes, then roast for 45 minutes. • Steam (up to 12 minutes). • Stir fry (up to 6 minutes). • The leaves can be cooked like cabbage.

The microbiome

More and more studies are emerging about “the microbiome”.  This is the community of microbes that live inside us.  We have microbiomes on our skin, in our gut, vagina, mouth and nose. Practically any cavity inside us can have microbes inhabiting there.

We have about 10x as many microbes living inside us, or on us, than we have human cells (and we have approximately 75 trillion cells)!  This indicates the idea that we should be scared of microbes or bacteria is a little outdated.

Probiotics

The growing interest in particularly the gut microbiome has led to multiple probiotics coming onto the market.  The supermarkets are filled with “gut friendly” bacteria-laden yoghurt.

Is taking care of that ecosystem inside us as simple as swallowing a probiotic every day or eating some yoghurt?

Well, unfortunately, the answer is no!

Probiotics and fermented foods cannot repopulate your bowel flora – as they only stay in the system temporarily.  It’s the prebiotics that feed the microbes and can ensure the survival & flourishing of the ones we want in our systems.   

What are probiotics?

According to WHO, probiotics are “live organisms which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”  However, the cultures we get in supermarket yoghurts cannot survive the pasteurisation process that those yoghurts go through.

In order for a yoghurt to be considered a probiotic food it must contain live cultures.  Whilst it is true that raw yoghurt can contain live cultures, again these effects are only temporary.

Therefore, using probiotics and fermented foods has to be done alongside eating prebiotic, bacteria-feeding foods or supplements to really be effective.

The most well researched prebiotic supplements are lactulose, fos and gos. However, research around acacia gum and partially hydrolysed guar gum is also emerging.

What are prebiotics? Prebiotic foods include what we call “FODMAPs” which are highly fermentable carbohydrates. These include whole foods like whole grains, nuts, seeds, onions, garlic and brightly coloured organic veggies.

However, these foods and supplements are often poorly tolerated with people with SIBO and IBS. Therefore, working on the IBS is essential so that someone can then work on building their gut microbiome. 

Probiotic quality

We are beginning to see that throwing multiple strain probiotic supplements, is not necessarily an effective strategy.

It’s about getting the right person for the job because different probiotic strains have different therapeutic qualities.  For example, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG, has been shown to help cell growth in the intestines and enhance the protection of the gut wall.

Some probiotics act as anti-microbials against pathogenic (disease-causing) micro-organisms and positively affect our immunity. Furthermore, they produce beneficial compounds in the gut, have anti-inflammatory effects, speed up or slow down gut transit time, and even alter our brain chemistry and metabolism!

So, how do you know that you are getting the right probiotic for the job?

Do your research! We’ve all done it, myself included, purchased a supplement because we’ve read somewhere that “probiotics are good”.  But, this is not an effective approach.  

Probiotic dosing

Importantly, dosing is about getting the right amount of intake. Unless research shows lesser doses of a particular probiotic to be effective, the general rule of thumb is that a single strain should contain at least 10 billion CFU to be effective.

Consequently, each strain within multi-strain probiotics should contain at least 10 billion CFU.  Many people don’t think about particular strains or dosages of a probiotic, so it’s a good point to remember.   

Furthermore, we have many different species of bacteria living within us.  Stool testing can show which species we have and diversity is the key. We’ve all heard of lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, but research is showing that these aren’t the only two species that can have significant impacts upon someone’s health.

Akermansia muciniphila and faecalbacterium prausnitzii, the new kids on the block in terms of research, have been shown to be protective against leaky gut and inflammation and to be good indicators of increased microbial diversity in the gut.

In conclusion, certain prebiotics feed certain species of bacteria, so by knowing what exists within us we can target our food choices more specifically to increase certain populations.   

Fermented foods.

Fermented foods can also help feed the populations in the gut.  They cannot specifically colonise in the way that probiotics can, but they can certainly be used to increase the growth and diversity of beneficial bacteria in our microbiome.

Good choices include raw sauerkraut, raw kimchi, tempeh, miso and kefir.  Heat can destroy the bacteria, so add your choices to your food at the end of cooking instead of heating them up within the food, and ensure that your kimchi and sauerkraut are raw and unpasteurised! 

Finally, each microbiome, whether it be skin, gut, oral or vaginal, is drastically different so we can’t take a one size fits all approach.  Suffice to say that the vaginal microbiome is essential for urinary tract health and reducing fungal or bacterial infections.

The oral microbiome is a whole article in itself!  And our skin microbiome, which is there to provide us with protection, has taken a real bashing from the new age of antibacterial wipes and sprays that plague our supermarket shelves! 

Key takeaways

So, what are the key takeaways? Emerging research is showing how important certain microbes that live on and inside of us are for overall health.

But, eating supermarket yoghurt and taking probiotics with no actual goal in mind with no idea of what each particular strain does and whether it contains a therapeutic dose, is not going to make much of an impact on increasing your microbial diversity.

Stool testing, which can be ordered through a naturopathic nutritionist, will give you a much better idea of the health of your gut microbiome and your overall gut health.

Once armed with that information, your practitioner can help you choose the right probiotics and prebiotics for the job by looking at the research, mixed with some raw unpasteurised fermented foods and by adding onions, garlic and eating around 14 different coloured whole foods a day!     

References 

Aureli, P., A. Fiore, et al. (2010). “National survey outcomes on commercial probiotic food supplements in Italy.” Int. J Food   
Bao, Y., Y. Zhang, et al. (2010). “Screening of potential probiotic properties of Lactobacillus fermentum   
Cao, Y., Shen, J., & Ran, Z. H. (2014). Association between Faecalibacterium prausnitzii Reduction and Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review of the Literature. Gastroenterology research and practice, 2014, 872725.  
Carlson, J., Erickson, J., Lloyd, B., Slavin, J. (2018). ‘Health Effects and Sources of Prebiotic Dietary Fiber.’ Current Developments in Nutrition, Volume 2, Issue 3.    
Hawrelak, J. A. (2013). Probiotics. Textbook of Natural Medicine.  
Hill, C., Guarner, F., Reid, G., Gibson, G. R., Merenstein, D. J., Pot, B., … & Calder, P. C. (2014). Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 11(8), 506.   
Huebner, J., R. L. Wehling, et al. (2007). “Functional activity of commercial prebiotics.” International Dairy Journal.  
Kristensen, N. B., Bryrup, T., Allin, K. H., Nielsen, T., Hansen, T. H., & Pedersen, O. (2016). Alterations in fecal microbiota composition by probiotic supplementation in healthy adults: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Genome medicine, 8(1), 52.   
Miquel, S. et al. (2013). Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and human intestinal health. Current opinion in microbiology, 16(3), 255-261. 
Mohammedsaeed, W., McBain, A. J., Cruickshank, S. M., & O’Neill, C. A. (2014). Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG inhibits the toxic effects of Staphylococcus aureus on epidermal keratinocytes. Applied and environmental microbiology, 80(18), 5773-81.   
Naito, Y., Uchiyama, K., & Takagi, T. (2018). A next-generation beneficial microbe: Akkermansia muciniphila. Journal of clinical biochemistry and nutrition, 63(1), 33-35.   
Patel, S., & Goyal, A. (2012). The current trends and future perspectives of prebiotics research: a review. 3 Biotech, 2(2), 115–125.  
Rao, R. K., & Samak, G. (2013). Protection and Restitution of Gut Barrier by Probiotics: Nutritional and Clinical Implications. Current nutrition and food science, 9(2), 99-107. 
Reid, G. (2006). Probiotics to prevent the need for, and augment the use of, antibiotics. The Canadian journal of infectious diseases & medical microbiology. 17(5), 291-5.

Genetic Testing – What is Epigenetics and Why Should We Care?

What are genes? 

So back to classroom biology!  We inherit 23 chromosomes from our father and 23 from our mother.  These chromosomes act as storehouses for our DNA, which contain our 23,000 or so genes.  Each gene codes for the production of a particular protein within the body.  Those proteins have important functions.

An example of this is the gene that codes for the production of the enzyme that degrades our stress hormones when the stressor has passed.

Another example is the gene that codes to produce the enzyme that helps us make nitric oxide to keep our blood vessels pliable.  Or the gene that codes for the break down homocysteine, which research suggests is implicated in cardiovascular disease. 

The DNA that makes up our genes contains sequences but, as we are all different, so are our genes and we can have variations in those sequences.  These variations are called single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs (pronounced “snips”) for short! So when you hear people say they have this gene or that gene, they have a genetic variation.   

The new paradigm shift in the way science looks at genes 

Nutrigenomics looks at how a particular gene variant is behaving and how we can change that behaviour with certain nutrients.  This is an exciting and emerging field of science which is starting to show us that our genes are not our destiny.

Even more exciting is the field of epigenetics.  Research suggests that we can switch the expression (or behaviour) of our genes on or off through the environment we give them to live in, i.e. our internal environment.  In other words, our diet and our lifestyle can influence whether a particular gene variant is going to be damaging to us or not.   

I have a particular gene variant – what should I do? 

Those of you who know a little about this field may have already done some genetic testing and may have found out that you have certain SNPs.  But the trick is not to look at a particular SNP in isolation.  We need to consider the body as a whole, what other conditions someone might have, what medications they might be on and of course how these genes interact with each other.

Treating a particular SNP with a particular supplement is not a holistic approach and in some cases can actually do more harm than good.  For example, treating an MTFHR variant with methylfolate may be prudent in one individual but may have a completely different effect on someone else with the same variant.     

Is genetic testing for me or not? 

Picture of lab technician testing samplesMany people are terrified to find out whether they have a particular gene variant as certain gene variants can indicate a higher risk of certain diseases.

However, the scientific field of epigenetics is now showing that by upregulating or downregulating certain genes through diet and lifestyle, we can change the way they behave.

So knowing that certain foods or lifestyle factors such as sleep, exercise and stress reduction can influence whether or not that particular gene variant expresses itself can be incredibly empowering and motivate us to change the way we approach what we ingest or how we live our lives for the better.

Genetic testing puts you back in control

Epigenetics puts us in the driver’s seat as opposed to the outdated model of thinking that taught us that our genes are our destiny, something which we fall prey to and can do nothing about.   

Personally, I’d rather know if I had a gene that put me at a higher risk of heart disease if I ate a higher fat diet, for example, so that I could change my diet.

Example: The ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet has been shown in research to have positive neurological effects, having been used as an effective treatment for epilepsy since the 1920s.  However, if I knew I had a gene that meant I was at higher risk of cholesterol, then I wouldn’t embark on a high fat ketogenic diet.   

But genetic testing really shouldn’t take the place of making diet and lifestyle changes, which lay the foundations for health and wellbeing.  The next step would be functional lab testing and genetic testing would really be the last stage, enabling some fine-tuning of a nutritional and lifestyle programme.   

Key message

So, the key message here is that we have more autonomy over our genes than we think. We have the ability to influence gene expression through our dietary and lifestyle choices.

And whilst it is well worth getting some testing done to establish what gene variants you have in order to prevent potentially chronic illness in the future, we still need to work on those lifestyle factors regardless of whether we have good genes or not, as our lifestyle factors can, as Dr Ben Lynch, N.D. says, “dirty” our genes! 

References  

Alegría-Torres, J. A., Baccarelli, A., & Bollati, V. (2011). ‘Epigenetics and lifestyle.’ Epigenomics, 3(3), 267-77. 
Barañano, K. W., & Hartman, A. L. (2008). The ketogenic diet: uses in epilepsy and other neurologic illnesses. Current treatment options in neurology, 10(6), 410-9. 
Bouchard-Mercier, A., Paradis, A. M., Rudkowska, I., Lemieux, S., Couture, P., & Vohl, M. C. (2013). ‘Associations between dietary patterns and gene expression profiles of healthy men and women: a cross-sectional study.’ Nutrition journal. 
Deans, C., & Maggert, K. A. (2015). ‘What do you mean, “epigenetic”?’ Genetics, 199(4), 887-96. 
Ganguly, P., & Alam, S. F. (2015). ‘Role of homocysteine in the development of cardiovascular disease.’ Nutrition journal, 14, 6.  
Hardy, T. M., & Tollefsbol, T. O. (2011). ‘Epigenetic diet: impact on the epigenome and cancer.’ Epigenomics, 3(4), 503-18. 
Imam, M. U., & Ismail, M. (2017). ‘The Impact of Traditional Food and Lifestyle Behavior on Epigenetic Burden of Chronic Disease.’ Global Challenges, 1(8), 1700043. 
Institut Pasteur .(2015). “Our epigenome is influenced by our habitat and lifestyle.” ScienceDaily.  

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How to Reduce Environmental Toxins in Your Home

When we think about living a healthy lifestyle, we often consider how to improve our diet, and get more exercise. What gets less attention though, are the products we use every day, which research has indicated could be detrimental to our health.

The good news is, there are plenty of ways to reduce these toxins. This blog will focus on those little things you can change to drastically reduce your daily exposure to toxins.

My experience 

Before we get into talking about environmental toxicity and how to reduce it, I want to tell you a little about my story. When I was 24 I developed a neurological condition which led to my developing multiple chemical sensitivity. This sensitivity makes people very intolerant to any smells and chemicals, to the point it can make you feel physically sick and dizzy .

Studies have suggested that some individuals can’t detoxify these toxic substances very well and unfortunately I was one of them. Therefore, I had no choice but to clear my environment from chemicals and toxins.

The rise of environmental toxicity 

The number of chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis is increasing every year. Since the industrial revolution, there have been around 80,000 chemicals introduced, but only around 1% have been tested for their impact on human health (Loki, 2015)

Recent research has been produced showing the harmful effects of environmental toxins. Chemicals that have been linked to poor health include phthalates, parabens, triclosan, laureth sulphate and BPA. These chemicals are worryingly added to a lot of products we use on a day to day basis! (Sholl, 2011)

Cleaning products 

It can be hard to imagine that cleaning products can have an effect on our bodies. But, it is believed that chemicals in our environment can be absorbed into our bodies just as much as chemicals from food.

Unfortunately, lots of cleaning products have chemicals in them that are suggested to be bad for our health. The reason companies are using these is because they are cheap and easy to mass produce.

However, it can actually be cheaper to use natural alternatives!

Simple changes you can make to your cleaning cupboard: 

Clothes Washing: 

Washing Powder Alternatives 

Instead of using washing powder you can use something called an eco-egg. It’s an egg shaped container that has mineral containing balls, that help to clean your clothes. There are also soap nuts and brown little balls from a natural plant. All of which will clean your clothes without chemicals.

Softener Alternative 

We all love the feeling of soft clothes but there are much more natural and cheap ways to do the same thing. To soften your clothes, use ¼ cup of baking soda in the powder section of your washing machine.

To get the clothes softener smell you can use aromatherapy oils! You can either add it into the softener section of your washing machine or you can put 15-20 drops of essential oils on a tea towel in with your dryer. However, be careful if you have cats because many aromatherapy oils may be toxic to cats!

NOTE – Check your choice of essential oil is all natural and doesn’t use perfumes!

Floor, Toilet and Surface cleaners 

A simple mix of vinegar and tea tree oil can be used to clean lots of things in your home! Vinegar is a great natural cleaning product – if you don’t like the smell of vinegar you can also use lemons.

However, there are some great natural cleaning brands you can use, if you don’t want to make your own cleaning products. A great place to look for these is in health food stores. Just make sure you check the labels for parabens and other chemicals.

Another option is to invest in is a steam cleaner – this breaks down dirt without having to use any chemicals at all!

Cleaning Mould

Mould is unfortunately really common in the UK due to a lot of older houses and colder weather. Yet, studies suggest that some mould is extremely toxic in our bodies. The spores mould releases, contain toxic chemicals called mycotoxins which have detrimental effects on health. (Bush, 2006). Consequently, it is really important to minimise our exposure to mould due to its negative effect on health.

You can breathe in mould spores when there is a build-up of mould in your home, which has been suggested to damage your immune system and potentially become carcinogenic (Edmonson, 2009). Mould can be removed using vinegar, or you can use baking soda mixed with essential oils to create a paste that will remove it.

Household Dust 

Household dust can fall into the same category as mould because mould spores can get into dust which we then breathe in (Bush, 2006). Therefore, it is important to regularly dust your surfaces. To do this you can use the solution of vinegar and tea tree oil mentioned earlier!

Don’t be too clean 

This may sound like a strange tip but it is very important. Society has got more and more obsessed with removing germs and using anti-bacterial products constantly!

Recent studies have indicated it is important to allow your body to be exposed to some bacteria to build up the immune system.

Ironically, the over use of chemicals to try to remove germs could be making you feel poorly, as you breathe in more chemicals which can damage your immune system.

Additionally, research suggests that antibacterial products can damage the skin by removing the natural layer of bacteria we have on our skin as an immune barrier. This allows toxins to pass through that skin barrier into our bloodstreams. It can also age us by altering the natural state of our skin!

Personal products

Make up 

Make up is something many women wear daily so it is important to choose products that have natural and safe ingredients. Examples of harmful substances that have been scientifically tested to be present in makeup include lead, which is often used to give red lipstick its bright colour (Brown, 2013). When you think about how often some women reapply lipstick and swallow it – it is scary to think there is lead in it!

Another example is mascara, containing chemicals such as aluminium and formaldehyde (Medical Daily, 2013). With these chemicals so close to your eyes there is a danger of it affecting your eyesight over time.

A great makeup brand to look at is Jennifer Young who created all natural makeup for cancer patients. These pure products were created as patients who undergo chemotherapy become very sensitive to chemicals – however, anyone can buy these products and support a great brand!

When choosing your makeup products always read the labels and do your own research on the ingredients. Some makeup brands may look healthier because they say they are vegan or vegetarian or even be marketed as natural but may still use a lot of harmful chemicals.

Skin care

Just as important as makeup is skin care. You are rubbing these creams into your skin, which can be absorbed into the body, so it is important to make sure you are not rubbing a load of chemicals in!

There are some great all natural brands for skin care including Nourish and Weleda. Coconut oil is also a great alternative for skin care. It can be used as a moisturiser, or to take off your makeup at the end of the day by simply rubbing it into your face and then removing with a cloth.

Deodorants

The next thing to consider is your use of deodorants. Many deodorants are full of harmful chemicals that we spray or roll directly onto our skin. If you do want to keep buying shop bought deodorants then make sure it is definitely a deodorant you are buying and not an antiperspirant.

Antiperspirants do exact what they say in the name – they stop you perspiring!

Your body needs to sweat to control its temperature.

Hair Care

It is important to make your shampoos, conditioners and hair dyes as chemical free as possible. Again, make sure you do your research and read labels. If you get your hair dyed professionally then ask your hairdresser about more natural alternatives. Henna is one option. Yaoh make a great natural shampoo and conditioner made from hemp oil.

Toothpaste 

You may have heard time and time again that you need to pick a toothpaste with fluoride in.

One effect of fluoride is that is competes in the body with thyroxin so it can disrupt the thyroid gland (if you have thyroid issues it is important to be aware of this!) (Kheradpisheh, 2018)

It has also been suggested that fluoride can make teeth more brittle due to the way it reacts in the mouth. (American Dental Association, 2007) Alternative toothpastes include brands like Jason’s and Kingfisher. You can also make your own. Many holistic dentists now recognise the importance of fluoride free dentistry so research around your area and think about making the switch!

Next we are going to talk about other items within your household that may be toxic!

Plastics 

Recently you may have heard a lot about BPA and their harmful effects. BPA is found in a lot of plastics and has been found to act as an endocrine disrupter that disrupts the hormones in our body. Some reports state that BPA has been found to mimic oestrogen in the body and cause oestrogen dominance. The dominance of oestrogen in the body has been implicated in a lot of conditions e.g. oestrogen dominant cancers. (Komen, 2017)

Due to these findings there has been a lot of hype around BPA free products (plastic items that do not contain BPA). However, in a lot of these products BPA has been replaced with another chemical called BPS. BPS has actually been shown to be more harmful than BPA! (Service, 2018)

Examples of plastic items to be aware of:

Be careful not to be fooled by clever marketing in the BPA free movement. Plastic absorbs into the food we eat (particularly soft plastic). This is also true for any personal care items we have that are kept into soft plastic – it can leech into the product which we then place on our skin. Therefore, try to make the switch to glass containers rather than plastic! Just make sure your glass containers don’t have a plastic lid – you can use mason jars for pretty much everything!

Another thing to watch out for is hot drinks while we are out and about. The little cardboard looking cups you get hot drinks in actually have a plastic lid that is full of BPA. The lining of these cups is often also made out of plastic which has BPA in it. The steam from the hot drinks can release the BPA (the unwanted chemicals) into your drink. Make a swap to a stainless steel cup and carry it with you when you want a hot drink. Some places even do a discount for those that bring their own cups so it is a win-win situation!

Also, be aware of tinned foods which are lined with BPA. Of course, it may be difficult to cut tinned foods out completely especially if you are eating on a budget. The key message here is just to be aware,and do your best to avoid plastics – it isn’t about being perfect!

Non-stick Cookware

Some cookware has also been suggested to be unsafe for our health, for example, non-stick cookware. The chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is used to make some non-stick cookware. When PFOA is heated up, these emit harmful gases that you inhale each time you use your non-stick pot or pan! These items are likely to scratch or chip at some point which can go into your food and increase your risk of poison.  (Reinagel, 2018)

An alternative to non-stick cookware is to use stainless steel or cast iron pans. If you choose a stainless steel pan, make sure it doesn’t have other harmful metals added into it.

Be aware of ceramic cookware as many ceramics contain lead in the glaze!  Again, do your research before you buy.

Household scents 

A really simple thing to change is your household scents. If you like your home to smell amazing, then you can use essential oils which smell great and have lots of health benefits too! You can swap your air purifiers which have chemicals in them for an essential oil diffuser.

It is also important to use natural candles. Candle wax and scents added to them are synthetic and the wicks in them may use heavy metals. (Thomas, 2013) A healthier alternative to candles are pure beeswax candles that use a cotton wick.

Furniture

The next thing to be aware of is the furniture we choose. I am not for one minute suggesting you go out and buy all new furniture – but it is important to be aware that chemicals can be found everywhere! All furniture comes with a fire retardant as it is illegal to sell furniture without it. However, some research names fire retardants as immune and endocrine disrupters (Hood, 2006). It is difficult to say a solution for this as they are on all furniture but it may be worth researching some more natural brands for your furniture fabric!

Bathroom

It has been suggested that our bathroom is actually one of the most toxic places. Not only do we tend to use our strongest chemicals in the bathroom, but there are chemicals found in the water.

Shower water has chlorine in it – taking a shower in unfiltered water has been suggested to be the same as drinking 7 glasses of chlorinated water! (Smith, 2008). A simple solution for this is to get a shower filter. Some shower curtains can also be made of materials that have harmful chemicals in them that are released by the steam of the shower. Again, do your research and find a more natural brand!

Electromagnetic pollutions 

Electromagnetic fields have been found to disrupt the balance of our body (Duhaini, 2016), yet they are everywhere. They are in our phones and computers that we as a society have become so dependent on. We need our technology in this day and age for many things so I can’t suggest to cut it out of your life – but you can do some damage limitation.

Don’t spend more time on technology than you need to. Not only will this help to reduce your exposure, it will also improve your mental health! You can also turn off your Wi-Fi at night, use an Ethernet cable to your computer, keep your phone off at night and avoid carrying your phone on your person or get an EMF protector for it!

Anything “smart” is not so smart for our health. If you are offered a smart meter, have a look at the research around health risks because of the frequencies they emit (Wycherley, 2017).  If you have had one installed, you can get covers to try and minimise the damage.

Also, try to limit your use of microwaves which have been suggested to have harmful effects. Instead, heat your food up in your stainless steel or cast iron pan!

Where to start?!

So, after reading all of this you may be in complete panic. We have all been there when this information is revealed to us. Don’t worry about changing overnight, it is all about little changes that we can make over time that will mount up!

Choose one thing a month to sort out for example:

Month one – sort out your personal care

Month two – swap your chemical cleaning products for natural alternatives

And so on!

I hope you have found this post useful! Comment below the first thing you are going to change!

Healthy Vegan Pumpkin Fudge

This time of year there are sweet treats all around you and it is harder than ever to maintain a healthy lifestyle! So, why not make your halloween indulgences a little healthier by trying out this amazing healthy, vegan pumpkin fudge recipe?!

IBS Symptoms and Treatment – Could You Have SIBO?

Picture of woman holding her stomach with red area of inflammation radiating from underneath her hands

Could I have undiagnosed IBS?

Prevalence and Symptoms of IBS

Statistics show that approximately 2 in 10 people in the UK have IBS. Many more people are thought to have IBS who have either not been diagnosed correctly or haven’t consulted a GP for a diagnosis. Many people think that IBS symptoms such as constipation, loose stools, going to the toilet less than once a day, wind or bloating is normal.

In terms of a healthy bowel movement, the gold standard is 2 to 3 times a day and doesn’t leave any marks on the toilet bowel or even on the toilet paper! Can you honestly say your stools are like that?

Common Treatments for IBS

IBS is commonly “treated” with medications such as Moviprol to relieve constipation or Immodium to stop diarrhoea. Proton Pump Inhibitors such as Omeprazole and Lansoprazole are prescribed to relieve symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn. All of which have side effects.

So, we are going to take a look at the side effects of using such medications. However, please consult a qualified health professional before making any decisions about medications.

Effects of Moviprol: 

If you are taking Moviprol, have a look at the sodium content in it. Moviprol can be very high in sodium which can affect our health.

Effects of Immodium:

When we have loose stools, there is a reason the body is trying to eliminate so rapidly. We need to find out the reason to be able to look at why the symptoms are arising and explore whether we can eliminate this.

Effects of Omeprazole / Lanzoprazole and the Question of Stomach Acid Production:

There are concerns in studies that these medications can have long term effects on health and also potentially stop a vital function of the body – they decrease the production of acid in the stomach. “But I’ve got acid heartburn”, I hear you say, “so why would I not want to decrease the production of stomach acid?”

Stomach acid purposes

Well to answer that question, let’s look at the main purposes of stomach acid production:

  • The production of stomach acid actually triggers the tightening of the lower oesophageal sphincter, which prevents stomach acid from rising up into the oesophagus. So causes of acid reflux can actually include too little stomach acid.
  • Secondly, it is produced to break down proteins so that we can use them to regenerate our bodies. So when people don’t produce enough stomach acid, they can have impaired protein digestion and are not able to use the protein they take in to maintain optimum physical function.
  • Thirdly, stomach acid has the effect of killing any unwanted bacteria and prevents it from accumulating in the small intestines, a major cause of 60% plus of IBS cases!

Whilst some people do produce too much stomach acid, the majority of people actually produce too little.

I can hear you saying, well that’s all well and good Bee, but the symptoms of IBS are horrendous so what do I do?  Let’s take a look at some possible root causes of IBS and the natural ways you can alleviate the symptoms. Our main focus is on the biggest known cause of IBS, SIBO.

Causes of IBS

SIBO

Research suggests that one of the biggest causes of IBS could be something you have never even heard of! SIBO – small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.  Studies have shown that 60-84% of people with IBS actually have something called SIBO which is causing their IBS symptoms?

But what is it? And is it curable? Well, we are supposed to have an abundance of certain bacteria in our large intestine, but not in our small intestine. SIBO is where bacteria have overgrown backwards into the small intestine.

Causes of SIBO

Poor gut motility

Poor gut motility is when food and bacteria aren’t being swept down through your digestive tract effectively. Gut motility is controlled by something called the migrating motor complex (MMC for short).

The functioning of the MMC can be impaired by illnesses such as gastroenteritis (gastric flu) or a severe bout of food poisoning (24 hrs or more). It can also be impaired by infections such as Lyme Disease or mould toxicity, and even an impact that has knocked or shaken the head.

Poor digestion

Other causes include low stomach acid, impaired production of digestive enzymes, impaired production of bile and low secretory IgA which acts as an immune defence in the gut.

Causes can even be as simple as drinking with or close to meals (which dilutes your digestive juices). Or not chewing your food properly and eating whilst distracted (by our phones or the TV). Eating on the go or eating under stress or whilst upset or angry can also cause poor digestion.

Stress shuts down our digestive system. With so many people under constant chronic stress, it is affecting their digestion all the time. Taking time to do some deep breathing or anything that calms you before every meal, helps switch your body into rest and digest mode.

Obstructions and abdominal adhesions

Adhesions are scar tissue that form after surgery, a perforated appendix or a haemorrhage. Obstructions can be caused by conditions such as endometriosis, diverticulitis and superior mesenteric artery syndrome.

Medications and stimulants

Other medications such as opiates, narcotics, antispasmodics and even trycyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline can all cause poor gut motility, as can cigarette and cannabis use.

How Do I Know If I have SIBO

Lab tests such as a 3 hour lactulose breath test, possibly followed by a glucose test as well if necessary, can be carried out by a SIBO practitioner such as myself. It is important that the test is a 3 hour test and that it tests for both methane and hydrogen.

Methane & hydrogen are emitted by bacteria in the small intestine, before you have had chance to absorb your food. Causing the symptoms of wind, bloating, stomach cramps, iron deficiency, B vitamin deficiency, fatigue, etc! But a word of warning… There is a third gas, called hydrogen sulphide, that doesn’t show up on a standard test.

Hydrogen Sulphide

Leading expert in the field, Dr Mark Pimental, has recently developed a test for Hydrogen Sulphide SIBO. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this article, it is not yet available in the UK.

However, if you have a flat line across the whole of your 3 hour breath test, it is possible that this is not a negative breath test for SIBO, but in fact a positive indicator that you have hydrogen sulphide SIBO. So, if you have previously been tested, as I was, and told that the test is negative because you had a flat line but you are still symptomatic, you may in fact need treating for Hydrogen Sulphide SIBO. A trained SIBO practitioner should be able to help you interpret the test and give you some indication of how long treatment might take.

I also order a stool test for my clients to see what possible causes of SIBO may exist. Lab tests I use include GI Effects from Genova Diagnostics and GI Map, depending on someone’s signs and symptoms.

Natural treatments for SIBO

The natural treatment for SIBO that I prescribe to my clients is herbal antimicrobials to kill off the excess bacteria, of a particular type and dosage. These should always be taken under supervision.

I also prescribe a 2 phase diet which for some people has virtually eliminated symptoms within a couple of weeks. However, this diet is not meant as a long-term strategy. We need to look at the cause, as opposed to just managing the symptoms with diet.

Phase 2 diet

The diet works by eliminating/ reducing a group of fermentable carbohydrates called FODMAPs. Designed by one of the leading experts in the field, Nirala Jacobi, adapted from Alison Siebecker’s SIBO Specific Diet, the diet is specifically targeted at starving the bacteria to help with their elimination. It has also been designed to be as varied as possible, because restricting any food groups can cause disruption to the gut microbiome, the community of “normal” bacteria that are supposed to live in our large intestine and modulate our immune system, produce vitamins and in short keep us healthy.

If someone has Hydrogen Sulphide SIBO I tailor the diet, as hydrogen sulphide producing bacteria will thrive on different foods to hydrogen and methane producers.

Meal spacing

Other strategies I employ include meal spacing, i.e. eating with four to five hour gaps in between. This can help the MMC to sweep excess bacteria out, so regular grazing can also be problematic.

I also, depending on someone’s stool test results, address any digestive issues with specific enzymes, address any leaky gut, inflammation or lowered gut immunity and assess whether someone needs to take hydrochloric acid in the form of Betaine HCl. I would also prescribe a prokinetic to ensure that motility is working as well as possible and possibly also a biofilm disruptor, as bacteria are known to create a biofilm around themselves to protect themselves.

There are also many natural treatments for symptoms such as bloating, reflux, constipation and diarrhoea.  Take a look at www.siboinfo.com  for more info.

Microbiome restoration

I end my treatment with microbiome restoration, as the antimicrobials, although natural, and the restricted diet, do to some extent alter the gut microbiome.

Probiotics, fermented foods, yoghurts such as Yakult, etc will not on their own be enough to recolonize our gut bacteria. Those bacteria need to keep being fed prebiotic foods in order to grow, thrive and survive.

Other Causes of IBS

Other causes of IBS can include;

  • parasitic infections (almost impossible to pick up unless you use PCR testing to test for DNA and standard tests throw up a lot of false negatives)
  • Coeliac disease (which your GP can test you for as long as you are still eating gluten)
  • Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (don’t think if you are not coeliac that gluten is fine as this could be you!)
  • Disease causing bacteria such as Klebsiella Pneumoniae that produce endotoxins (linked with endometriosis in some cases), any of the individual causes of SIBO on their own
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis)
  • Removal of gallbladder or part of the bowel
  • Diverticulitis
  • Candida or other fungal overgrowth
  • Food intolerances
  • Salicylate or oxalate sensitivity
  • Histamine intolerance
  • Disrupted gut flora
  • Or simply a poor diet.

I shall be diving deeper into some of these other causes in future articles.

Often removing highly inflammatory foods such as dairy, gluten and sugar can have a huge impact on someone’s digestion. Again, testing as part of my six step programme instead of guessing, can often get to the route cause of any of these.

If you would like help with any issues mentioned above, contact me for a free 15 minute chat to find out how I can help you.

References

Bharucha, A. E., Seide, B. M., Zinsmeister, A. R., & Melton, L. J. (2007). Insights into normal and disordered bowel habits from bowel diaries. The American journal of gastroenterology103(3), 692-8.
Bures, J., Cyrany, J., Kohoutova, D., Förstl, M., Rejchrt, S., Kvetina, J., Vorisek, V., … Kopacova, M. (2010). Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth syndrome. World journal of gastroenterology16(24), 2978-90.
Ghoshal, U. C., Shukla, R., & Ghoshal, U. (2017). Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth and Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Bridge between Functional Organic Dichotomy. Gut and liver11(2), 196-208.
Thomson, A. B., Sauve, M. D., Kassam, N., & Kamitakahara, H. (2010). Safety of the long-term use of proton pump inhibitors. World journal of gastroenterology16(19), 2323-30.

Treating IBS Course

We can run a course for you covering IBS, the causes and how to relieve the symptoms.

Contact me to get some more information on the courses/ workshops that I can run for you.

How To Get A Better Sleep Naturally – Improve Your Sleep Quality

Picture of a grey cat sleeping soundly on a white duvet

Are You Getting Enough Sleep and Is It The Right Quality?

Sleep duration

Firstly, what is the right amount of sleep? Well researchers quote between 7-9 hours sleep a night. It is down to the individual to you to decide whether you can function well on 7, 8 or 9 hours. Which amount of sleep leaves you ready to spring out of bed in the morning? If the answer is “no amount of sleep leaves me springing out of bed” then read on, as I explore how sleep quality is just as important as duration.

Importance of both the Right Amount of Sleep and the Right Quality of Sleep

Researchers have found that skimping on sleep, and also have over 9 hours sleep, can both increase your chances of getting Type II Diabetes. Lack of sleep or disrupted sleep quality can also increase inflammation, affect your heart health and blood pressure, cause you to go into fight or flight mode (which means your body cannot digest, your brain cannot process as effectively and your body can’t repair), cause weight gain due to disruption to the hormones which signal to your brain that you are full after eating and even increase your chances of colorectal cancer or all-cause mortality!

So what do we mean by quality of sleep?

Well a good night’s sleep should leave you feeling refreshed the next morning. During the night our body uses sleep to repair and detoxify and we actually carry out the most detoxification between the hours of 10pm and 12pm, so I advise all my clients to have their head on the pillow by 10pm, something for all you night owls to consider.

For those of you with adrenal issues, you may find that you have something called “day night reversal” where you have more energy at night.  This is because your cortisol levels are dysregulated. Cortisol is the hormone that wakes you up in the morning and should lower throughout the day so that you can sleep at night. Often people with adrenal dysregulation get a second wind around 11pm so ideally you want to try and get to sleep before then if at all possible. But, as always, with adrenal dysregulation you do need to look at addressing the root causes, of which there can be many. There is a great app called Sleep Cycle which you can use to monitor how deeply you are sleeping https://www.sleepcycle.com/how-it-works/

Hints and Tips to Improve Sleep

So how do we go about improving our sleep?

Stimulants

Caffeine, which is found in tea, coffee and chocolate, can affect your sleep quality for over 6-8 hours so I always recommend steering clear of anything with caffeine in from at least 2pm in the afternoon. This is true of other stimulants as well, such as tobacco.

Alcohol

Alcohol may seem like it’s getting you off to sleep but the actual quality of sleep after alcohol is poor. Not only is it a diuretic, dehydrating and toxic to the brain, but it also switches off REM sleep, the most restorative type of sleep, so steering clear of alcohol a good few hours before bed if not altogether can help improve sleep quality.

Food

Staying away from food for up to 4 hours before sleeping can help us sleep more deeply as our body is not busy trying to digest food, which is a big stress on the body.  The caveat to this is those with blood sugar dysregulation, who would do well to have a little resistant starch before bed to stop their cortisol spiking throughout the night and waking them up.  However, as usual, looking at ways of addressing blood sugar issues is an even more effective strategy, which a naturopathic nutritionist can help you with.

Light after Sunset

You may well have heard about the effects of blue light on melatonin production, the hormone that assists us, amongst other things, to sleep deeply. Blue light emits from electrical devices such as computers, smart phones, digital displays on clocks or radios, etc. There are a number of apps out there such as F.lux which you can download onto your computer to enable it to dim the blue light emitting from the screen and later smartphones tend to have built in blue light dimmers that you can switch on in their settings.

For those devices where you cannot dim the blue light, the answer is simple – blue light blocking glasses such as Blu Blockers that you wear after the sun goes down. These are ideal, as it’s not just blue light but also strip lighting, lightbulbs, the light in the fridge, in fact any type of lighting that can upset the body’s melatonin production other than orange or red lighting. So another helpful tip is to change your lightbulbs to orange or red ones wherever possible.

Electronics

Electronics emit frequencies that can interfere with your sleep. Even when you put your smartphone on airplane mode, it is still emitting, so switch everything off (including switching stuff off at the plug) and position your bed away from any electrical cables or plug sockets.

Wi-fi

Wi-fi signals have been shown in research studies to significantly affect the quality of our sleep as well as our overall health. Whilst we may be surrounded by wi-fi from our neighbours, we can ensure that we reduce our exposure by turning our own wi-fi off before sleep or, even better, hard wire our devices and switch the wi-fi in your home off permanently.

Darkness in the Bedroom

How dark is your bedroom? If there is light coming into the room from devices or seeping through the window from street lights, that can all affect your sleep quality. Practical solutions include black out blinds or eye masks.

Your Body Clock

Getting up and going to bed at the same every day sets your body clock. Lying in at weekends completely disrupts your body clock, so come Monday morning your body is expecting to lie in again, so regular waking up and sleeping times will help immensely.

Exercise

Regular moderate exercise at least 4 hours away from sleep, if not more, will also help improve sleep quality. Beware of overtraining as this can actually spike your cortisol levels and may lead to adrenal fatigue.

Daylight

You might be surprised to hear that it’s not just the lighting at night but also the light that you take directly through your retinas first thing in the morning that can help to reset our sleep / wake rhythms.  Try getting 20 minutes of either direct sunlight or full spectrum daylight directly into your retinas (without glasses or contact lenses) every morning.

Hydration

Hydration can hugely impact on the quality of your sleep. I was on sleeping pills for years and still only getting 3 hours of sleep a night, but when I started to hydrate I found myself suffering less. Being better hydrated assisted with my sleeping and I stopped relying on sleeping pills. We lose water naturally even when sleeping as we lose it through our breath. So check out my blog on hydration to read more about how to keep hydrated.

Room Temperature

According to the Sleep Council, “hot, cold and draughty rooms can seriously impact on your sleep.” They suggest that the ideal room temperature for a good night sleep should be between 16 to 18°C (60 to 65°F).

Relaxation v. Stimulation

Switching off stimulation 2 hours before bed can help our brain settle down in preparation for sleep. Stimulation can take the form of work, study or even stimulating TV programmes. If you can do anything to actually slow your brain waves down, such as alternate nostril breathing or using apps such as Heartmath, that can also be a great help.

Magnesium levels can also impact how well you are able to relax. Many of my clients find that Naturopathic techniques such as Epsom salt baths and footbaths or taking magnesium citrate help them relax. These techniques can assist with the redirection of blood flow away from the brain to the feet.

References

Al-Abri, M. A., Jaju, D., Al-Sinani, S., Al-Mamari, A., Albarwani, S., Al-Resadi, K., Bayoumi, R., Hassan, M. Al-Hashmi, K. (2016). Habitual Sleep Deprivation is Associated with Type 2 Diabetes: A Case-Control Study. Oman medical journal, 31(6), 399-403.

Bedrosian, T. A., & Nelson, R. J. (2017). Timing of light exposure affects mood and brain circuits. Translational psychiatry, 7(1), BMJ Open.

Brasure M, MacDonald R, Fuchs E, Olson CM, Carlyle M, Diem S et al. Management of Insomnia Disorder. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2015. (AHRQ Comparative Effectiveness Review; Volume 159).

Chaput, J.P., McNeil, J., Despres, J.P., Bouchard, C. and Tremblay, A., (2013). Seven to eight hours of sleep a night is associated with a lower prevalence of the metabolic syndrome and reduced overall cardiometabolic risk in adults. PloS one, 8(9), p.e72832.

Chepesiuk, R. (2009). Missing the dark: health effects of light pollution. Environmental health perspectives, 117(1), A20-7

Dolezal, B. A., Neufeld, E. V., Boland, D. M., Martin, J. L., & Cooper, C. B. (2017). Interrelationship between Sleep and Exercise: A Systematic Review. Advances in preventive medicine, 2017, 1364387.

Drake, C., Roehrs, T., Shambroom, J., & Roth, T. (2013). Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 9(11), 1195-200. doi:10.5664/jcsm.3170

Hatori, M., Gronfier, C., Van Gelder, R. N., Bernstein, P. S., Carreras, J., Panda, S., Marks, F., Sliney, D., Hunt, C. E., Hirota, T., Furukawa, T. Tsubota, K. (2017). Global rise of potential health hazards caused by blue light-induced circadian disruption in modern aging societies. NPJ aging and mechanisms of disease, 3, 9. doi:10.1038/s41514-017-0010-2

Hysing M, Pallesen S, Stormark KM, et a. (2015). Sleep and use of electronic devices in adolescence: results from a large population-based study

Mirghani, H.O., Mohammed, O.S., Almurtadha, Y.M. and Ahmed, M.S., (2015). Good sleep quality is associated with better academic performance among Sudanese medical students. BMC research notes, 8(1), p.706.

Obradovich, N., Migliorini, R., Mednick, S. C., & Fowler, J. H. (2017). Nighttime temperature and human sleep loss in a changing climate. Science advances, 3(5), e1601555. doi:10.1126/sciadv.1601555

Okamoto-Mizuno, K., & Mizuno, K. (2012). Effects of thermal environment on sleep and circadian rhythm. Journal of physiological anthropology, 31(1), 14. doi:10.1186/1880-6805-31-14

Park, S. Y., Oh, M. K., Lee, B. S., Kim, H. G., Lee, W. J., Lee, J. H., Lim, J. T.,Kim, J. Y. (2015). The Effects of Alcohol on Quality of Sleep. Korean journal of family medicine, 36(6), 294-9.

Shan, Z., Ma, H., Xie, M., Yan, P., Guo, Y., Bao, W., Rong, Y., Jackson, C.L., Hu, F.B. and Liu, L., (2015). Sleep duration and risk of type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Diabetes care, 38(3), pp.529-537.

The Causes of Hayfever and How To Stop Symptoms Naturally

Can You Alleviate Hayfever Naturally?

Picture of woman in a field of grass blowing her nose

So along with the glorious weather, up goes the pollen count. For the approximately 20 million hayfever sufferers in the UK, that hardly feels fair does it? But do you have to dose yourself up with steroid sprays, drops and antihistamines or is there a more natural solution that doesn’t leave you with side effects?

Pharmaceutical vs Natural Treatments for Hayfever Symptoms

“I don’t have any side effects and the antihistamines work just fine”, I hear you say. Well all pharmaceuticals have substances in them that are not found in nature and therefore the body can respond in unpleasant ways such as getting drowsiness and headaches.

Side effects of steroid sprays and drops can include fatigue and even mood swings. Steroid treatments for hayfever can also play havoc with the natural production of cortisol, which helps us wake up alert in the morning, deal with stressors throughout the day and lowers to help us sleep at night.

There are natural alternatives that work in the same way as pharmaceutical products, as I’ll discuss below, which can help alleviate the symptoms of allergies. But as I will go on to explain, you still need to treat the cause when it comes to allergies, as histamine is an important and useful chemical in the body that regulates where the blood flows to, so ideally we only want to use these substances to deal with the symptoms whilst we treat the cause.

Natural Anti-Histamines

  • Notably the bioflavonoid quercetin has been found in a number of studies to have a natural anti-histamine effect. This natural substance is found in foods such as buckwheat (particularly buckwheat tea), onions, green tea, apples and berries but is even more beneficial in supplement form.
  • Vitamin C containing bioflavonoids can have a powerful effect in alleviating hayfever symptoms, as the bioflavonoids increase the absorption and therefore the antioxidant and anti-histamine action of the vitamin C.
  • Methionine helps break histamine down and binds it to get it out of the body, as some people can’t break down histamine in the body effectively due to certain variations in their genes.
  • Substance such as Beta Glucans and Lactobacillus L92 help to modulate immune function.
  • Substances such as Boswellia, Luteolin and Curcumin are all natural anti-inflammatories.

Natural Alternatives to Steroid Sprays and Drops

  • Netti potting can have a similar effect as steroid sprays and eye drops without the side effects and urine therapy can increase its effectiveness even further.
  • Haymax is a natural and non-toxic preparation which can be put in the nostrils and under the eyelashes to catch any pollen and reduce aggravation to the eyes and nasal passage.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is about introducing a tiny bit of the substance you are allergic to into the body with the aim of getting the immune system to become effective at dealing with it. However, most forms of immunotherapy are through injection.

Injections go straight through the first line of defence of the immune system into the blood stream – as you’ll see below, that’s how we get allergies in the first place, by compromising that first line of defence, which is extremely stressful and dehydrating to the body, further worsening the conditions under which the allergy manifested in the first place.

Bee pollen can be a useful oral form of immunotherapy, starting with 1 grain under the tongue and increasing by a grain a day as long as no reaction is felt.

Causes of Hayfever

Leaky Membranes

So as I’ve stressed above, alleviating  the symptoms can provide initial relief but we must also treat the cause. So how do allergies exist in the first place.  Pollen is not a dangerous substance is it? We have an external skin, but did you know that we also have an internal skin, our mucous membranes, where our skin turns inwards in our urinary tract, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract and also the reproductive tract for us females. This internal skin is meant to keep things that we breathe in or ingest out of the blood stream. We cannot have an allergy unless something has somehow got through that internal skin. So how can that happen?

The membranes of our internal skin can become “leaky” for a number of reasons. The main reason is when we suppress an appropriate inflammatory response. We can have inflammation as the result of an external injury, such as a cut or a bite or an injury to tissue, but also as the result of excessive toxicity within the body.

Toxicity can build up not just through what we ingest, breathe in, or think, but also through what we suppress. So the body might have the need to release toxins through diarrhoea, vomiting, increased perspiration or even, for us ladies, heavier menstruation. However, we often thwart the body’s attempt to release the build up of toxins by using medications and products such as anti-perspirants, which stop symptoms but lead the body to throw an inflammatory response to try and deal with the toxins.

Detoxification

In addition, if the bodies routes of elimination (bowel, liver, lymph, etc) are not working effectively then this can also prevent the toxins from getting out. So then what happens (which also happens in injury) is that the white blood cells will move towards and stick to the side of the blood vessels, histamine is released into the area and the blood vessel becomes more permeable, so that the white blood cells which are part of our immune system can start cleaning up that area for us.

Pain, swelling, redness and loss of function occur as a result of our body trying to rid itself of the toxicity. It is an intelligent response. If this is allowed to run its course, the white blood cells can get through into the tissue, clean up the situation, and then the blood vessels will cease to be permeable.  However, if this response is suppressed by medications, for example anti-inflammatories, then the process cannot take place, the toxicity goes deeper and the blood vessels remain permeable, or “leaky” as the body recognises that there is still toxicity that needs to get out and keeps that membrane permeable.

Repairing Leaky Membranes

Where the membranes in the gut, or indeed anywhere else, are leaky, allowing the allergen into the blood, there are a number of useful supplements. These include:

  • L-glutamine
  • Colostrum (for those who are not allergic to dairy)
  • Collagen
  • Zinc
  • Vitamins A and D (which should be taken together as they compete for cell receptor sites)

Again, advice should be sought as to what to use when and for how long, depending on the particular issues presenting. This is why I never give dosages for supplements in my blogs, as without guidance people can continue taking inappropriate supplements for inappropriate lengths of time and throw off their vitamin and mineral balance.

Lowered Immunity

Even if a substance permeates our internal skin and gets into the blood, our immune cells should still be able to deal with it, as long as our routes of elimination are working well. But when the amount of toxicity coming into our body is greater than the immune cells can deal with or our routes of elimination aren’t operating well enough to get the toxins out effectively, of which dehydration is a huge part (read my blog about water to find out more), then the immune system’s next intelligent reaction will be to batten down the hatches to try and keep the allergen out.

So our immune system hasn’t “gone wrong” – it’s actually trying to protect us. The symptoms of hayfever, created by the release of histamine, which is a natural substance that is part of our immune system, are there to keep things out of our blood stream by sneezing out the pollen, creating mucous or creating itching which makes our eyes and nose water.

How to Decrease Our Toxic Load to Improve Immunity

It is good to take out both inflammatory foods and foods that we react to.  But we also need to look at the amount of toxins we breathe in or absorb through our skin in our cleaning products and put on our skin in terms of our personal care products.

Is the water we are drinking clean? Is the air that we are breathing in in our homes clean? What about electromagnetic frequencies in our homes such as our wi-fi, bluetooth, smartphones, wireless devices? Do we switch them off at night? Can we hardwire our computers and switch the wi-fi off altogether?  Is our food organic or covered in pesticides (or, in the case of meat, antibiotics)? Are we eating processed food that the body cannot recognise or are we eating whole unprocessed foods? Do we smoke, or take recreational drugs, or prescription drugs? Toxicity can come from a whole host of places, but the aim of a good naturopathic healing programme is to look at ways to reduce exposure as much as possible.

How to Increase our Ability to Eliminate Toxins

Sleep

Sleeping between 10:00pm-12:00am actually gives us the most restorative sleep of the whole night. Our body uses sleep to repair itself, so ensuring we turn off our electrical devices at least an hour before bed can help us get into deeper sleep when we do hit the pillow. Studies show increased imbalances in those people who sleep less than 7 hours a night and 7-9 hours is what we should all be aiming for.

Diet

We can use diet not only to nourish, but also to cleanse. But we need to make sure before we start doing things like green smoothies, juicing, fasting, superfoods, etc that our routes of elimination are open and working well, as when we start releasing toxicity from our cells, we need to ensure the body can see it out and allow it to exit efficiently.

Improving Bowel Function

Many of my clients find Psyllium husk, prokinetics such as Iberogast, enemas or soaked flaxseeds (the latter is contraindicated in those with diverticulitis) as excellent ways to ensure their bowels are open. And we cannot have our bowels working effectively unless we are hydrating with 4 pints of clean plain water a day (see my blog on water).

Improving Liver Function

Many people open up their liver’s with castor oil packing, coffee enemas (contraindicated in those with adrenal stress). Milk thistle, glutathione, n-acetyl cysteine and alpha lipoic acid are all used by many to help the liver to detoxify more effectively.

Improving lymph flow

Exercise, massage and lymph brushing can all help to move lymph, but we want to ensure bowels and liver are working well before we start to move lymph otherwise the toxins that we release will have no exit route.

Stress

Stress can also play a part in the onset of allergies as when we are under stress we produce the stress hormone cortisol which has the effect of directing energy away from the immune system. We cannot be in a state of “fight, flight or freeze” at the same time as “rest and repair”.

Stress reduction techniques

  • Journaling
  • EFT
  • Mindfulness
  • Chanting
  • Meditation
  • Laughter
  • Gratitude journaling
  • Doing something every day that you enjoy
  • Taking a daily walk in nature for 20 minutes
  • Linseed tea – see my recipe for linseed tea
  • Adrenal packs – foundations of health blog
  • B vitamins, particularly B5, are gobbled up under stress so supplementing with a well balanced vitamin B formula, high in B5, can be useful.

Gut Issues

The other major factor that can play a part in lowered immunity is the disruption of our microbiome, the community of microbes that live in and on us, in our guts, our mouths, our skin, etc, through antibiotics, poor diet and “hygiene” – i.e. the use of antibacterial handwashes, etc. Healing any gut issues is paramount when dealing with allergies, given that 80% of our immune system is in the gut.

Healing the Gut

How we do this depends on what is going on with the gut, which lab testing can show us. For example, we can have pathogenic organisms living in the gut that can impair our digestion and make our gut “leaky” so that we develop food intolerances and testing will show us what is residing there.

Probiotics

We can also increase the beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus GG.  Sacharomyces Boulardii can also be very useful in helping to maintain a healthy balance of bowel flora.

But throwing probiotics at the situation will not repopulate our bowel flora. In order to really get the balance back we need to provide our bowel flora with the foods they need to thrive. This includes prebiotic foods and fermented foods are key. However, depending on an individual’s particular gut issues, probiotics and prebiotics may not be something we initially jump into. This is because in some issues, such as histamine intolerance or SIBO, it can make symptoms worse. This is why testing is so useful.

Digestive enzymes

Digestive support in the form of digestive enzymes and Betaine HCl are often founduseful in helping to restore the gut. However, a caveat is that some people should not take Betaine HCl. Also, there are people that do produce too much stomach acid (although many others do not produce enough, despite having symptoms such as acid reflux). Therefore, a skilled practitioner can help decide whether Betaine HCl is appropriate for you.

Another important factor in healing the gut can be to consider removing inflammatory foods. This includes dairy, gluten and sugar and anything else that a person may be reacting to, which can be deduced via an elimination diet.

An inability to make our own anti-inflammatory messengers

Tissue hormones called prostaglandins modulate inflammation in the body.  If we have not got the raw ingredients to make our prostaglandins, this may affect our ability to naturally switch off an inflammatory response.

How to make our prostaglandins

To make sure we are able to make our own anti-inflammatory messengers, we need to give our body what it needs to make them. Whilst a healthy balanced diet can offer what we need, many of my clients choose to take a good quality multivitamin and mineral containing zinc, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, omega-3 and omega-6, vitamin B3 and vitamin B6 to ensure they are getting everything that is required  We need to make sure the liver is able to deal with omega-3s before we introduce them. Therefore, it’s a good idea to prepare the body by taking 2 teaspoons of good quality lecithin a day. Sources of omega-3 include flaxseed oil, with which you need to take lecithin to emulsify it, and krill oil, which contains its own emulsifier.

References

Akramienė, et al. (2007). Effects of b-glucans on the immune system

Ashraf R and Shah NP (2014). Immune system stimulation by probiotic microorganisms. Crit

Aziz et al. (2018). Anti-inflammatory effects of luteolin: A review of in vitro, in vivo, and in silico studies.

Hewlings, S. J., & Kalman, D. S. (2017). Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods (Basel, Switzerland)6(10), 92. doi:10.3390/foods6100092

Mlcek J, Jurikova T, Skrovankova S, Sochor J. (2016). Quercetin and Its Anti-Allergic Immune Response.

Siddiqui, M. (2011). Boswellia serrata, a potential antiinflammatory agent: an overview. Indian journal of pharmaceutical sciences73(3), 255-61.

Younes, A. K., & Younes, N. K. (2017). Recovery of steroid induced adrenal insufficiency. Translational pediatrics6(4), 269-273.