Oily fish and mental health

Did you know your brain is over 60% fat and that omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs)  found in oily fish feature heavily in our brain cells?

Studies have shown in countries where consumption of omega-3 EFAs from oily fish are high, levels of depression are lower.  A study which analysised the results of ten studies looking at omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and depression concluded that the trials did clearly show an improvement in symptoms of depression and bipolar disorders, but that more larger trials were needed to confirm the findings.

Given that it is already well known that omega-3 EFAs improve cardiovascular health by helping to reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks, improve joint and skin health by reducing inflammation in the body, and reduce risk of diabetes and cancer again by reducing inflammation, the emerging findings on omega-3 fats and mood seem to be just another good reason for us to think carefully about whether we are getting enough omega-3 via our diets or supplements.

The best sources of omega-3 EFAs are oily fish and the algae that the oily fish eat.  The omega-3 EFAs in these foods are in a ready to use form, perfect for our bodies. Unfortunately, large oily fish are no longer recommended in the diet due to the high levels of heavy metals they contain which are thought to contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia; they also contain worrying levels of other pollutants found in the sea.

Latest advice is to only eat the smaller oily fish such as sardines, anchovies and mackerel and to avoid tuna and salmon.  Some omega-3 EFAs are also found in grass-fed animals, i.e. ones raised outdoors in fields.  Ideally eat oily fish twice a week and only eat outdoor raised, grass fed, meat and poultry.

There are also vegetarian sources of omega-3 EFAs; however, these need to undergo several conversions within the body before they are transformed into the key fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), the forms found in oily fish and used by the body to create anti-inflammatory chemicals which bring a huge range of health benefits.

Vegetarian sources of omega 3 essential fatty acids include:
Dark green leafy vegetables such as cabbage, kale, sprouting broccoli, calvados neros etc.
Flax seeds (need to be ground first)
Chia seeds (ideally soak first)
Nuts, especially walnuts
Hemp seeds and cold pressed hemp oil

Ideally eat dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds every day to ensure a good intake of omega-3 EFAs, whether or not you are also eating oily fish.

If you don’t want to eat oily fish it may be worth taking an omega-3 EFA supplement.  Quality matters as the cheaper products may not have been adequately purified to remove heavy metals and pollutants.  Look for a combined dose of EPA and DHA of 800-1000mg per day.  The best vegetarian supplements of EPA and DHA are the ones made from algae.

A word about Omega-6
There is also another group of EFAs, the omega-6 group.  In the body we are meant to have a balance of omega-6 and omega-3 EFAs.  Omega-6 fats are found in large quantities in all vegetable oils with the exception of coconut oil and olive oil.  They are also found in intensively farmed animals.  Most of us are consuming far too much omega-6 via processed foods, restaurant foods and home cooking where cheaper vegetable oils, meat and poultry are heavily used.  Too much omega-6 will promote an excess of inflammation in the body and a wide range of health problems including arthritis, dementia, cancer, diabetes, skin conditions, chronic pain and migraines.

Only cook with coconut fat, butter and other naturally saturated fats and reduce your intake of cheap meat and processed foods as much as possible.  Use olive oil in salad dressings and avoid shop bought dressings and mayonnaise which are high in cheap vegetable oils. These steps will help you to keep your intake of omega-6 fats down to a safe and appropriate level, and keep in balance your omega-3 / omega-6 EFA ratio.


This salad is so easy and delicious and packed full of goodness!  This works well as a main meal or a side dish.  These quantities will serve two as a generous side dish.

Brown rice or quinoa (about ½ cup uncooked) – cooked and cooled
Lower fat feta cheese 30g
Olives – handful, cut in half
Celery, two sticks finely chopped
1 Red peppers, finely chopped
Cherry tomatoes, 150g- 200g halved
Parsley or basil leaves, a finely chopped
½ red onion or 3 spring onions, finely chopped
1 large carrot – grated
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
Tbsp of virgin olive oil
Tip: vary the ingredients to suit your own taste


  • Once the rice or quinoa is cooked, cool it quickly by running cold water over it and set it aside to drain.
  • Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl with the exception of the tomatoes
  • Add the rice or quinoa, and the lemon juice; season with a little salt and plenty of pepper; stir well
  • Transfer to an air tight container and store in the fridge.
  • Just before serving add the tomatoes and the olive oil.
  • Enjoy!

What is so good about this salad?
The brown rice or quinoa are whole grains and full or fibre and complex carbohydrates to fill you up and give you lasting energy.  They are also rich in B vitamins and minerals which support nervous system function and energy production.  They are both naturally gluten free and easy to digest.

The carrot and pepper are rich in beta-carotene which is an anti-oxidant helping to slow the ageing process and prevent cancer; the tomatoes, peppers and lemon juice are rich in vitamin C needed for a strong immune system; lemon juice also has direct anti-cancer activity.  Parsley is very high in anti-oxidants again protecting the body from ageing and disease; basil is thought to aid cognitive function.

Olives and good quality olive oil, unheated has been shown to improve one’s cholesterol profile.  The cheese is low in fat and high in protein and calcium for strong bones.

Nettle Leafs – Urtica Dioica

Nettle Leaves have a long history of medicinal use.  Today modern herbalists use nettle tea or tincture as a gentle tonic and cleansing herb to strengthen the whole body, for arthritis, and for allergic conditions such as asthma, hay fever and eczema.  It is also very helpful for women suffering with heavy menstrual periods and anaemia.

Nettle is a mild diuretic herb which thought to gently cleanse the body via the kidneys and because of this is helpful in conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism. Nettle tea is very thirst quenching and refreshing and it has a valuable role in any detox diet. It is rich in potassium, iron and other minerals. Young nettles were traditionally picked in the spring after the dark winter months when people had few sources of vitamin rich foods.  Making nettle soup was an excellent way to restore their levels of vital vitamins and minerals.

It’s high iron content and it’s astringent properties make it helpful for the treatment of heavy periods and anaemia.  It is also used for stopping bleeding from nose bleeds and wounds.

Nettle is considered to be a key anti-allergy herb and is used by Western herbalists in the treatment of eczema, asthma and hay fever.  Mrs Grieves in her book the ‘Modern Herbal’ first published in 1931 talks about nettle’s history of use as an anti-asthmatic herb.

Home Use:
Nettle tea is a very safe herbal tea and can be drunk freely as part of a detox regime, for any of the conditions discussed above, or just enjoyed as part of a healthy diet.

To benefit from it’s medicinal benefits drink three cups daily and for long standing health problems it is best drunk regularly for several weeks or months.

For heavy periods: Drink lots (up to five cups daily) of nettle tea during your period.

For anaemia: Drink three cups a day and combine with an iron rich diet or other supplements.

If you have a debilitating health problem or feel your symptoms are not improving it is important to see a qualified medical practitioner.

Am I eating too much cheese?

Cheese is a good source of protein and calcium and contains the same vitamins as milk.  It also helps to neutralise harmful acid in the mouth and prevent tooth decay.

Unfortunately most cheeses are very high in fat.  Furthermore, because they are aged products the fat in most cheese is worse than the saturated fats found in fresh dairy products such as milk, yogurt and fresh cheeses like cottage cheese.  Once fat is damaged it is much more harmful to health: promoting atherosclerosis (blocking up of the arteries with fatty plaques), raising your cholesterol levels, and high in free radicals which damage the cells of the body contributing to aging, cancer and other diseases.

This chart shows you how much fat is in one ounce of cheese (30g).  An ounce of cheese is actually very small, less than most people would put in a cheese sandwich!  It is about a cubic inch or the size of a Swan Vesta matchbox (see pic below).

This table was taken from: foodandhealth.communications

Cheese is also very high in salt.  Most people in the UK consume double the recommended maximum intake of 6g of salt per day.  High salt intake is a major factor in the development of high blood pressure which is a leading cause of death in the UK due to it’s strong links to strokes and heart attacks.

It is probably wise to try to limit one’s intake of cheese; to choose cheeses which are lower in fat such as low fat cream cheese or reduced fat cheddar, and to pick fresh cheeses which have less damaged fat such as cottage cheese, mozzarella and mascarpone over old cheeses like cheddar and brie.  Cooking with any cheese will further damage the fat it contains and is not a good idea.

You can get the same nutritional benefits i.e. the protein, calcium, vitamin A and D, B12, B1 and B2 from other fresh dairy products such as milk and yogurt.  Small fish where you eat the bones such as sardines and tinned salmon are an alternative excellent source of calcium and protein.

Vegetarian sources of calcium include dark green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, tahini, tofu and almonds.
Most people in the UK do not consume the recommended daily intake of calcium and it is worth thinking about how often you are consuming calcium rich foods and whether you need to increase your intake to ensure a healthy skeleton and strong bones and teeth later in life.

Here is a link to the International Osteoporosis Foundation’s online calcium intake calculator which is a great way to work out if you are getting enough calcium: https://www.iofbonehealth.org/calcium-calculator

Dietary Guidelines for the Menopause

Foods which contain phytoestrogens will exert a mild oestrogen boosting effect on the body.  Try to include them in the diet as often as possible.
(Caution needs to be taken eating these foods if you have had an oestrogen related cancer in the past.)


They include:

  • Flaxseeds – ground and added to porridge or salads etc.
  • Oats (porridge/muesli/oat cakes/flapjacks)
  • Soya – ideally eat fermented soya products such as tempeh, fermented tofu, miso and good quality soya sauce
  • Natto
  • Beans (e.g. green beans, broad beans and peas, sprouted beans)
  • Fennel, parsley, carrots, celery, watercress, fenugreek
  • Seeds (e.g. sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, linseed)
  • Chickpeas and houmous
  • Nuts (e.g. almonds, cashews, brazils, walnuts, pistachios, chestnuts)
  • Multigrain bread
  • Apples
  • Brown rice and buckwheat
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Dried apricots and to a lesser degree dried dates and prunes (modest consumption only as these are very sweet!)

Essential fatty acids
A diet rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids will improve the action of hormones within the body and may help to reduce hot flushes.
Food sources include:

  • Oily fish – try to eat three portions a week
  • Flaxseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Dark green leafy vegetables

Liver detoxification
Vegetables which improve liver detoxification of hormones and thereby support hormone balance as well as detoxification generally include:

  • Broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower
  • Kale, spring greens, collard greens, Chinese cabbage, kohlrabi and pak choi
  • Watercress and rocket
  • Turnips

Try to eat one portion of the above vegetables every day.

Cut down or eliminate:
Coffee, tea, cola, hot spices, sugar and sugary foods, milk chocolate, alcohol and smoking, processed foods e.g. shop bought ready meals, quiches and pies, pastries.

Supplements you may wish to consider:
Vitamin B-complex
Vitamin C up to 1000mg and flavonoids
Natural form vitamin E 250mg daily
Omega-3 fish oil supplement – if you are not eating oily fish twice or more every week then taking a fish oil supplement maybe a good idea.
Soya isoflavones 50mg per day (choose a product that contains genistein and daizein)
Calcium citrate 600mg
Magnesium citrate 300mg
Vitamin D – it is a good idea to get a vitamin D blood test to find out what your levels are.


Please note: Not everyone needs supplements and different individuals may need different supplements depending on their health, diet and lifestyle.


Aromatherapy for the menopause

essential-oil-bottlesAromatherapy is a holistic therapy which uses the essential oils of plants – the concentrated aromatic  volatile part of the plant – to alleviate illness and promote balance in the body.  Oils are usually inhaled via steam inhalation or an oil burner, applied in massage or added to bathing water.  Some aromatherapists prescribe oils to be taken orally.  This should only be done by a fully trained and experienced aromatherapist using extremely high quality essential oils which have been passed for internal use.


Essential oils can be very helpful at times of hormonal change or imbalance.  During the menopause oestrogen and progesterone levels are falling and the adrenal glands are adjusting to their new role: providing a more significant proportion of our sex hormones, as well as continuing to produce our stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline.  Some essential oils are thought to support the production of our hormones by the ovaries and adrenal glands.


Rose and Geranium are two of my favourite oils for the menopausal years.  Rose essential oil is made from either Rosa damascena which is often grown in Bulgaria, and Rosa Centifolia which is often grown in France and Northern Africa (the finished product is called Rose Maroc).  All essential oils are incredibly complex and made up of hundreds of different chemical compounds which work together to create the overall effect of the oil. The two different types of Rose oil have slightly differing chemical compositions which lead to their slightly differing medicinal uses.  Rose Maroc is generally more bactericidal and relaxing and also considered to be more aphrodisiac than Rosa damascena.  Both oils are expensive because so many rose petals are needed to make even very small amounts of the oil.


Rose essential oil is thought to have a strong affinity with the female reproductive system and hormonal balance.  It is traditionally used to help balance menstrual irregularities, including heavy and erratic periods.  It is also a powerful relaxant and gentle anti-depressant for mild to moderate depression.  It is often used by aromatherapists for women who have a combination of low mood and/or anxiety and hormonal imbalance.  It is also very helpful for grief, whatever the source of the sadness.


Rose is also excellent for skincare.  It is suitable for all skin types but particularly helpful for dry, sensitive and mature skin.  It is used extensively in skin care creams and toners.  It is gently astringent and therefore helpful for thread veins and broken capillaries.


Geranium essential oil is generally made from oils within the leaves of Pelargonium graveolens, P. Capitatum, or P. Radens speices.  It contains some of the same chemical constituents as Rose which explains the similarity in smell and some of it’s overlapping qualities.  Geranium is thought to be an excellent female hormone balancer throughout a woman’s reproductive life and beyond.  It is also thought to help with adrenal production of hormones.  It is a relaxing but not sedating oil with a mild anti-depressant effect.  It helps with both pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) and mood problems around the menopause.    Geranium essential oil is also a diuretic and may help to ease fluid retention in the body particularly when it is related to PMS.


Geranium is unusual in that it is both helpful for oily or dry skin types and can be used for combination skin.  It is thought to normalise sebum production.  It has mild anti-bacterial qualities.

Geranium and rose essential oils can be used separately or together or combined with our relaxing essential oils such as Lavender or Chamomile to support the body through the menopause or other times of hormonal imbalance.


Essential oils must always be diluted before use as they are too strong to use neat on the skin.  To use these oils in massage combine two drops of essential oil in each 5ml of a base oil such as sweet almond oil or grapeseed oil.  If you wish to use more than two drops of essential oil, you need to use more base oil.  For example, if you have 50ml of base oil you may add up to 20 drops of essential oil.


Here is a massage oil blend to encourage relaxation, ease low mood and support menopausal hormone balance:


Rose essential oil                             5 drops
Geranium essential oil                   3 drops
Lavender essential oil                    4 drops
In a base of sweet almond oil     30ml


Massage this oil into your tummy working in a clockwise direction or into your legs and feet.  Or ask a friend or partner to gently massage it into your back, neck and shoulders.  Try to use it at least twice weekly.


To use oils in the bath combine any four drops of oil in 10ml (2tsp) base oil and add it to the bath water.  Be careful not to slip getting in and out!

To use oils in an oil burner or diffuser add a few drops to water and heat gently.  Never leave candles unattended.

It is always important to seek medical advice if you have a change in your menstrual cycle or any unexplained pain or bleeding to ensure there is not a serious underlying condition which needs treatment.  Aromatherapy works best when used holistically – that is, when combined with good diet, appropriate exercise and relaxation techniques.  A good aromatherapist will always ask about your overall health and should be able to give sensible dietary and lifestyle advice which will complement your treatment.

At my ‘Natural Alternatives to HRT’ seminar on Friday 3rd March you can find out how diet and herbal remedies can make a big difference to hot flushes, mood, energy levels, weight gain, vaginal dryness and much much more as you move through the menopause.

Call 07949463288 or email ellie@hollyhealthcare.co.uk now to book your place!

Wot no meat? How about a delicious vegan chilli….

Prompted by my daughter turning vegetarian, this is my first attempt at cooking a Quorn veggie chilli and it has come out delicious!  It is very easy to make.

Incredibly healthy, very low in fat, packed with veg and high in fibre.  The kidney beans are full of antioxidants which help to protect the body from ageing and degenerative disease; carrots provide beta-carotene the pre-cursor to vitamin A and an antioxidant in their own right too.  Onion and garlic both provide sulphur to improve liver detoxification and chemicals which fight infection in the body keeping colds and coughs at bay.  The chilli flakes and chocolate are also packed with antioxidants and improve the micro-circulation in the body.  Mushrooms have anti-cancer properties and are a source of vitamin D – much needed in the winter months.  Fibre helps to keep us regular, reduces the risk of digestive cancers, feeds the friendly bacteria in the gut and makes us feel full so we are less likely to over eat.


Coconut oil for frying (or butter or olive oil if you prefer)
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium to large carrots, chopped
3 sticks celery, chopped
Handful of mushrooms, chopped
Handful of frozen sweetcorn
500g bag of frozen Quorn
Can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
A bottle of tomato passata and a tin of chopped tomatoes
Handful of coriander, chopped
3 large cloves of garlic
Heaped tsp chilli flakes (or more if you like it hot)
2 heaped tsp ground cumin
2 heaped tsp paprika
½ tsp cinnamon powder
1 large square dark chocolate, broken up or a tsp cocoa powder
Salt and pepper



  • Fry the celery and the carrot gently with the coconut fat and the spices
  • After a couple of minutes add in the onions and the mushrooms and continue to fry gently
  • Add in the garlic and the Quorn, turn up the heat a little and fry, stirring until the Quorn is browned
  • Add in the passata and tinned tomatoes, kidney beans and sweetcorn and half the coriander
  • Add a cup of water, stir and bring to a simmer
  • Season with salt and plenty of black pepper, add in the chocolate
  • Simmer gently for 35 minutes to allow the flavours to develop
  • Top with the rest of the coriander before serving

This dish is delicious with brown or white rice, on a jacket potato or baked sweet potato or served with guacamole and sour cream and put in a wrap – your choice!  If you like you can add a side salad.

These quantities will make enough for six people.  Freeze some portions to save them for another day; just defrost thoroughly and reheat until piping hot before serving.

Cystitis Is a urinary tract infection ruining your Christmas?

Urinary tract infections (cystitis) are very common in women as the tubules from their bladder to the outside world are much shorter than in men so it is easier for infection to get in and take hold.  Symptoms include burning pain on urination, constantly needing to urinate but passing very little, blood in urine and fever.  Common triggers for developing a UTI (urinary tract infection) include stress, sex, alcohol, and generally being run down – many of these are applicable at Christmas!

Herbal medicines may be very effective at tackling UTIs, especially if they are caught early.  They can also help to prevent an infection taking hold if you think one is threatening.

Three herbal teas which are particularly helpful are:

Buchu (Barosma betulina)
Buchu is a strong urinary antiseptic and diuretic which helps to kill infection in the bladder.  It has been listed as an official medicine for urinary tract infections since 1821, so it has a long history of use in the UK!

Uva ursi (arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Uva ursi is also a great natural antiseptic for the bladder.  However, it is not suitable if the infection has spread up the kidneys.  Experiments have shown it has an antibacterial effect which is thought to be more pronounced in an alkaline environment so following a diet high in vegetables and low in animal products at the same time should help it be even more effective.  (Not suitable in pregnancy)

Corn silk (Zea mais)
Corn silk are the brown fronds found around corn on the cob.  This herb is very soothing to the bladder and the bladder tubules and also has a mild antiseptic action.  It is very high in potassium and a safe diuretic.  It reduces irritation in the bladder and improves urine flow.  It is also thought to be helpful for the kidneys and kidney stones.

Cornsilk is the pale fronds which grow around the corn and go brown on drying.

Cornsilk is the pale fronds which grow around the corn and go brown on drying.


These three herbs can be combined together to make a herbal tea that is drunk throughout the day or you can use them separately.  Other useful herbs for UTIs include Chamomile which is a mild diuretic and a little soothing and Marsh mallow root or leaves which are very soothing to the bladder and urethras, calming irritation.  Yarrow is helpful if you have a temperature.  If you don’t like herbal teas at all, you can take these herbs as tinctures (herbal extracts in alcohol).

Other advice for urinary infections:

  • Drink lots and lots of the fluids
  • Avoid sugar and alcohol completely as these will make the infection worse
  • Barley in soups and stews will soothe the bladder and tubules
  • Keep warm and rest as much as you can

If you feel the pain worsening and spreading up to cause lower back pain or you have a high fever consult your GP or a herbalist urgently.


If you need an advice about UTIs or any other health problem feel free to call me on 07949463288 or email ellie@hollyhealthcare.co.uk

Happy Healthy Christmas!

Are you looking forward to Christmas but dreading the weight-gain, bloating and sluggish-ness that often comes with it?  Don’t want to undo all the good work you’ve put in improving your health/waist line this year or simply want to go into the New Year glowing?

Here are some simple tips which won’t stop you having fun, but will help to keep you feeling and looking good and prevent unwanted weight gain.


  • Alcohol is full of empty calories which will go straight to your waist line. It also puts a big strain on your liver, pulling your overall health down, making you feel and look tired and will play havoc with your skin.
  • Drink a glass of still or sparkling water when you first arrive at any party or family event to ensure you are not thirsty. This will help you not to over eat as well as reducing your alcohol intake by slowing your drinking down.
  • Only drink alcohol if you really want to drink it. This sounds obvious but it is amazing what we do to make other people feel happy and comfortable.  If you don’t really fancy it, say no.
  • Don’t let anyone top up your glass unless it is empty so you can keep track of how many glasses you have had.
  • Offer to be the driver to ensure some alcohol free nights
  • Plan your festive drinking so that you get at least three completely alcohol free days each week.
  • Stop drinking an hour before you head home and finish the night with water or herbal tea to re-hydrate and start the detox process before bed. You will sleep better and wake up more refreshed.

Smart Eating

  • Fill your house with delicious healthy treats – put bowls of satsumas or nuts and a nutcracker out on the table.
  • Make sure you eat your five a day. Start the day by including some fruit with your breakfast.  Snack on fruit or nuts before looking around for sugary snacks.  Pile the vegetables up high on your plate and take either a couple of small roast potatoes or one Yorkshire puddings at each meal, not both.
  • Make it a rule that if you go back for second helpings you only allow yourself meat and vegetables – no extra potatoes or yorkies!
  • Eat slowly and give yourself time to recognise whether you are still hungry or not before taking more.
  • Don’t buy sweet treats to keep at home that you actually like. Pick ones you don’t like so you have something to offer guests, but won’t be tempted yourself.  Or go one step further and don’t buy any unhealthy snacks at all.  It is impossible to have strong will power all the time, but if you don’t buy snacks in the first place then they won’t be there to eat when your will power is waining!
  • Avoid snacking between meals if you can. Don’t say yes to mince pies or biscuits just because they are offered to you.  Politely decline and just have a hot drink instead.
  • Share deserts with someone if eating out and choose the lower calorie options whenever you can – or just finish your meal with a coffee or fresh mint tea!

Keep Moving! 

  • Regular exercise will keep your metabolic rate up so you keep burning calories. It will improve your digestion and make you less likely to over eat.  It will also make you feel more energised and lift your mood as well as help you to sleep better!
  • Make sure you fit in a brisk 30 minute walk every day of the festive season. First thing in the morning while everyone else is still waking up might be best time or take relatives out with you before or after lunch, or just find an excuse to leave the house and get out on your own.
  • If you can’t fit in a walk during the day, spend 30 minutes in the evening doing some exercise at home – use a YouTube video to inspire you, but don’t feel you have to follow it to the letter, just have it on to give you a pace but change any exercise you don’t like to one you prefer. It doesn’t really matter what you do, the point is to do something!
  • If you’ve had a long drive to reach relatives arrive twenty minutes early, park up and go for a brisk walk around the block to loosen up your body and get your heart rate up and circulation going before knocking at the door – it will give you a healthy glow and break up hours of sitting!
  • Organise to meet a friend for a walk or drop the kids off with relatives and ask to be excused for an hour so you can get some fresh air.
  • Get the children moving too: take them for a swim, ice skating, football in the park or a winter walk. Get wi fit or wi dance on in the house and get everybody moving together.
  • Get out in the garden raking up the leaves or just tidying up, it will lift your spirits.

Put these simple guidelines in place and together they can make a big difference to how you look and feel and will help you to have a happier Christmas than ever!

Weight loss, insulin resistance and type II diabetes

Did you know when you eat bread made out of refined flour, whether it is white or wholemeal the grain has been ground so finely and is so uniform in size that it behaves pretty much like sugar when it enters our bodies?  Refined grains and sugar cause a sharp spike in blood sugar and insulin levels which promote weight gain, drive inflammatory disease, damages the cardiovascular system and causes hunger cravings soon after eating.

I watched the recent BBC Panorama programme on Britain’s type II diabetes epidemic.  This programme really brings home what a serious and life changing disease diabetes is.  Unless it is reversed or incredibly well managed type II diabetes leads to cardiovascular disease, eye problems, peripheral nerve problems with loss of sensation and slow wound healing in the legs and feet, vascular dementia, and encourages cancer growth.  More and more amputations are being performed each year as a direct result of diabetes.  This programme is well worth watching and is still available on BBC iplayer.

What I didn’t like was the conclusion of the programme: that we should be performing more gastric band surgery to stop obese, pre- diabetic and diabetic patients from eating.  Although very useful to a few individuals, I do not think this radical, dangerous and expensive surgery is the answer to the nation’s obesity crisis.

In her Youtube Ted talk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=da1vvigy5tQ) Dr. Sarah Hallberg, an American doctor running a diabetes clinic argues that type II diabetes and insulin resistance (pre-diabetes)  can often be reversed, and at the very least the need for diabetes medication reduced dramatically by following  a low carbohydrate diet.  This is completely contrary to current UK and US diet guidelines for healthy eating which advocate a high carbohydrate, low fat diet.

Dr. Hallberg’s dietary advice for diabetics and those within insulin resistance is:

  1. Avoid light or low fat food – if they have taken the fat out they have added chemicals or carbohydrates in.
  2. Eat real food – it doesn’t need to say ‘natural’ on the packet, you should know by looking at it that it is real food.
  3. Don’t eat anything you don’t like.
  4. Only eat when you are hungry, irrespective of the time.
  5. No grains, no potatoes and no sugar.

If you are overweight and struggling to lose weight it is likely that you are over producing insulin in response to carbohydrate foods which is making it harder for you to lose weight, damaging the cells of your body and promoting the further laying down of more fat in your body.  Remaining obese for years puts you at very high risk of developing diabetes.

I think Dr. Hallberg’s advice is very sensible.  I would add the following to her dietary advice:

  1. Eat lots of vegetables, try to include them at every meal
  2. Eat protein with every meal to reduce hunger and food cravings, improve your lean muscle mass and help with weight loss.
  3. Vary your meals and try out new recipes – you can’t cut foods and meals out without replacing them with some new foods and meals. It is just not sustainable.
  4. If you are not already exercising start walking as briskly as you can for 30 minutes every day.
  5. If you are not diabetic or insulin resistant follow the above advice: However, you can also eat some starchy carbohydrates but keep the portions small and only eat whole grains. g. a small portion of basmati brown rice or whole grain pasta or two little new potatoes with dinner or a slice of rye bread with lunch/breakfast is unlikely to prevent you from losing weight or damage your blood sugar control.