Homocysteine: is it just about THE BEST indicator of health?

I read this book by Patrick Holford over the Christmas holidays. It may not be most peoples’ idea of a holiday read but I couldn’t put it down! For me it reinforced why so many of my clients see dramatic leaps forward in their health when they supplement B vitamins, Zinc and other nutrients.

Methylation (one of the more complex topics we studied in my Kinesiology training) put very simply is the chemical process by which we turn the food we eat into us – ie, our body’s cells. During methylation, methyl groups are added or taken away from other molecules in order to produce the substances we need to function, ie, to make, maintain or detoxify our cells, produce hormones, etc. We’re doing this millions of times per split second, every second of the day and night.

Homocysteine is the natural chemical we make from animal proteins we eat (specifically by removing a methyl group from the essential amino acid Methionine. Essential means it has to come from our diet.). We then add a methyl group to Homocysteine to make one or other of two chemicals which are absolutely vital to our health: S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe – pronounced sammie) OR Glutathione.

SAMe is our brain’s master tuner, it’s a natural anti-depressant and it’s anti-arthritic, liver-protecting and our main methyl donor (it gives methyl groups to other molecules to make what we need). Low SAMe would result in chronic pain such as fibromyalgia, as well as degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s.

Glutathione is our body’s best detoxifying agent, it literally prevents us from going off, or ageing. A lack of glutathione would mean an increased risk of all disease.

A high level of Homocysteine in a fasting blood test is an indicator that Methylation is not happening as it should – we’re low in methyl groups. If we don’t have methyl groups available, not only can we not make vital chemicals but we also run the risk of methyl groups being taken away from our DNA and/or not having what we need to repair our DNA. Our DNA is the blueprint of life for us. If it’s faulty, we get faulty pretty quickly. Damaged DNA = disease, especially cancer and autoimmune conditions.

So, Methionine makes Homocysteine and Homocysteine makes SAMe or Glutathione. These processes require specific nutrients (co-factors) – ie, we need certain nutrients to be present in our bodies in order to produce these vital chemicals. When we don’t have these nutrients present, we will have a high Homocysteine level and this is connected to an increased risk of the following conditions:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • cancer
  • diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s
  • thyroid problems
  • depression/schizophrenia
  • Parkinson’s
  • infertility
  • chronic pain – arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraines
  • autoimmune conditions
  • digestive disorders

The main nutrients needed for methylation are B vitamins – particularly B2, B6 and B12, as well as Zinc, Betaine, Folate and Choline. Other nutrients which are helpful are Omega 3 (EPA/DHA), Garlic, Sulphur and Magnesium. This explains why vegetarians and vegans are probably always going to have high Homocysteine levels. These nutrients are not or not easily found in non-animal foods. To make it even harder to methylate, a percentage of the population has a built-in genetic fault in the MTHFR branch of methylation (ie, to make SAMe). These people need even higher levels of the nutrients.

So, guess what depletes B vitamins? Modern life, in a nutshell … stress, alcohol, convenience foods, pollution, etc.

To check if Homocysteine is relevant to your health problems and which nutrients you need, contact me to book in.

Happy Methylating!

homocysteine pdf

My New Year Cleanse

Like most people, in December I tend to eat foods I don’t usually … and drink more alcohol. So, I’m doing a gut cleanse this week. Here’s what I’m doing:

Drinks: 

  1. NO alcohol or caffeine
  2. At least two litres per day of still mineral water and herbal teas. I use whole leaf tea – the flavour and quality is so much better. I have a teaball  for single cups and a teapot for when hubby joins me. I get my loose herbs from Helen’s Whole Foods in Weymouth or Buy Wholefoods Online. My current favourites are: nettle, dandelion, lemon verbena, fennel seed and dried ginger.
  3. I’m planning to include some home-made raw juices with plenty of fresh turmeric and ginger (but I haven’t got round to it … it’s something to do with the weather I think!)

Food:

  1. NO dairy (except small amounts of butter)
  2. NO sugar
  3. NO grains
  4. Low carb (very little rice or potatoes)
  5. Maximise veg, herbs and spice intake (I ordered in extra veg from Riverford this week along with organic turmeric and ginger root which I’ve been adding to everything)

Go to Menus below to see what I’ve been eating day by day and to download recipes (click on the links).

Supplements:

My kinesiologist came up with two products I needed to help cleanse my gut:

  • CandiSolve – a combination of digestive enzymes and a specific probiotic which re-balances candida overgrowth.
  • Punica Plus – a herbal parasite formula.

These were individually identified for me during a kinesiology session – I DO NOT RECOMMEND TAKING SUCH REMEDIES WITHOUT TESTING. Contact me to book in.

I’ve been experiencing some “die-off” symptoms – slight headaches and tiredness mostly. I’ve been resting, as well as getting fresh air and exercise.

Menus:

Day 1: (I made a batch of Muffins, Linseed crackers & cannellini bean Hummus)

  • Breakfast: Spinach omelette, linseed crackers, herbal tea
  • 11am: a muffin, herbal tea
  • Lunch: Spicy carrot & parsnip soup, linseed crackers, hummus, water
  • 4pm: handful of brazils & almonds and an orange, herbal tea
  • Dinner: sausages, braised red cabbage (no sugar), an orange

Day 2:

  • Breakfast: 2 soft-boiled eggs, linseed crackers, herbal tea
  • Lunch: Spicy carrot & parsnip soup, linseed crackers, hummus, water
  • 4pm: a muffin, herbal tea
  • Dinner: fish pie, leftover braised red cabbage

Day 3:

  • Breakfast: 3 rashers grilled bacon, half an avocado, half a paleo flatbread & butter, herbal tea
  • 11am: a muffin, herbal tea
  • Lunch: Cauliflower soup, linseed crackers, hummus, water
  • Dinner: beef & pork chilli, slaw, an orange

Day 4:

  • Breakfast: Spinach omelette, linseed crackers, herbal tea
  • Lunch: Cauliflower soup, linseed crackers, hummus, water
  • 4pm: a muffin, herbal tea
  • Dinner: sausages, broccoli, roasted parsnips, small amount of 75% dark chocolate

Day 5: (I’ve lost two pounds)

  • Breakfast: 2 soft-boiled eggs, linseed crackers, herbal tea
  • Lunch: Squash & red lentil soup, rice cakes, peanut butter
  • 4pm: a muffin, fennel & ginger tea
  • Dinner: Greek chicken, roasted parsnips, broccoli

Made another batch of hummus and linseed crackers and I’m trying out a new lemon cookie recipe. Riverford had bergamot lemons this week – smell amazing and the juice tastes like a cross between lemon and mandarin.

Day 6:

  • Breakfast: 2 soft-boiled eggs, linseed crackers, herbal tea
  • Lunch: leftover Greek chicken, raw slaw, half an avocado, 2 lemon cookies (they’re good!), herbal tea
  • Dinner: beef & chickpea curry, shredded cabbage dressed with lime zest & juice and olive oil. A glass of wine and small amount of 75% chocolate (it’s Friday!).

Day 7:

  • Breakfast: 2 soft-boiled eggs, linseed crackers, herbal tea
  • Lunch: Squash & lentil soup, hummus, celery, herbal tea, lemon cookie.
  • 4pm: an orange and a muffin, herbal tea.
  • Dinner: pork & veg casserole, spring greens, muffin, two squares 85% choc.

I think that this week of menus shows you the diet which best suits me when I want to feel good and lose weight (I lost 3-4lbs – I’m back to my usual weight). There is no one-size fits all in terms of which diet is best … please contact me to book in so we can find which diet suits you. Happy new year!

FODMAPs

A low FODMAP diet often helps alleviate symptoms of IBS, colitis, indigestion, etc. FODMAPs are naturally-occurring sugars found in lots of healthy foods such as onions, apples, cabbage and lentils. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. Most people have no trouble digesting them but for some they cause symptoms such as: flatulence, bloating, stomach pain and acid reflux. These symptoms can be mild and tolerable or really uncomfortable and debilitating. 

However, I don’t think this intolerance is a condition in itself … and cutting all these healthy foods out of your diet on a permanent basis is not a good idea. I think not being able to tolerate FODMAPs is a sign of dysbiosis; that is an imbalance in gut bacteria. This should be addressed (with herbal remedies, enzymes and probiotics) so that these healthy foods can be reintroduced and tolerated.

Here are the five different groups of FODMAPs and the main foods in which they can be found:

Fructans: artichokes, asparagus, beetroot, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, aubergine, fennel, chicory, dandelion leaves, garlic, leeks, onions, radicchio, lettuce, wheat, rye, inulin, FOS (a prebiotic supplement).

Galactans: legumes – all beans & peas including kidney beans, soybeans, lentils, chickpeas, baked beans.

Wheat is a FODMAP

Lactose: milk, cream, ice cream, custard, dairy desserts, yoghurt, soft cheeses 

Polyols: apple, apricot, avocado, blackberry, cherry, longan, lychee, nectarine, pear, plum, prune, mushroom, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol (sweeteners).

Excess fructose: honey, apple, mango, pear, watermelon, high-fructose corn syrup, agave syrup, dried fruit, fruit juice

It may be that only one or two groups cause symptoms. To find out which, try eliminating all groups for a month and then introduce one group at a time week by week.

However, addressing the underlying digestive imbalance is the best solution. Kinesiology can identify the cause and find which natural remedies are needed. Contact me for more information and to find your way back to a happy relationship with these foods.

The importance of protein … again!

I see so many clients whose diet is very low in protein. If you’re vegetarian and/or you eat the SAD diet (Standard American Diet) of breakfast cereals, skimmed milk, sandwiches, pizza and pasta then it’s likely you’re not getting enough protein (let alone other nutrients).

We need protein to make and repair every cell in our body. If we don’t do that – efficiently and properly – every second of every day -we get degenerative diseases. Basically, if we don’t replace each dying cell with a healthy new cell, we age faster and die younger.

Protein is made up of amino acids. There are over 500 amino acids in nature; humans need 20 of them to build, repair and renew cells, make hormones, etc etc. Of those 20 – nine are essential – this means we can only get them from our diet. (The other 11 we can manufacture.) For me, this film shows the health implications of not having all 20 amino acids available in our cells …

Meat, fish, seafood, eggs and other animal products are the best and most complete proteins. Follow this link for an article listing vegetarian foods in order of their protein content.
Spirulina (blue green algae) is one of the most ‘complete’ vegan proteins. This Spirulina powder is the absolute best I’ve ever come across – it’s so natural – and it tastes great. It’s grown in a community project and sales support their work with hungry children in Africa (a real win/win).
In my personal opinion, the only ‘healthy’ vegetarian diet is one which is macrobiotic. This means carefully combining pulses and grains and including seaweeds and other nutrient-dense foods. You can read more about this diet here.

However, even if you’re a meat eater, you could still be lacking protein because your digestion isn’t working well enough to break it down and absorb it. You may need to supplement digestive enzymes with your meals, or drink a tablespoon of cider vinegar in a little water before each meal to pep up your digestive juices. I like to recommend taking a B vitamin supplement as most people I see are low on them and we need B vitamins to make digestive enzymes.

Contact me for more information and to book in for a kinesiology consultation.

NEW YEAR, NEW YOU – Step 3: LUNGS

woman-570883_1920The lungs are where gas exchange takes place in our body. We breathe air in and exhale waste products and toxins in the form of gases and water vapour.

There’s that stuff again – WATER! It’s incredible how important water is to our body functions! It’s REALLY important for our lungs as they are 90% water. A litre of water is required inside our lungs in order for gas exchange to take place properly. And – when we’re dehydrated, histamine levels go up … a lot of asthma and allergies could be solved by simply being properly hydrated. Imagine that! It’s an almost-free health cure all!

Breathing is under the control of our autonomic nervous system – it’s a vital function and luckily therefore not something we have to do consciously. However, the autonomic nervous system also controls our stress response so breathing changes when we’re stressed (it becomes shallow and rapid). In Chinese medicine’s Law of Five Elements, the lungs are Metal which is melted by Fire (ie, buzzing, stressing, always on the go).

anatomy-117148_1280In this picture, the diaphragm is labelled. The diaphragm is a large flat wall of muscle between our lungs and our digestive organs. It literally cross-sections our body from front to back and side to side. It keeps our digestive organs in place, has a role in pushing food down into our stomachs and along the intestines. Our food tube goes through it. It’s also the best muscle for breathing – and yet lots of us hardly use it. It becomes weak through lack of use and then it doesn’t hold down the stomach and this can cause a hiatus hernia. If you have acid reflux or heartburn, you could well help them without drugs by exercising and strengthening your diaphragm.

So, one of the best ways to quickly de-stress and to improve digestion, is to breathe with your diaphragm (instead of your chest muscles or shoulders). It induces an instant sense of peace and relaxation … and massages your digestive organs as well as keeping them in place. Here’s how to belly breathe:

  • Lie flat on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the bed or floor
  • Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest
  • Take a deep breath and observe how your hands rise and fall
  • Take another breath – this time focus on only allowing the hand on your belly to rise and fall
  • Keep practising – it takes practice to get this right. You’ll be re-programming your brain and diaphragm to breathe more efficiently.
  • As you breathe in, allow your belly to inflate and push up, while keeping your chest absolutely still. You’re now using your diaphragm to breathe.
  • Once you’ve mastered this, you can use it anywhere, anytime you feel stressed.

Practising belly breathing for at least ten breaths every day will improve gas exchange (oxygen in, toxins out), your digestion AND relaxation.

Your homework for Step 3:

  1. Keep watering that pot plant! See Step 1. By now, you could have increased your water intake by two glasses per day and be well on the way to better hydration and therefore better health.
  2. Practise belly breathing for a minute or two – at least once per day.

 

NEW YEAR, NEW YOU!

new-years-eve-1905144_1920Happy New Year! Wishing you a happy and very healthy 2017!

If you’ve woken up this morning with a groan … and you’re thinking you must do a ‘detox’ this month, here are my thoughts and tips. This is the first article of five I will write. You could take them as a step-by-step approach to a cleaner, brighter, fresher and healthier new year.

What I mean by ‘detox’ in this article, is giving your body’s systems and organs a rest – a break from rich food & drink – so that your cells can regenerate fresher and fitter than ever. This puts a sparkle in your eyes and a spring in your step – you’ll have more energy, better immunity … and looks.

The digestive system
The digestive system

The liver is our powerhouse of detoxification – it filters our blood at the rate of about 3 pints per minute – removing dead and faulty cells, bugs, inorganic chemicals, fat globules, etc. It then detoxifies these by using enzymes to convert them from fat soluble to water soluble – so they can be eliminated from our bodies via urine, sweat and faeces.

So, the first step in giving your liver a helping hand is to help clear the elimination pathways. There are four main exit routes from our bodies:

  1. large intestine (bowel, colon) – faeces
  2. kidneys & bladder – urine
  3. skin – sweat
  4. lungs – respiration (breathing)

urine-colour-chartAll four of these eliminatory organs/systems have one fundamental requirement in order to function – WATER. The lungs require a litre of water at all times in order to exchange gases in and out of the blood (the purpose of respiration). When exercising or in warm weather, our skin can sweat out a litre per hour. Urine is the most obvious watery route and is a good indicator of dehydration – it should be pale, light yellow – almost clear. If it’s yellow, orange or dark and cloudy – you urgently need to drink more water! Few of us meet our body’s requirements of 6-8 glasses (1.5-2 litres) per day of pure water. It’s such a simple yet powerful step towards better health. Read why in my article here.

STEP ONE – your homework today is to drink more plain, pure water – today and every day from now on. Here are a few tips on drinking water:

  1. Like a pot plant that hasn’t been watered for some time, if you drink 8 glasses today it will just go straight through you – you will probably spend most of the day on the toilet. Increase water intake slowly – if you don’t currently drink any water each day, drink one tall glass today, two tomorrow and the next day, then three, etc etc.
  2. Sip water over the course of the day – don’t down whole glasses at a time (think pot plant).
  3. Don’t drink within 20 minutes of a meal – especially before, as this can dilute digestive juices.
  4. Choose bottled mineral or filtered water to avoid added chemicals. I like the taste of the water from these Wellness Carafes which I also sell in my clinic.
  5. Herbal teas count as water. Your liver loves herbs – especially bitter tasting ones such as dandelion, nettle, mint and green tea. Don’t overdo any of them though – vary them throughout the day. You could also drink hot water with a small slice of lemon (if you like the taste – try removing the outer skin if it’s too bitter).

TOMORROW – I’ll be writing about how you can support elimination through your skin. You’ll be amazed by this vital organ – it’s literally the frontline of your body!

 

Don’t blame your gall bladder!

Gall bladder disease is epidemic these days; two of my family members have had theirs removed, our best man is seriously ill with complications following a gall bladder removal, one of our neighbours has had a serious infection caused by the same. It seems as though this little sac is causing a health crisis.

Gall bladder symptoms can include: bloating, burping, nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, discomfort on right side of ribs or right shoulder after a meal, low alcohol tolerance, sweating, bad breath, smelly stools, fatigue after eating. If you have any of these symptoms, see my recommendations below or contact me for an appointment to evaluate your diet and nutrition. 

The digestive system
The digestive system

The gall bladder is, in fact, no more than a little storage vessel and pumping station. Its purpose is to store bile produced by your liver and to eject it into your small intestine when food is released from your stomach. Bile is a digestive juice which emulsifies fats – breaks them down so we can absorb them or eliminate them. If we don’t digest fats properly that has consequences all the way through our digestive system. Problems occur in the gall bladder when the bile produced by the liver stagnates, is of poor quality or is inadequate, ie, cannot cope, with the quantity and/or type of food we’re eating.

To sum up: GALL BLADDER HEALTH IS DEPENDENT ON LIVER HEALTH! So, having it removed and not changing your diet or lifestyle is not going to address the underlying cause.

Your liver could be producing poor quality bile because it’s struggling to cope with:

(a) stress – the stress response causes cholesterol to be released by the liver. This makes bile fatty; it stagnates in the gall bladder and then forms deposits (stones).

(b) sugary diet – sugars from carbs (bread, pizza, pasta, biscuits, cakes, sweets, puddings, etc) get stored in the liver = fatty liver = fatty bile.

(c) pharmaceuticals, alcohol, caffeine, food additives, fragrances – all chemicals create work for your liver.

(d) contraceptive hormones or HRT – oestrogen gets the liver to store and produce cholesterol = fatty bile.

(e) constipation – this is a vicious circle. Constipation means toxins and cholesterol are transported back to the liver from the colon for processing or storing; poor bile quality can cause constipation.

My six recommendations to keep your gall bladder (and liver) healthy:

  1. Drink plenty of plain water every day – 6 to 8 glasses or 2L.
  2. Reduce cholesterol production – by cutting out sugar, refined carbs, soft drinks, alcohol, cereals, grains. What should you eat? Vegetables, salads, fish & seafood, poultry, meat and eggs with good fats such as olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, nuts and seeds.
  3. Eat plenty of good fats but avoid all seed oils, margarine, deep fried food and dairy products. Swap your margarine for butter! Cook only with extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil. 
  4. Reduce the chemicals in your life. Do you really need those headache pills or are you just dehydrated? Are your skincare products packed with chemicals? Do you need air fresheners in your home? Are your cleaning and laundry products packed with unnecessary fragrances? 
  5. Eat foods/herbs with a cleansing effect – dandelion leaves, chicory, endive, radicchio, fresh mint, globe artichoke, radishes, lemons & limes, rocket, kale, watercress, cabbage, green tea. Take this milk thistle supplement.
  6. Avoid constipation – try this belly massage.

There are lots of other supplements and herbs that can help with gall bladder and liver health. Book in for a kinesiology session with me to find out what your body needs.