Breaking the Rules

It has been my great pleasure over the years to meet many people who, like myself, follow a living and raw foods lifestyle. Many of these people follow their particular program conscientiously, apart from when they don’t. What do I mean by that? What I mean is there are occasions when it is not possible to follow the program to the letter. This has happened to me recently when my fridge freezer broke down (as I write this, I am still waiting for it to be repaired – I don’t want to replace it since I designed my whole kitchen around it). What we have to consider if we are going to deviate from our chosen health path is the following:

1. How often will we deviate?
2. Why are we deviating?
3. What are the consequences of deviating?
4. What are the consequences of not deviating?
5. How far from our usual dietary program are we going to deviate?

Firstly, let’s consider how often. It’s what we do consistently that makes the difference. I don’t really need to elaborate much here – for more about consistency you can read my separate blog Consistency is the Key. Suffice it to say that if you deviate twice a week, it will have a greater impact than once a month, or once every 6 months. Obvious really.

Why would we deviate? After all, we know that the living foods vegan lifestyle is incredibly powerful. Why would we want to introduce anything other than wonderful living foods, ever? Well, circumstances might dictate it. Last month, at the wedding of one of my greatest friends, I ate a cooked lentil dish. Shock, horror. As a strong, fit, healthy living foods vegan, this had very little effect on me. I am not battling a life-threatening disease. I was hardly going to refuse a wedding invitation to avoid a cooked meal. No, it was important for me to have fun and share the wonderful experience with my friends. Being happy with great company is known to raise endorphin levels, boosting both the mood and the immune system. This, in my opinion, and also from personal experience of the many years I have been living this way, was more beneficial on that particular occasion than eating a bowl of sprouts at home alone.

The consequences of deviating? They may be positive, as outlined above, or negative, depending on how much deviation is involved (see below). Negative consequences could include feeling tired (this often happens if you eat the heavier cooked foods such as potatoes), bloating (bread is the one that is going to cause this in most cases), other intestinal signs e.g. constipation or diarrhoea, headaches etc.

The consequences of not deviating? These usually relate to the emotional consequences. Do you feel isolated? Weird? An outcast? Feelings of sadness adversely affect one’s confidence and also the immune system. Whilst one really bad meal can negatively impact cells right down to the DNA, it’s also been shown that strong negative emotions, particularly sadness or loneliness (which can occur if everyone else seems to be having fun and you’re not) can be especially detrimental.

If we choose to deviate, how far do we go? For me, if I do ever eat cooked food, it is always vegan, and healthy at that. This, for me, is non-negotiable. It is never “junk vegan”, for example chips (fries for my North American readers), burgers or anything processed. I haven’t eaten a chip since I was 11 years old; I am certainly not going to start now. If you’re in the “I have to eat a cooked meal” situation, I suggest choosing the healthiest vegan option available, and have a salad with it. The hotel I was staying at for the wedding was a very grand affair, and even breakfast was silver service. No buffets here. I had mint tea, fresh fruit salad, followed by grilled mushrooms and raw avocado. Not what I would ever have at home, but the best I could do. And you know what? The view from the restaurant was so phenomenal that it brought joy to my day just to sit and look out of the window. If that doesn’t boost the mood and make you realise how great it is to be alive, I don’t know what will.

Posted in Vegan food | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t fear the Superbugs

This weekend I have been reading an article about how genuinely scared we should all be. How a simple cut finger can kill because of infection that is resistant to all known antibiotics. How the pharmaceutical industry has no answers and will not be developing any new drug categories because they are too expensive to bring to the market. How even relatively straightforward surgical procedures could become vastly more dangerous. How, basically, we are all doomed. Is this the kind of reality that is, umm, realistic? And what can we do about it if it is?

How did we get into this mess in the first place? By overuse of something which has, and was only ever meant to have, very specific indications – antibiotics. Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, foresaw a time of antibiotic resistance even as he stared in wonder into the petri dish. Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses. They do not cure the common cold and should not ever have been prescribed for that. They should never have been put into animal feed as a growth promoter. They are not a substitute for hygiene in hospitals. I could go on.

Bacteria that are resistant to every known antibiotic already exist, and have been discovered under the polar icecap. The problem isn’t finding things that can kill bacteria. We already have plenty of effective options for that – steam, bleach, fire… The difficulty is getting a bacteria-killer into the body without killing ourselves in the process. Antibiotics are not the answer, not in the era of the superbug. We have to draw on the strength inside, the power that we already have at our full disposal. Enter the hero of our time – the 50 billion white blood cells working for us every day; ladies and gentlemen, may I present… the immune system.

We already have within us the power to slay superbugs. We can perform outstanding feats of self-preservation that we can only marvel at. We are indeed miraculous humans. We have a highly evolved immune system! Yes, with very few exceptions, we genuinely do. And that immune system has incredible capacity to destroy any foreign invader that has the audacity to even think it can take up residence within our bodily fortress. We can engulf and eliminate them all, even the so-called superbugs. Superbugs vs. human immunity? No contest! So why, oh why, do we abuse our immunity so much?

Up to 70% of our immunity resides in our gut. What do many of us do? Feed ourselves with totally inappropriate junk that does not even deserve the label “food”. Funnily enough, our friendly bacteria don’t like being treated in this way. Humans 0, Superbugs 1. Lack of sleep and our 24 hour society adds insult to injury. Humans 0, Superbugs 2. High sugar diets (yes, including sugar from excess fruit consumption) adds a further layer of collapse. Get the picture?

And there’s more. Lack of exercise inhibits immune function. Obesity reduces the antibody response. Alcohol consumption reduces immunity to a shadow of its former self. And don’t even get me on the subject of smoking. Low levels of vitamin D (something that is rampant in northern Europe and Canada, and the northern states of the USA), inhibits immune function by preventing the triggering and arming of T cells, essential for destroying bacterial and viral invaders. Without adequate vitamin D, T cells remain dormant. Don’t let the warriors go to sleep on the job for lack of an essential nutrient. Take vitamin D seriously; get out in the sun or take a supplement.

Garlic is a nutritional superhero and brilliant bug-slayer. A diet rich in antioxidants, and supplements that contain a full spectrum of nutrients from plant sources (I use this one) help to supercharge your immunity. Massage, sauna sessions, cold water immersion and getting out in nature all stimulate our defences. You can find out more about all of these aspects in chapter 6 of my book The Whole Body Solution. Superbugs? Don’t fear them, activate your innate slaying power!

Posted in immune system | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All Things Vegan

There’s a vegan option for almost everything now it seems, which could be a good thing, but how does it all stack up health-wise? How about vegan cheese, what about soya-based everything and where does vegan pizza fit in (if at all)? It’s funny, I’ve never totally identified with just being vegan. I am a raw and living food eater, so whilst that, by default, makes me a vegan (no way would I ever eat raw animal products), what I will add is that changing to a vegan diet does not automatically bring about excellent health. In fact, get it wrong and you could be significantly increasing your risk of many serious health challenges, including depression and even dementia. How is this possible?

In the first chapter of my book The Whole Body Solution, I give the lowdown on why I recommend a plant-based diet. What I will never do, however, is recommend a processed food diet, whether that diet is vegan or not. After all, you could eat chips, vegan sausages and packets of crisps all day long and still call yourself vegan. Would this in any way create vibrant health? Not a chance.

You may be surprised to hear this, but if you follow a low fat vegan diet, and shun for example walnuts and some seeds such as chia, you will become DHA and EPA (essential fat) deficient. According to Dr Joel Fuhrman in one of his excellent presentations this year at The Real Truth About Health Conference, approximately 60% of vegans are unable to fully complete the pathway of essential fatty acid conversion because they lack the enzymes to do so. This in turn massively impacts brain function and can lead to the aforementioned depression and significantly increased risk of dementia. My father ultimately died from the ravages of advanced dementia in 2012. My mother is currently facing the challenges of the same disease. In truth, I cannot contemplate a worse fate.

Please do not mess with your brain and think that because you eat a vegan diet you will either be completely healthy or, for that matter that you will not require supplementation. I take a vegan EFA supplement every single day, which gives me not just omega 3, but also omega 5, 6, 7 and 9 too. Can your essential fat supplement do that? This is the one that I use and recommend. I also take a raw B-complex, which includes B12, on a daily basis. B12 is essential for energy generation and brain function. Tired vegan? You need this.

In regards to soya, it was the first animal-product substitute food to be used. TVP, soya milk, soya cheese, soya burgers… you name it, it’s available. What’s wrong with it? It’s practically indigestible and highly allergenic unless it is fermented. 98% of all soya produced is genetically modified. It suppresses thyroid function. In all, it really isn’t worth eating unless you use fermented, non-GM soya as a condiment, or want to eat sprouted organic soya beans (these are fine) or tempeh.

Vegan pizza? If you make it yourself (see this video)  it’s fine. If it comes pre-packaged from a supermarket, such as those from for example Pizza Express or White Rabbit, you’re just substituting one poor choice for another. You’ll still get all the bad fats and processed carbohydrates that the “real” pizza would have given you. You’ll still get an unacceptable glycaemic load after eating this “mimic” food. Plus it contains no bioavailable vitamins, minerals or antioxidants.

Don’t be fooled. We need to eat real food, freshly prepared, unprocessed, raw and sprouted. That’s where the really important nutrients are found. That is the basis of health creation.

Posted in Vegan food | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The frightening consequences of inactivity

This article was inspired by my decision to enter another race, and planning my training schedule leading up to it. We are currently hearing that “sitting is the new smoking”. Sitting is even being classified as a “disease”, and physical inactivity is considered to be the 4th leading risk factor for global mortality. Inactivity could be just as damaging to health as smoking is, and one study has shown that any improvement in fitness due to time at the gym was almost completely negated by staying still for a few hours. According to juststand.org, 3.2 million deaths per year are as a result of inactivity. How many of us now work for hours on end at a desk instead of being active outdoors? How many of us drive short distances instead of cycling or walking?

I love being outside “doing stuff”. For me that usually involves running, but of course other activities, both indoor and outdoor, are available. There are a multitude of reasons to get active, but inactivity might not just mean the lack of taking exercise – it could also relate to lack of taking action. Here are three alarming consequences of the avoidance of activity, or indeed action:

Weak structure. I’m passionate about creating excellent bone health, and my book Love Your Bones is testament to that. It takes as little as 3 days of bed rest before you start to lose bone density in your spine. Of course there are many aspects to loss of bone density, but inactivity is proven to be one of them. Think it won’t happen to you? The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) informs us otherwise:

Worldwide, osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually, resulting in an osteoporotic fracture every 3 seconds.
Osteoporosis is estimated to affect 200 million women worldwide – approximately one-tenth of women aged 60, one-fifth of women aged 70, two-fifths of women aged 80 and two-thirds of women aged 90.
Osteoporosis affects an estimated 75 million people in Europe, USA and Japan.
For the year 2000, there were an estimated 9 million new osteoporotic fractures, of which 1.6 million were at the hip, 1.7 million were at the forearm and 1.4 million were clinical vertebral fractures. Europe and the Americas accounted for 51% of all these fractures, while most of the remainder occurred in the Western Pacific region and Southeast Asia.
Worldwide, 1 in 3 women over age 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, as will 1 in 5 men aged over 50.
The incidence of hip fractures in Canada is expected to quadruple by 2030.

If these are not frightening statistics, I don’t know what are. What can you do to eliminate these risks? A good starting point would be to read Love Your Bones. Now in its second print edition, I am very proud of this book.

Heart disease. Inactivity significantly increases your risk of mortality from heart disease. Research indicates that men who sit for an average of 3 hours per day (23 hours per week) have a 64% increased risk of heart disease. Your healthy diet and exercise regime won’t necessarily save you if you have a desk-based job. Women can halve their risk of a heart attack if they exercise for 3 hours per week. Yes, you do have time for that. Muscles burn less fat and blood flows more slowly during prolonged sitting, which leads to clogged arteries and fatty liver disease.

What can you do? A plant-based diet with a focus on raw and sprouted foods slashes your risk of heart disease, but you have to move as well. 75% of the benefits of an excellent diet are lost if you don’t exercise. Certain supplements are also proven to have beneficial effects on the biomarkers of cardiovascular disease. Click here to order.

Missed opportunities. This is the inaction part. Did you ever leave it too late to book tickets for an event that you wanted to attend and then couldn’t get in? Was it just you who was disappointed, or your partner too? Or your children? Did you ever miss out on a weekend away because it was already fully booked? What about that dream job you wanted but your application was submitted too late? What might you have lost by inaction? To achieve our goals, we have to take action, and that action has to be timely. If you want something, you have to work at it. Plan ahead. Schedule your time. Focus and take consistent action. Don’t waste time, you’ll never get it back.

Posted in exercise | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Keeping Your Immune System Healthy – Part 3

This is the final part of my 3-part mini-series on immune system health – hope you’ve found it to be useful. If you missed parts 1 and 2, you’ll find the links in my last blog here.
Let’s get right into one of the most damaging things you can do to your immune system – and many people still do this every day. It is…

Drinking alcohol. Yes, I know in many circles it’s considered a social thing to do, but it’s hugely damaging to the immune system. The detoxification of alcohol is performed in the liver in two stages. The first stage converts alcohol to acetaldehyde, which is then further broken down to other compounds which are subsequently eliminated. The main damage in this process is caused by the intermediate molecule mentioned above: acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is a potent pro-oxidant, and it’s directly toxic to liver and brain cells. It’s also a known carcinogen, just like its close chemical neighbour formaldehyde. You wouldn’t deliberately drink formaldehyde would you?

Just as we need antioxidants to improve our immunity, we need to limit our exposure to pro-oxidants, the harmful molecules which damage our cell walls and our DNA. So yes, what I am saying is that if you want to protect your immune system, ditch the booze. Go on, I dare you. Your whole body will thank you for it. Oh, and before you say “what about the antioxidants in red wine?” – they’re overpowered by the pro-oxidant activity of the acetaldehyde. Want to get the antioxidant power of red grapes and berries without the toxic effects? Take a look at this fantastic whole-food supplement. I have used it ever since its launch in the UK. For UK orders and information click here.
For the USA, click here.
For Canada, click here.
For Australia, click here.

For Europe, click on the globe icon at the top of the UK page towards the right and choose your country from the drop-down menu.

Exercise
If you don’t exercise, you’re missing a trick, and your immune system will be the poorer for it. How much and how often? At least 30 minutes, 5 times a week. Start slowly and build up gradually. Join a class; get your technique right. You don’t have to become a gym rat – just walking in nature is a great place to start. See chapter 6 of my book The Fatigue Solution, which starts on page 59, for more information on this vital subject. And guess what? exercising outside gets your heart pumping and your muscles working, as well as giving your vitamin D levels a boost (apart from in winter). Win-win!

Fancy a massage? It’s not just for relaxation of getting the knots out of stiff muscles after a tough exercise session. Human touch has been shown to be beneficial for immunity via the action of the hormone oxytocin. Or you could give someone a hug instead. Same effect…

Cold water immersion – brrr! You don’t have to become the Iceman and go swimming in the arctic thankfully. By taking hot/cold showers (alternating between hot and cold for about 30 seconds each, repeated several times) you can boost your white blood cell production as well as improving your circulation at the same time. Chapter 6 of my book The Whole Body Solution gives you all the information on the immune system that you’ll ever need. You can buy it here.

Happy immune-boosting!

Posted in exercise, immune system | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Keeping Your Immune System Healthy – Part 2

In part 1 of this series I wrote about wheatgrass, probiotics and keeping stress levels low to improve immune function. How many of you have succumbed so far this winter to the bugs that have been going around? My guess is quite a lot of people, even if you’re generally healthy.

Let’s get going with the next instalment, and what better time to advise that you…
Ditch the sugar!
At this time of year practically all of us have overindulged; even those on a strict raw diet (such as myself) will maybe have noticed that the raw treats increased in number as yet another high-sugar raw cake was passed around. Sugar consumption spikes cortisol levels (I wrote about cortisol in the last but one blog, which you can access here). Cortisol is harmful to immune function because it reduces the ability of white blood cells to engulf bacteria. In addition to depressing immune function, sugar adversely affects mood, increases wrinkling of the skin, reduces secretion of HGH (human growth hormone, a powerful anti-ageing ally) and generally makes people feel rubbish after an initial high. Definitely best avoided for so many reasons.

Get sufficient vitamin D. Most widely known for its benefits for bone health, this powerful nutrient/hormone influences over 2000 genes and low levels are associated with poor immunity. Top up your Vitamin D levels by getting out in the sun between late March and early October (in the UK – check your recommendations for the latitude where you live) and taking a winter sun holiday or taking a vitamin D3 supplement in the winter, ideally balanced out with vitamin K2. See my book Love Your Bones for more information about the D3/K2 balance, and The Fatigue Solution for more information on how vitamin D3 influences immunity and energy levels.

Antioxidants
If you are taking antioxidants as a supplement (and I do), they must be whole-food based and full-spectrum, not individual, isolated and chemically-derived. There are probably about 25,000 antioxidants in the plant kingdom and we need all of them, not just vitamin C. Realistically you can’t get them all from the food that you eat, no matter how good your diet is. This isn’t just my opinion, it’s that of a large number of health experts. This supplement is the one I use – clinically proven to boost immunity and increase blood antioxidant levels in both healthy and unhealthy adults, as well as reducing winter illness in another study. One very exciting benefit is that it slashes lipid peroxide levels; lipid peroxides are a very damaging type of free radical, so it gives great protection against oxidative stress (one of the major causes of ageing). I have personally used this product since 1995. Where else can you get the benefits of 30 different nutrient dense fruit and veg in capsule form, minimally processed with all nutrients intact? Order here and feel the difference!

Part 3 of this blog will cover alcohol, exercise and the benefits of other things you can do outside the home and workplace. Coming up in late January/early February….

Posted in immune system | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Time for a Change?

Menopause is a dreaded word for many women. I can’t imagine that anyone would look forward to the common signs that at least 80% of women in the Western world develop –

Hot flushes (short, sudden feelings of heat, usually in the face, neck and chest)
Night sweats (hot flushes that occur at night)
Difficulty in sleeping
Reduced sex drive
Problems with memory and concentration
Vaginal dryness and pain, itching or discomfort during sex
Headaches
Mood changes, such as low mood or anxiety
Palpitations – heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable
Joint stiffness, aches and pains
Reduced muscle mass
Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Menopause can also increase the risk of developing certain other problems, such as osteoporosis. See my book Love Your Bones for all the advice you need on how to maintain strong bones for life.

I’ll confess, I have had menopause and I think I had one night sweat, and that was it (and it could have been that I ate too many chillies during the day on that day…)
So why do so many women suffer with the above conditions for months (and sometimes years!), whilst in Japan, for example, there is not even a word for “hot flush”? it’s all about hormones – and a few other things. Hormone levels drop as we age, especially if we eat a standard British diet. This goes for men too – andropause is definitely a “thing” if you’re not careful. This correlates with age-related fat gain, loss of lean muscle mass, reduced bone density, thinning skin and other degenerative changes. Sounds great, right? Who would sign up for that?

One huge problem is actually oestrogen dominance, which “crowds out” the other sex hormones and prevents them from exerting some of their benefits. Oestrogen dominance occurs from the following:

High stress levels
Xenoestrogens (synthetic oestrogens in the environment and in food)
Poor detoxification in the liver
Birth control pills
Ageing
Poor nutrition
Inappropriate synthetic HRT
Lack of exercise

Thus far, the “solution” in general for menopause appears to be synthetic HRT, but with this focusing on oestrogen rather than a balanced approach to all the different hormones, it could actually be making matters a lot worse. The assumptions are:

Assumed low levels of sex hormones in menopausal females
Assumed “oestrogen deficiency”

There are many problems with “unopposed” oestrogen – i.e. oestrogen supplementation in the absence of other hormones, particularly if that oestrogen comes from synthetic sources. I will discuss all these in my forthcoming Healthy Hormone Balance seminars – e-mail me via max@therawfoodscientist.com for more information, or to book me to present this important information to your group.

Have you heard about healthy eating options which reduce the likelihood of menopausal symptoms? The diet needs to be plant based (avoiding soya, unless fermented), pure and fresh, not processed, supportive of liver detoxification, and with whole food supplementation (this is the one I use and recommend). All this and more is discussed in my book The Whole Body Solution and I also focus on all the right foods to eat in the Healthy Hormone Balance seminar, including all the foods that block and remove the so-called “bad oestrogen” – such as high fibre foods, cruciferous vegetables and more.

Since all your hormones are initially made from cholesterol, fat is not the “bad guy”! Whilst you definitely do not need a cholesterol supplement, there are certain fats that will assist with healthy hormone balance. There’s one that I particularly recommend, and it’s discussed in my blog here, as well as in my MP3 The Importance of Fat. The best essential fat supplement contains omega 3, 5, 6, 7 and 9, and you can order it here.

So there you have it – proper detoxification, cleaning up your diet and making it plant-based, as well as taking appropriate supplementation, can make all the difference if you want to balance your hormones as you age – and this applies to everyone – both sexes included!

Posted in Hormone balance | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment