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.

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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.

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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!

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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….

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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!

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Keeping your immune system healthy: Part 1

We’re getting towards cold weather, and with this tends to come sniffles, colds and a higher incidence of respiratory infections. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and there is so much you can do to boost your immunity. I have dedicated a whole chapter to the immune system in my book The Whole Body Solution, which you can buy here.
This blog is the first part of a 3 part series to help you support the 50 billion white blood cells that are working hard for you every day.

Have a daily shot of wheatgrass juice. Wheatgrass juice is the preferred all-round booster of the Hippocrates Health Institute, where guests can enjoy it twice daily. Hippocrates has a whole host of different programs available to guests. Find out more about these fabulous programs via their comprehensive website here.

Wheatgrass is one of the most direct and concentrated forms of the sun’s energy. When wheatgrass is made into juice, it is the optimum energiser. Nutritionally, 1 ½ ounces of wheatgrass juice is equivalent to 2 ½ lbs of fresh vegetables and contains 103 vitamins and minerals, and thousands of phytonutrients. The juice made from wheatgrass is 70% chlorophyll and is very high in vitamins A, B-complex, C, E and K. It cleanses, purifies and feeds the body by oxygenating the white blood cells, which in turn boosts the immune system. It is also beneficial for people who wish to lose weight or cleanse their bodies.

Protect your gut. 60-70% of your immunity actually comes from your gut probiotics – friendly micro-organisms which keep levels of the “bad guys” (harmful bacteria) under control and protect you in so many ways. If you’ve had a course of antibiotics, which sadly are indiscriminate in their action, have leaky gut or any form of bowel disorder, probiotics are highly recommended. Avoid dairy drinks that contain probiotics though, whether or not, as the adverts say, they are “proven to reach the gut alive”, since they are, well, a dairy product, and you already know what I think about consuming the mammary secretions of the wrong species of mammal past weaning age. if you need more information on why dairy products are less that ideal, please read my book Love Your Bones, which you can buy here.

Keep stress levels low. I know, I know – easier said than done, but it’s still possible. Cortisol, your main stress hormone, is harmful to the immune system and “cortisol spikes”, caused by stress, suppresses immunity for 6 hours – not ideal. In addition, eating too close to bedtime (as well as being associated with weight gain), particularly if that meal contains processed carbohydrates, increases your cortisol levels which in turn interrupts your sleeping patterns. This is directly detrimental to the immune response.

Look out for next month’s blog for more tips on how to improve your immune function as we approach the winter season.

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Bowel Scope Screening

I must have reached that age. Perhaps you know the one – when you get regular invitations from your doctor, nearest hospital or NHS clinic to come for mammography, cholesterol testing, BMI analysis, blood pressure measurements etc. How is that possible? I’m sure I’m still only about 26… The latest invitation I have had is one for bowel scope screening. For those of you who have not yet reached my age, bowel scope screening detects polyps in the wall of the large intestine, which, although initially benign, can become cancerous. This screening, according to the brochure I received from the NHS, saves 1 or 2 extra lives in 300*, and is stated to be the best method of lowering your risk of bowel cancer.

Now, knowing me as you do, you can be sure that I would be interested in challenging such a statement. Surely diet and lifestyle factors are most likely to influence the development of bowel cancer? From a preventative point of view, according to the brochure I received, under a heading of “what else can I do?”, you can do this –

– Be physically active
– Keep a healthy weight
– Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and other high fibre foods (yay!)
– Eat less red meat and processed meat (umm… how much less? How about none?)
– Drink alcohol in moderation (they missed a word out there. Drink alcohol only in moderation. Otherwise, for people like myself who don’t drink any alcohol at all, do they mean I have to start drinking?)
– Don’t smoke (pretty obvious!)

I’ve been digging about in the literature and have come up with my own list:

– Avoid all red meat, particularly barbecued and processed meat. For each extra portion of these foods that someone regularly eats, the incidence of bowel cancer increases by an average of 18%, according to global studies.
– Eat a high fibre, plant-based diet. The diet advocated by the Hippocrates Health Institute is the most protective. Have you booked your stay yet?
– Avoid highly processed grains. Numerous studies have linked their consumption to colon cancer.
– Ensure that your fat intake is tipped towards “protective” omega 3 from algae, rather than “aggravating” omega 6, from refined vegetable oils. Your ratio ideally should be 2:1 or 1:1. Some people’s is skewed as far as 1:20. This is a slippery slope and highly detrimental to numerous body systems. To boost my healthy omegas, I use these capsules.
– Ditch the dairy. Some studies consider dairy products to be protective against bowel cancer but this is controversial and currently not statistically significant, unless you’re African American, in which case dairy products increase your bowel cancer risk. Some postulate that any protective effect is because of the calcium content. But as you’ll read in my book Love Your Bones, the best source of calcium is not dairy products. You can read about Love Your Bones and buy it here.
– Avoid alcohol and coffee. They are both positively correlated with bowel cancer according to studies in North and South America, Europe and the Far East.
– Ensure that you have a bowel movement for every meal you have. Constipation helps no one! And to get into the best position for elimination, put your feet up on some books when you’re sitting on the loo. The modern toilet has a lot to answer for. When I was travelling in China and Bhutan in May, I came to notice that most toilets were holes in the ground over which you squat. It certainly gets the colon into a good position for letting go…
– Finally, exercise. Yes, every day, or at least 5 times a week. You don’t necessarily have to go to the extremes that I do (Marathon in Madagascar in June 2019 anyone?) but you’ve got to move that body to stay healthy.

*NHS statistics:
5 out of 300 people will get bowel cancer over 10 years if they are not screened. Screening reduces this to 3 in 300.
2 out of 300 people will die of bowel cancer over 10 years if they are not screened. Screening reduces this to 1 in 300.

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