Oestrogen (Estrogen) Dominance

One of the growing concerns over our hormonal health in recent years has come from the many conditions that are all closely related to oestrogen dominance in both sexes, leaving us immunologically susceptible to such conditions as Syndrome X, diabetes and cancer as we age. Oestrogen dominance has a detrimental effect on levels of thyroid hormone, progesterone, vitamin D3, testosterone and DHEA in both men and women.

Our sex hormones are fundamentally signallers, and whilst a surge of oestradiol is appropriate in girls of age 14, it is definitely not desirable at the age of 65, since at this life-stage it would drive the development of abnormal cells in breast tissue. Conversely, progesterone signalling improves immunity, is anti-ageing, improves lean muscle mass and reduces fat storage, which is a far more desirable outcome.

Birth control pills cause oestrogen dominance, which is a huge concern given how widespread their use is. I know of very few women aside from myself who have never taken such prescriptions, and I always think how sad that is, to have so many people not knowing the compounding harm they are causing themselves in the long term. In addition to certain foods being oestrogenic, such as soya, most of the commonly used pesticides also act as oestrogen mimickers. This is a bad thing if you happen to live near a large scale commercial farm that is liberally spraying pesticides on crops, and also a very good reason to eat organic food. Since artificial hormones are pumped into animals to improve growth rates, the likelihood of hormonal imbalance can be reduced by adopting a plant-based diet (vegetarian is not enough, since hormones and drugs are secreted into milk).

We may have heard about xenoestrogens – oestrogen-mimicking hormones that come from leached plastics and cause mayhem, disrupting our delicate balance of natural oestrogens. You can read more about xenoestrogens in chapter 9 of my book The Whole Body Solution (I have also devoted a section of my book Love Your Bones to the pros and cons of HRT).

The so-called “bad oestrogens” have a chemical structure that is described as non-methylated. By using foods that are “methyl group donors”, we can detoxify these dangerous compounds more readily so that they don’t wreak havoc in the body. Methyl group donors are useful in other respects: homocysteine, which together with CRP (C-reactive protein) is strongly implicated in heart disease, ageing and the risk of stroke, is an amino acid which is non-methylated and therefore detoxified more readily in the presence of methyl group donors.

The best foods and compounds that act as methyl group donors are as follows:
• Beetroot (both raw and fermented)
• Broccoli and broccoli sprouts (the sprouts are particularly powerful)
• MSM (methyl-sulphonyl methane, available in tablet and dissolvable crystal form)
• SAMe (S-adenosyl methionine, a food supplement used for liver support)
• Vitamins B6, B9 and B12.

Many of the side effects from HRT in women come from adding yet more oestrogen to a body whose oestrogen levels, whilst in decline, are not matched by progesterone, the levels of which are falling faster than oestrogen. High oestrogen levels in men contribute to prostate cancer and heart disease as well as gynecomastia (enlarged breasts). Testosterone is transformed into oestrogen and the resultant low levels of testosterone can cause many unpleasant symptoms including loss of muscle mass, fatigue, low libido, erectile dysfunction and increased storage of fat as you age. Block that oestrogen!

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Out with the Old

Why is it that detoxing the body and decluttering your space always feels so good? Yes of course when you’re in the thick of it, surrounded by stuff and the unending boxes of things which, admit it, haven’t been opened since you moved house, it’s a bit overwhelming. Likewise if you haven’t done a physical detox for a while and you have the mother of all headaches. It might be painful, but the feeling of lightness and being completely refreshed afterwards is always worth the effort.

There’s a time and a place for clearing out, and you need to time it right for you. If you’re not in the mood to release and let go, you won’t be able to do a thorough job. It’s the same with the body – if for example you have a friend’s wedding or a party to attend, it’s not ideal to launch into a fast or a cleanse. When we accumulate things (or even bodyweight) around us it is often a protection mechanism; it makes us feel safe. From experience, it can be a lot more beneficial to move through life “fast and light”, although getting to that stage often requires a lot of preparation and hard work.

I had promised myself months ago that the next time I had a weekend off and it was raining (when does that ever happen?!) I would take advantage of it and clear out one of my spaces. The right moment arrived, and it was last Saturday. The previous week I had already let go of a very large box of rare vinyl albums and picture discs that I had collected during my student days. Some of them were available nowhere else, and the collector who bought them was absolutely delighted with his purchases, as was I to let them go somewhere that they would be fully appreciated. “Stuff” accumulates memories and emotional attachment. Just as an example, it wasn’t long before I found my father’s inline skates, and it brought back all the memories I had of skating along the seafront with him when I went to visit him on the Isle of Wight. Needless to say, clearout proceedings were brought to an abrupt halt with a massive flood of tears (Dad died in 2012; some emotions are still very raw).

It’s the same when you’re detoxing your body. You may experience a full-on emotional detox, and it can affect you much more than the purely physical symptoms. It wasn’t until I had made my last journey to the recycling centre that I realised I hadn’t eaten anything all day, so my body got a good one-day fast as well. How did I feel afterwards? Liberated and happy, after I got over the crying my eyes out part…

If you’re new to detoxing, or even clutter-clearing, the best advice I can give you is to start slowly. Please don’t embark on a 10-day juice fast if you’ve never done it before – your body will not thank you for it and you’ll be likely forced into giving up, or even worse, never trying again. Start small. Make a huge batch of green juice and drink it all day to balance your blood sugar. Drink plenty of water. If emotions come up, get outside in the fresh air to clear your head. For my top recommendations, have a look at my e-book Successful Fasting for Health and Vitality, or consider ordering the MP3 The Importance of Detoxification (the CDs have sold out).

Likewise, if you’re space-clearing, start small. Maybe just in one part of the wardrobe, or one kitchen cupboard. Or there’s always the sock drawer. And if you know of anyone who would like to give a good home to some men’s size 8 inline skates, you know where they are!

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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.

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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!

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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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