Getting Back to 100% Hippocrates

It’s been going on for a few weeks now. You know, that niggling feeling that something’s not quite right. That you don’t feel quite as good as you could. That maybe, dare I say it, you might have deviated too far from what you know you should be doing. It can start insidiously enough, but before you know it, it’s becoming more habitual. It’s confession time! Not helped by the fact that I am currently working with a “feeder”, I had been eating too many raw energy bars. Made from dates and nuts, they’re a lot healthier than many snack foods out there. But they don’t really create energy (that only happens in your mitochondria).

As a result of this daily bar (or two), and a few too many almond butter smoothies (yum!), I was starting not only to crave sugar, but was also getting horrible muscle cramps in my legs at night – something I had never experienced (apart from once in a Marathon), even with years of long distance running. Time for a personal experiment – time to get back to what I know, from all my years of experience, really works best for me.

This was my plan:
1. No more raw energy bars or raw smoothies (that’s saved me a few ££), and cut out all sugar. Yes, I have gone fruit-free for now as well. The feeder’s not too happy about it, but she’ll adapt. This is one thing I am not going to compromise on to please others.
2. More green juice. I have doubled my green juice consumption and am adding spirulina to it, every day. Because I work 10-hour days, I make a big batch in the morning, drink half of it for breakfast, then decant the remainder into two 250ml BPA-free bottles. I drink one of these at 11am and the other at 4pm. Interestingly, no more muscle cramps at night. No muscle pain after my long runs (not that I suffer much with that anyway). That’ll be the minerals and electrolytes then! (See below). Click here to order the juicer that I use and recommend, and quote RAWFOOD20 at checkout to obtain a 20% discount.
3. Add seaweeds to my salads every day. I don’t know how I managed to let this one slip, because I always keep plenty of dried seaweed in the kitchen. Maybe I just forgot to open the cupboard in which the seaweed is stored. Whatever the reason, I wasn’t getting the extra minerals, notably iodine, that my body was craving. Iodine is super-important for boosting the metabolism via its beneficial action on the thyroid gland. Back on track now with daily nori and dulse. Yum!
4. Get back in the sauna. Whilst food is a big part of the health picture, detoxification is also hugely important. I have an infrared sauna at home, and I hadn’t been using it very much. How silly! I am now back in it 3 times a week. Yes, I know that daily is better, but even this superwoman can’t quite fit that in around work, training, food prep, blogging…
5. Increased water consumption. Strangely, as I increased my green juice consumption, I also felt more thirsty. More water (filtered of course) to flush the system through. And raw coconut water too.

The upshots that I have noticed in the past 14 days of this experiment are as follows:
1. No more painful leg cramps. These were gone within just 3 days.
2. Waking up earlier and with more energy.
3. Quality of my workouts has improved. Today’s run was outstanding! I feel stronger.
4. I have lost 1.3kg and my muscle definition has improved. Note to those who haven’t met me – I am not overweight and never have been – I am a UK dress size 6-8 (USA size 2-4), but clearly some fat loss has occurred.
5. My resolve has strengthened; I am going to keep this up.

So, even though I had never deviated from 100% raw vegan, I wasn’t doing it in the way that suits me best – I had, in effect, downgraded my diet. And as a result, I downgraded me. Have you ever done the same, then come to the realisation that it wasn’t the best thing for your health, energy and well-being? Get back on track with a few simple tweaks and upgrades – you’ll be glad you did!

For those interested in the Hippocrates Health Institute, whose system I follow, please click here for more information.

To access their complimentary mini-course, click here.

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The Path of Most Resistance

Compared with many people, I have had a pretty easy life, and looking back I have made the most of the many opportunities that came my way. However, as I describe in my book The Fatigue Solution,  I was often a bit like the swan that effortlessly cruises across the lake – outwardly calm, but with legs working furiously underwater to achieve an outwardly graceful glide. Perhaps I am not graceful like a swan on water, even though I aspire to be. Peel back the layers and you would uncover someone rather different, and at times, struggling to keep her head above water. My challenges started at school, progressed through university and my early working life, and continue to slap me in the face periodically even now. I was never one to take the easy path. We have probably all faced tough times in our lives. My question is this: how did you respond to yours?

When I was dangerously ill in 1990, I faced the biggest challenge of my life to date. Did I take the medical advice seriously (go home and die, basically) or did I fight back with every fibre of my exhausted body and prove them wrong? As Viktor Frankl says in his famous book Man’s Search for Meaning, “If the why is big enough, you can cope with almost any how.” Few people will experience anything as extreme as Frankl did in the Nazi concentration camps. He had one mission – to survive. David Goggins went through “Hell Week” on three separate occasions in training to become a Navy SEAL. His resolve was so tough he even made the instructors suffer on more than one occasion. Even before joining up, he put himself on an extreme dietary and exercise regime to lose the 100 lbs of excess weight that would have excluded him (he achieved this in less than three months), in addition to teaching himself to swim and studying hard to overcome his poor educational record. That’s determination. That’s a massive great why.

We live in a society where there is an excess of pretty much everything. We can get food (often delivered right to our doors now with the touch of an app) at any time of day or night. What this does to fuel the obesity and health crisis that many people face can only begin to be imagined. We have 24/7 TV on demand. We have never been less active (see my separate blog post for more about this). We crave the quick fix and it is readily available. Temporary pleasure for long term pain. Least resistance. Shouldn’t we be turning that on its head?

We need sustainable solutions to health, and it’s really very simple. But the attitude we have to adopt might be viewed as the path of most resistance – it’s uncomfortable until you get used to a new way of living. Yes it is easier to slope on home after work, grab a ready meal and a couple of glasses of wine to reward yourself, and turn on the TV. It’s tough to finish work and get to the gym instead. But if you want real change, you’ll get it done. You have to be prepared to do what most people won’t, to get the results that most people can’t. Challenge yourself. Decide what your goal is, write it down and divide it into achievable chunks. Celebrate the wins. And whatever goal it is, the list below will positively assist you in that quest because it will give you better health, and therefore a better life.

  1. Shake up your diet. Cut out all processed food. Eat the rainbow. Eat a whole foods, plant-based diet, always. Incorporate as much raw plant food as you can handle. Start juicing and drink green juice every day. Grow your own sprouted food – its easy, inexpensive and very nutritious. Start using proven whole-food supplementation to get there faster (you’ll find some on my separate website). Stop allowing yourself regular “treat” foods. It’s time to get tough to get better.
  2. Get moving. Everyone can do some sort of exercise. Yes, everyone. Decide what you are going to do, and stick with it. Make a start. Keep yourself accountable. Yes it will hurt, but are you going to give it up just because of that? Not if your resolve is strong enough. Get uncomfortable. You’ll learn to appreciate it, even if you don’t love it. And I’ll tell you something, you will enjoy the compliments that you’ll inevitably get after a few weeks of working on yourself.
  3. Drink water. Get it out of the tap and filter it. It’s free! It doesn’t have to cost a lot to get healthy. Proper hydration will make your brain work better, and with all the exercise you’re going to do, that sweat needs to be replaced. You don’t need any of those fancy electrolyte performance drinks unless you’re racing in endurance races that last for several hours. See my blog about sports drinks if you need the lowdown on this.
  4. Avoid alcohol. It’s a carcinogen, as well as an addictive substance that lowers your mental and physical performance.
  5. Get to bed early. Exercise, then sleep. Wind down with a good book, not screen time. See chapter 10 of The Fatigue Solution to find out why screen time is the most important thing to avoid before bed.
  6. Work on your weakest link. I am currently on a yoga retreat, working and stretching my body in ways it isn’t used to when at home. I am getting stronger and more flexible whilst also working on my mind with meditation. Yes I am still running (strongest link), but that doesn’t need as much work as the rest of me, and the practice of yoga and meditation helps me run more smoothly and reduce my risk of injury. What is your weakest link and how are you going to work on it?
  7. Don’t waver in your resolve. Why wait until January 2020 to get started? Start today. Start right now. If you want it badly enough, you’ll do it.
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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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