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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Summer’s most important nutrient?

Whether you consider it to be a nutrient or not, it’s almost as important as it gets, and is right up there with the most important nutrient of all – oxygen. What are we considering here? Yes, it’s water – and hydration generally. It’s very easy to become dehydrated when it’s hot, even if you’re not participating in heavy exercise. You can sweat just walking around! With this in mind, let’s think about how to stay hydrated all day, because it’s essential to do so for your general wellbeing.

Commit to drink plenty of water – fresh spring water if you can get it, but filtered at the very least. Carry a reusable BPA-free bottle around with you wherever you go.

Start your day by drinking a glass of water. If you add lemon juice to this, it is an even better way to hydrate and it can also help the liver to detoxify. Follow on with a big green juice for the absolute best start to the day. See this article (with video) about making green juice, and for my favourite juicer, click here. Quote RAWFOOD20 at checkout to get a fantastic 20% discount on this brilliant machine, giving you the best price available anywhere.

Think you’re hungry? Drink something! Many people mistake thirst for hunger. Drink a large glass of pure water if you feel hungry. Wait 20 minutes, and see if you’re still hungry. If so, by all means eat something. If not, you won’t need to eat, and this is better for creating that beach body.

If you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Get water on board even if you don’t feel you need it. If you’re exercising in hot weather, think about changing the time of day you go. Early morning and later evening is better for both high intensity exercise and long duration exercise. Your muscles generate a lot of heat when you’re exercising, and if you combine this with high external temperatures it doesn’t take much to push you into the danger zone. Having recently run a very hard half marathon on the Great Wall of China in 30 degree temperatures, I can certainly vouch for the importance of good hydration (and being realistic about your performance level!). And whatever you do, don’t be tempted to “boost your performance” with sports drinks. See my separate blog on this important subject here.

Eat lots of high water content foods. By basing your diet on the raw organic leafy vegetables and sprouted foods, you’ll be getting a lot of “extra” water on board without even noticing. Cooking your food causes the water to evaporate off – and you won’t get the benefits.

Make your drinking water more exciting. Try adding organic lemon, lime, cucumber, watermelon, or mint. I was out with friends last night who were all drinking alcohol (in rather large quantities), so I ordered glass-bottled water and opted for the addition of fresh strawberries, mint and lemon. Served in a fancy glass, it looked and tasted delicious!

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The Hardest Half

“It’s all perfectly runnable.”… or so I was told in the pre-race briefing. And I’m sure it would have been – right up until the time that the Indian tectonic plate smashed into the Eurasian plate 50 million years ago and created the Himalayas.

I consider myself to be a reasonable runner, and I’d put in a hard winter of training in the lead-up to this race, the Thunder Dragon in Bhutan. A week earlier I was competing in a half marathon on the Great Wall of China – 5126 steps into history, and I felt every one of them. I somehow came second in my age category, despite it taking me nearly an hour longer than pretty much every other half marathon I have run, with the 30 degree temperature sapping my energy like you could only imagine.

But the Thunder Dragon – this was something entirely different. At 11 miles, my pace had slowed to a crawl. Perfectly runnable? It might have been for the organiser, a former London Marathon winner in a time of 2 hours 9 minutes. But for me, a recreational runner who 28 years ago had been deemed incurable by the medical profession – this wasn’t running, it was survival. I was at 2500 metres, feeling sick, dizzy and gasping for breath. I poured water over my head so that my mouth could focus solely on the act of breathing. It didn’t help.

My pace slowed to a walk. I faced a long uphill on a stony track at 8200 feet. Hard enough at lower altitudes, the sharp stones particularly cruel for a barefoot runner like me, whose only acclimatisation had been a hike to the famous Tiger’s Nest monastery at 3600 metres two days previously.

Yet somehow I finished, even managing to run the last mile (mainly, I’m sure, because it was downhill). It was the hardest half marathon I had ever done, reflected in my very slow time.

A major surprise came later that day at the prize-giving ceremony. An American runner was announced as the winner of the women’s over 40 age category. “That can’t be right, Max.” she said as she went up to collect her prize. “You were about half an hour ahead of me!”

I smiled and congratulated her. Immediately afterwards, I was announced as the winner of the over 50s age group. We were both amazed – I because I had won my age category in that savage race, and she because she thought I was about 42, not 55. This anti-ageing lifestyle certainly has its benefits!

Thunder Dragon Finish

Max Tuck was in China and Bhutan raising money for Dogs Trust. See www.justgiving.com/fundraising/maxagainstthewall to donate.

Max’s latest book The Fatigue Solution: my astonishing journey from medical write-off to mountains and marathons, is published by Hammersmith Health Books.

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Recovery, Running and Visa Applications

I used to like filling in forms. What could be more satisfying than taking a blank document and experiencing the joy of completing it to someone else’s exacting standards? Does this make me odd? Maybe you’re just not with me on this one. And today, I’ll confess, I’m not feeling the love either. There are so many other things I’d rather be doing on a Saturday afternoon.

The form in question is a visa application to enter the People’s Republic of China. If someone had told me 28 years ago that in May 2018 I would be embarking on my biggest running challenge in years, involving a half marathon on the Great Wall of China, followed by a race of the same distance at altitude in Bhutan in the Himalayas, I would have replied that they were clearly wrong, because I wasn’t expected to live that long. Never mind not only still being alive, but to be taking on that kind of physical challenge? Definitely a case of mistaken identity.

The reason for my disbelief would be simple. In 1990 my body was wasted and exhausted. As a vet, if I’d had a patient with as few white blood cells as I had, I would be looking down a microscope at a blood film to check, because the machine must have got it wrong. My desperately low white blood cell count was mirrored by my startlingly low bodyweight and complete muscle wastage. I was so weak that even getting into my car to drive to work involved significant effort. As for the idea of running races for charity in challenging conditions – forget it.

But here I am. In my book The Fatigue Solution, I explain how I went from medical write-off to mountains and marathons; how I rejected exhaustion and rediscovered life. It sounds like a dramatic turnaround. It certainly was.

What had happened to me? I was overworking myself, never taking breaks, cramming far too much in, never saying no, refusing to give up… and ultimately I lost my most precious possession. No, not my house, my job or my car – my health. You never fully appreciate what you have until you lose it. And at the ripe old age of 27, I lost that completely. It disappeared in a fog of exhaustion, muscle degeneration and viral attack. Hello Epstein-Barr virus and chronic fatigue. Goodbye life.

Or… so the doctors believed, based upon other patients similarly affected. Not me. I’m tough. I’m stubborn. I take huge delight in proving people wrong. As you’ll read in The Fatigue Solution, I never give up. Tell me I’m incurable? I’ll show you. Don’t tell me I can’t.

And prove them wrong I did. Not only am I still alive at the age of 55, I’m thriving. I’m fitter, stronger and have more energy than most 25 year olds (or so my personal trainer tells me anyway). My muscles all came back, and then some. Drastic turnaround? You bet. Was it easy? No. Did it take hard work, dedication and determination? Of course it did. Was it worth it? Hell yes!

How, you might wonder, did I do it? After all, if you’re in a similar exhausted situation, running to the next lamp-post might seem impossible. Step by step, that’s how. As I explain throughout The Fatigue Solution, by upgrading every aspect of my lifestyle. By researching and implementing all the factors that are known to make a difference. Applying the information and using it to fuel my recovery, consistently, every day. By believing that I could, and that I was worth it. I did it for me. Armed with the right knowledge and a will to succeed, you can do it too.

There’s now only one thing standing between me and my tough far-eastern running challenge – that wretched visa application form.

Max Tuck’s book The Fatigue Solution: my astonishing journey from medical write-off to mountains and marathons is available in print and e-pub versions from Hammersmith Health Books.

For more information visit www.thefatiguesolution.co.uk

To support Max in her charity fundraising, visit www.maxagainstthewall.com

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Let’s hear it for nut milks!

Have you seen the trends? Chiller cabinets in the supermarkets lined with milk alternatives, not just the ubiquitous (and not very good for you) soya milk, but also almond and coconut milks, plus the “new kids on the block” cashew, hazelnut and even turmeric chai latte milks (yes, I actually did find a raw turmeric chai latte milk, and in the name of research felt I needed to try it. It was very good, but at £2 for just 330ml it’s unlikely to become a regular habit since I can make my own). The dairy-free trend is spilling over to the cheese cabinets too, and supermarkets are even introducing their own coconut milk-based cheese alternative. Vegans have never had such choice.

Why the exponential increase in the availability of dairy alternatives? Clearly, word’s getting out that dairy products are not the health foods we had been led to believe, and that the industry itself is environmentally harmful and increasingly unsustainable. I have blogged, spoken and written copiously elsewhere that dairy products are non-essential to human health and significantly detrimental in certain areas (increasing the likelihood of everything from osteoporosis to prostatic cancer), so to avoid going over old ground, allow me here to direct you to further information from me on this subject:

The Whole Body Solution
Love Your Bones
The Real Truth About Food

The significant trends mentioned above have not gone unnoticed by the dairy industry, and in a veterinary journal published recently, one particular article outlined what the industry is doing about it. Hurray – we’ve got a new ministry for dairy! Its mission, it appears, it to show us the error of our ways and get us eating more dairy products and shunning the ever-increasing range of alternatives. After all, we are the only species on the planet that deliberately chooses to consume the mammary secretions of the wrong species, past weaning age, so now that we have a large industry behind this strange compulsion, why not throw some money at it to keep us consuming? A few spoof videos have been released from “The Department of Dairy Related Scrumptious Affairs” to encourage us to have cheese on toast, buttered crumpets in bed and creamy porridge after walking the dog. Its budget? 1.2 million per year.

According to the website www.tellitlikeitis.co.uk, which outlines “the vitally important story about dairy nutrition and health”, those involved in promoting an increase in dairy product consumption despite the known detriments this activity has on our health, can access ready-made tweets, videos and infographics to spread the word. In bold capitals, the site assures those who gain financially by promoting dairy product consumption: “Together we can tell the story of dairy nutrition. If we all pull together and get this right, it will stand the industry in good stead for generations to come.”

Personally, I have been dairy-free since the age of 15. No amount of propaganda from an industry in decline will convince me to take up the habit again – I already know too much. If I want a “milk” on my chia seed porridge, I make my own – it’s so much healthier. Let’s get rebellious. Let’s join together and raise a glass of nut milk to the dairy alternatives.

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