Health

How to Win the ‘Bug Wars’ and Transform Your Health

Avocados

Forget your genes, which you can’t influence, says cardiologist Dr Steven Gundry, and focus instead on the trillions of bacteria in your body, which you can recruit as your best health buddies from today on.

Some two decades back, eminent cardiologist and heart surgeon Dr Steven Gundry was obese. He suffered with daily migraines and, although only in his forties, he had such bad arthritis he wore braces on his knees to run. Despite the pain, he ran 30 miles a week, did a daily stint in the gym and ate what he‘d been taught was a healthy diet.

But it was all to no avail. He blamed ‘bad genes’, believing he was destined to be ‘fat and sick’ like his father.

At that point Dr Gundry’s ‘world was rocked’, as he wrote in a recent email to Sarah. He discovered that, ‘to put it bluntly, I had been dead wrong. I met a patient called “Big Ed” who had reversed his inoperable coronary artery blockages by changing his diet and taking supplements he bought in a health food store.’

This top heart surgeon was so impressed that he changed his diet, started taking different supplements and wrote a Yale University Thesis about it. And the obese cardiologist lost 50 lbs in the first year and then another 20. ‘I have kept off those 70 lbs for 20 years now,’ he says.

Over the last half of the 20th century, mapping the human genome was believed to be the open sesame to treating disease of all kinds. But, as Dr Gundry discovered from a growing volume of research, there has been a paradigm shift in scientific thinking. ‘The answer to living and ageing well lies in the trillions of bacteria in our bodies.’

Over the last 20 years, Dr Gundry has published papers showing that ‘most chronic diseases begin with a leaky gut and can be cured by eliminating certain foods in our diet, plus lifestyle choices’.

His recent best-selling book The Longevity Paradox delves deep into the role of these evolutionary organisms. Dr Gundry quotes a paper published in the leading science journal Nature in 2018, which supports his contention that gut bacteria directly influence the state of health of every part of your body, from your skin to your hormones to your cellular energy levels.

More than that, the state of your gut bugs plays a huge role in helping to defend you against the diseases of ageing, from neuro-inflammatory conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, to heart disease and cancer. Keeping your gut bugs happy can also reduce the symptoms of arthritis and other joint aches and pains.

This list is literally endless,’ says Dr Gundry. ‘I am continually amazed at what can be changed with diet and lifestyle choices.’ 

What’s also recognised today is the information superhighway between the gut and the brain (the gut/brain axis). The gut is often called our second brain but, according to Dr Gundry, it’s really the one in charge. So problems affecting our minds are often responding to the state of our gut bugs. Dr Gundry explains that ‘There is now increasing evidence that anxiety and depression are driven by an altered microbiome, so we see a lot of reversal of these conditions [ie anxiety and depression] as well.’ 

I wrote about other pioneers in this exciting scientific arena recently, here.

According to psychiatrist and leading researcher Professor Ted Dinan of University College Cork, ‘we are witnessing a paradigm shift in neuroscience that could revolutionise the way we prevent and treat mental health problems and neuropsychiatric conditions’. Professor Dinan’s work centres on how these ‘moody microbes’ influence depression and other stress-related disorders.

Getting your gut bugs balanced also seems to balance people’s weight issues. ‘Weight loss is a pleasant side effect of this program but, equally, chronically underweight patients gain weight and energy,’ says Dr Gundry. Sleep apnoea, which is strongly linked to overweight and obesity, usually reverses, he says.

Dr Gundry has seen the effect in his close family. ‘About a year and a half ago, I asked my oldest daughter and her husband to change their diet, not for me but for the future of my young grandchildren. Wow, did that work! They each lost over 50 pounds and my daughter’s chronic headaches and depression cleared. The kids are thriving as well.’

How to look after your gut

There are two priorities in looking after your gut bacteria. First, keep the good bugs happy and get rid of the bad ones. And second, keep the gut lining strong so the bugs stay in their place. Leaky gut (aka intestinal permeability), where the bad bugs get into the bloodstream and whiz around your body creating havoc, is at the heart of most of the common diseases of ageing, says Dr Gundry.

The most important nutrients are prebiotics. These are the fibres and sugars that feed the good gut bugs. So, feast on great sources of prebiotics such as radicchio, chicory, Belgian endive (a close relation to chicory), garlic, yams (sweet potatoes), onions of all kinds, leeks, Savoy cabbage, apples, Jerusalem artichokes, chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, baked beans, soy beans, bananas, watermelon, grapefruit, ground flaxseed, almonds and pistachios. Also consider a supplement of inulin such as Lepicol.

Eat lots of greens and avocadoes, limit animal protein and use lots of olive oil on everything. ‘The only purpose of food is to get olive oil in your mouth’ is Dr Gundry’s favourite saying.

Treat yourself to very dark chocolate and good black coffee. They’re full of polyphenols – micronutrients found in certain plants that are full of antioxidants with all the health benefits those bring.

Say goodbye to all grains except millet and sorghum. In general avoid gluten free products as they tend to have more sugar.

Limit fruit, also fruit juices and smoothies (particularly from children) because of the amount of sugar they contain. Compare an apple and a glass of apple juice. The whole fruit will take you five to ten minutes to eat and contains valuable fibre as well as nutrients. A glass of apple juice is gone in a trice, contains sugar from about four/five apples and no fibre.

Choose organic vegetables and foods as much as possible to limit your exposure to glyphosate. ‘This herbicide is massively destroying our gut and our microbiome,’ warns Dr Gundry.

Space your meals. Dr Gundry is a supporter of time-restricted eating – where you give your body time to recover between its digestive duties. Many experts now recommend a window of 12 hours or more between your last meal in the evening and the first one next day.

Eat your evening meal early. Try to eat your final meal of the day three to four hours before bedtime at least once or twice a week, says Dr Gundry, to allow your brain to ‘wash out’ impurities. (I find eating earlier and lighter makes me sleep much better by the way; high tea anyone?)

Supplement with vitamin D3 and omega-3 essential fatty acids These are the two supplements everyone should take. Pharmacist Shabir Daya recommends BetterYou DLux 3000 spray and Lion Heart Pure Omega 3 Fish Oil.

Dr Gundry also recommends grape seed extract, methylB12 and methylfolate. Shabir suggests Solgar Grape Seed Extract, Jarrow Formulas Methyl B-12 and Solgar Folate.

Supplements for Veganuary

Selection of veg in dirt on grey background

I’m 100 per cent in favour of plant-based diets but it’s indisputable that vegan diets – and some vegetarian ones – can lack essential nutrients including vitamin B12, omega-3 essential fatty acids, iodine, selenium, iron and also vitamin D (although most people, vegan or not, have sub-optimal levels during the winter).

The Vegan Society has a very useful ‘Nutrition Overview’ section here, with contributions from dietitians.

Cultures such as Indian Jains have consumed a completely vegetarian, non-animal diet for millennia, following their philosophy of non-violence. Jains also avoids root vegetables because of the potential for harming tiny creatures in the soil. It may seem very limited and boring but I had personal experience of this for some time with Jains’ friends and can vouch for its deliciousness and nutritional value. So it’s worth looking online for Jain blogs with recipes.

The Vegan Society offers its own VEG1 supplement. Alternatively, pharmacist Shabir Daya suggests taking BetterYou Vegan Health Daily Oral Spray, which has been formulated to deliver four essential nutrients (B12, D3, iodine and iron) straight into the blood stream, bypassing the gut where they might get lost. £14.95 for 25ml, dose four sprays daily.

Shabir also recommends taking an omega-3 supplement, but beware here as few plant sources provide an efficient means of converting their fatty acids into EPA and DHA, the key omega-3s. However echium seed oil gives vegans a source of Omega-3 that’s as efficient as fish oil. The product is called Echiomega by Igennus, £13.99 for 60 capsules, dose for adults and children over ten is 2-4 capsules daily.

Finally, a note for those who want to follow a gluten-free vegan diet. Many years ago, before I discovered I was sensitive to gluten, I became pretty ill following a vegan diet. Now there is much more knowledge about this problem and many more options, including recipes on BBC Good Food. We still eat a lot of veggie food so I’m off to try the lentil ragu with courgetti.

And the wonderful Jasmine Hemsley (jasminehemsley.com) has a whole section on Diving into Veganuary from last year. Winter Sunset Soup with ginger, cumin and rosemary, anyone?

The Incredible Benefits Of Broccoli Sprouts

Fresh Broccoli Stems

We all know that eating vegetables is a healthy choice and provide profound benefits to the body. Unfortunately, numerous studies indicate that only one in ten of us actually achieves the recommended daily intake of approximately 800 grams a day of a mixture of fruits and vegetables.

Whilst all types of vegetables are going to be beneficial, there is one group that scientists believe contribute significantly to overall health due to their unique nutrition content – the Brassica family; commonly known as cruciferous vegetables. These include broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, radish and turnips.

Aside from their nutritional content, scientists have found a compound that makes these vegetables so important called Sulforaphane (also called SFN). Read More…

Supplements To Take In Your 40s

40 made from voxels on black background

If you are reaching your 40s or are already in your 40s, your health should be a high priority. Eating a healthy and balanced diet and taking exercise regularly are a must, however you can further help your body by taking certain key supplements.

There are some supplements which I consider essential in your 40s and there are others which may be important to build a foundation for optimal health.

Should I take a multivitamin in my 40s?

I have always recommended a quality multivitamin as I consider this to be important because we often tend to eat food groups that may not necessarily provide an abundance of nutrients. Equally, our digestive system ages with us and so we may not be able to absorb these nutrients efficiently. A quality food state multivitamin will bridge the gap and act like an insurance policy to ensure that our bodies are nourished in order to work at their optimal level.

Alive Once Daily Multivitamin is a comprehensive one-a-day food-state multivitamin and mineral supplement which also contains fruit and vegetable extracts known for their antioxidant properties as well as digestive enzymes to help digestion and mushroom extracts to enhance your immune system. Alive Multivitamin supplement however is not suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Vegans and vegetarians should opt for Terra Nova’s Living Multinutrient Complex which is also food-based and provides nutrients in a base of green foods which contain digestive enzymes to help enhance absorption.

If you cannot swallow tablets or capsules, then Source of Life Gold Liquid is one of a few food-state liquids providing vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids as well as fruit and vegetable extracts.

What about probiotics and omega 3?

Probiotics are the healthy bacteria in your gut. The older you are, the more vulnerable your system is to unhealthy bacteria. If your gut is not in a healthy state, your body will simply not absorb nutrients, you may experience constipation and perhaps even some gas or bloating. Probiotics enhance your immune system, manufacture energising B vitamins, break down food in the colon and help remove acids and toxins from the intestines.

Mega Probiotic ND is free from gluten, dairy, wheat, soya, yeast and other common allergens that can affect our digestive system and provides eight strains of bacteria that are able to pass through the harsh acid environment of the stomach reaching our gut where they are able to perform their myriad of roles.

Omega 3’s fatty acids are the good fats which your body uses to manufacture hormones, calm down inflammation in the body and have a positive impact on heart and brain function. Deficiencies of omega 3 are common in people who consume large amounts of processed foods, hydrogenated oils and those on a vegetarian or vegan diet. The primary animal sources of omega 3’s are fish oil or krill oil supplements and Lion Heart Pure Omega 3 Fish Oil and Neubria Krill Oil are two of the best omega 3 supplements on the market.

Should I take anything else?

A multivitamin, omega 3 and a probiotic are three key supplements to take during your 40s, however you may also wish to consider the use of Sage Complex. From roughly the age of 35, the production of female hormones by the ovaries begins to decline and this can have subtle effects on the body since oestrogen protects our skin, heart, bones and provides numerous other protective benefits. These subtle changes can also include low mood and often an inability to concentrate. Sage Complex contains herbs that are called phytoestrogens which mimic the female hormones and therefore help to offer protection against many of these concerns, especially as this phase is often termed the perimenopause. Those with much lower levels of female hormones may experience some hot flushes, tender breasts, low sex drive, mood swings and irregular periods, all of which may be greatly alleviated with the introduction of Sage Complex.

If you have a history of osteoporosis in the family or have a dairy-free diet, it would be prudent to consider the use of a calcium supplement. Calcium is needed for our heart, muscles, and nerves to function properly as well as for blood to clot. According to the National Institute of Health, several surveys show that people are simply not getting sufficient calcium on a daily basis to maintain healthy bones. There are many other factors that may lend to calcium deficiencies such as a high protein diet which encourages calcium excretion, lactose intolerance and a lack of vitamin D3 which is widespread in the adult population.

If you decide to take a calcium supplement then please consider Bone Restore with Vitamin K2 by Life Extension which provides three types of highly absorbable calcium alongside magnesium, vitamin D3, silica and other bone building nutrients. The magnesium in Bone Restore will also hopefully help to relax the body, enhance energy levels and may help with better quality sleep.

I always advocate that supplements should be taken alongside a healthy and balanced diet. Always read the labels of all supplements you purchase to see if there are any warnings that would make them inappropriate for you.

How To Heal Your Liver

Human Head bust made of aalcohol bottles

At this time of the year one of the biggest concerns spoken about are the elevated amounts of alcohol that people may indulge in. Many people will try to justify excess alcohol consumption by stating that they do not drink excessively throughout the year.  But is this argument justified?  Regardless of seasonal festivities, many of us indulge in an excessive consumption of food and alcohol, both of which can have an impact on the liver.

It is estimated that there are over 100 types of liver diseases which may be caused by genetics or by factors such as viruses and excess alcohol consumption. The most common signs and symptoms of liver disease may include:

– Lower abdominal pain
– Fatigue
– Irritated itchy skin
– Loss of appetite
– Nausea
– Swelling of the legs
– A yellow tinge of the skin and the eyes

Tips on how to heal liver damage

One of the most important facts about the liver is that it is self-healing, just like our skin. A good example is if you cut yourself, the wound eventually scabs over as you heal and sometimes a scar is left behind. The same process occurs in the liver; as cells die scar tissue develops. If the aggressors, such as alcohol, remain constant then the scar tissue continues to build up until the liver cannot function properly.

Eating the right foods

Eating the right foods can have a great impact on the healing of damaged liver cells. Eat plenty of antioxidant and fibre rich foods. Some of the best foods for the liver include blueberries, cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, sprouts and cauliflower, oily fish, olive oil, grapes, grapefruit as well as nuts. Reduce the consumption of saturated fats, processed foods and sugar laden foods. Incidentally, coffee appears to be good for the liver. It is thought that coffee provides protective antioxidants as well as encouraging the production of liver enzymes which help to rid the body of toxins.

Avoid weight gain

Try to maintain your Body Mass Index within the normal range, between 18 and 25, by eating healthily and by exercising regularly. This may help decrease your chances of liver concerns. If you are overweight and drink regularly then cutting back on your alcohol intake will not only safeguard your health, but will also help you to lose weight.

Quit smoking and avoid chemical toxins wherever possible

Smoking can cause liver scarring and damage. Cigarettes contain hundreds of chemicals that have to be processed by the liver increasing the risk of liver damage. Abstaining from smoking will therefore encourage the healing process.

It is difficult to avoid environmental toxins, but you can definitely reduce the exposure to chemical toxins from aerosols and chemically laden body care products.

Cut down on your alcohol intake

When the liver attempts to break down alcohol, the chemical reactions that occur can cause inflammation leading to damage to the liver cells, which causes scarring and often a build-up of fats. Moderate consumption of alcohol is generally considered as safe and routinely men should not consume more than three drinks a day and women no more than two to prevent alcohol-induced liver disease.

Prevent and Protect

Hepatitis is one of the leading causes of liver damage and can be transmitted from blood or sexual fluids. If you get manicures or pedicures, then please ensure that this is from a reputable shop or person.

Consider Supplements

According to WebMD, “antioxidant vitamins such as C, E, and beta-carotene, minerals such as zinc and selenium, B-vitamins that aid alcohol metabolism and herbs said to cleanse the liver such as milk thistle, dandelion root, and schizandra, might help protect liver cells while ridding our body of poisons.”

A supplement that I would recommend is HealthAid’s Milk Thistle Complex. This supplement contains a trio of liver cleansing herbs including Milk thistle, Artichoke and Dandelion as well as nutrients such as beta carotene and B vitamins for their varying roles in helping to heal damage to the liver.

A Nootropic For 2020

Tomoatoe selection of various colours

Nootropics is the buzzword for a range of supplements that can dramatically improve functions carried out by the brain such as attention, focus, memory, ability to recall information and general brain health.

Nootropics are becoming a popular way to provide your brain with an extra boost it may need and are therefore often referred to as smart drugs. The idea that a drug or herb may enhance your intelligence, improve your memory and help the ability to recall information may seem like science fiction, but scientists and drug manufacturers are increasingly working on new compounds that enhance various aspects of the functions carried out by our brain.

What are memory enhancing pills?

There are many traditional herbs and nutrients that are reported to improve memory, help cognitive function, focus and recall. Herbs such as Turmeric, Ginkgo Biloba and Bacopa Monieri are three herbs that have shown great promise for numerous years and may help memory and attention. Supplements such as Neubria’s Spark – For Memory contains all the herbs mentioned above, alongside Sage, CoQ10 and specific vitamins and minerals to help protect your brain. This supplement could be classified as a nootropic, but to benefit from these traditional herbal extracts you do need to take them on an ongoing basis.

What are Nootropic foods?

Many foods or food derived ingredients such as fish oils, dark chocolate and coffee are often referred to as nootropics. We know that omega 3 essential fatty acids found in fish oils and caffeine in coffee appear to be good for the brain, but these foods, especially fish oils, would need to have been ingested for long periods of time in order to obtain benefits to the brain. And let’s not forget exercise. There is strong evidence that regular exercise improves memory and fends off age-related cognitive decline. 

So, what is a true nootropic?

By definition, a true nootropic must be able to:

  • Enhance one’s memory and the ability to assimilate and process information.
  • Protect the brain tissues from chemicals and toxins.
  • Help brain function, even at times of extreme stress such as exams and work deadlines.
  • Display no side effects.

It is easier to categorise nootropics in terms of synthetic versions and natural ones. There are over 80 synthetic and natural nootropic substances on the market. For the sake of clarity, smart drugs are not nootropics. Smart drugs are prescription only medicines that are used to treat ADHD, sleep disorders and other concerns. In a healthy individual they will provide intense short term focus without conferring any other benefits to the brain. Invariably they are not without severe long-term side effects and so I do not recommend them.

Synthetic nootropics are synthesised in a laboratory and lack long-term studies and their safety may be questionable such as the racetam group of nootropics including piracetam. Natural nootropics on the other hand consist of compounds and herbs which have been proven to be safe and effective. Most of them support memory, brain function, focus and mental alertness often by boosting neurotransmitters in the brain.

Limitless Plus is a nootropic supplement combining two of the safest herbal extracts, Noomato™ and Neumentix™.

Noomato™ is an extract derived from the non-GMO tomato plant. The tomato fruit is loaded with a broad range of vitamins including vitamins C and A as well as potent antioxidants including the extensively studied antioxidant called lycopene. In studies, Noomato™ has been found to promote the function of the synapses – these are complex junctions between nerve cells used to transmit signals of information to process, store and recall information. Noomato™, with its high antioxidant properties, works to quench inflammation which disturbs the way in which we process information and of course may be responsible for the degradation of the nerve cells.

Neumentix™ is a unique extract derived from non-GMO spearmint which contains over 50 different types of polyphenols including rosmarinic acid which helps improve brain function by:

  • Protecting the nerve cells from damaging free radicals.
  • Enhancing the amount of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is involved in learning and memory.
  • Promoting new nerve cells.

Limitless Plus fits the definition of a true nootropic and it provides both short and long-term benefits for the brain; its effects are cumulative, so the longer you take this supplement, the more effective the benefits. This innovative botanical supplement is aimed at students and seniors most interested in a safe, non-pharmaceutical solution to keep their mind clear and focused. It is also equally suitable for gamers and those with brain-fog that often accompanies pressure of work.