How much sugar?

Sugar has been in the news a lot recently, and maybe you are sick of people talking about it. Maybe you don’t want to feel guilty for that glass of coke or that extra slice of cake, and fair enough – it’s your choice. But what if it is seriously affecting your, and your family’s, longterm health?

It’s easy to listen to the news and think that sugar is a “fat” person problem, or that you don’t drink sugary, carbonated drinks, so you’re ok. But unfortunately that’s not the case.  Sugar, in any form (fruit sugars, honey, maple syrup, corn syrup..), is potentially harmful – yep, you read that right, but hear me out.

Sugar types

The negative effects of sugar are numerous and far reaching – to the point that it was recommended by scientists years ago that it be regulated like tobacco and alcohol. The effects are that serious. It is that toxic.

I know that when I’m having an autoimmune flare-up – fatigued, headachy, joint ache, big puffy eyes (all because of my thyroid disease), the first thing I need to do is check the amount of sugar in my diet. And I generally don’t eat much sugar at all.

Sugar causes:

  • Metabolic Syndrome: diabetes, hypertension, liver problems, cardiovascular disease and non-alcohol fatty liver (Read more HERE).
  • Fat stores – when consumed in high doses, fructose overwhelms your liver’s ability to process it, so it gets stored as fat to stop it harming your body.
  • Hormonal mayhem – For a start, fructose suppresses gut hormones that tell you you are full (leading to over eating). Secondly, glucose causes your body to flood with insulin (a growth hormone), which is good and normal, but over stimulus can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. If you have a condition that involves the endocrine system e.g. thyroid disease, then you need to have a think about sugar.
  • “Bad” gut micro flora bloom, leaving you bloated, sluggish and unable to digest food properly.
  • Tooth decay
  • Cancer risk and poor prognosis (read HERE).
  • Chronic Inflammation – all those underlying, background symptoms -aches and pains, arthritis, headaches – may relate back to sugar.

So, am I suggesting you never eat anything sweet again, including fruit? No.

I am suggesting that you take a look at how much of each sugar type you currently eat and whether the risks are worth it. Learn how much your body can tolerate and chose the types you consume wisely.

Of course I’m not telling you to stop eating fruit, just don’t under estimate it’s sugar content – always go for the whole fruit, which includes fibre and water to help your body deal with the sugar, rather than juices or dried fruit.

What should you do? Here are some absolute basics:

  1. Stop drinking soft drinks, fruit juices and squash/cordial – swap for tea, vegetable juice or water with lemon or lime.
  2. Start checking labels. Anything with more than 5% sugar is not a good option.
  3. Get in the kitchen – Clear out your cupboards and start cooking.  Get rid of your packaged, processed food. Buy fruit, vegetables, nuts, pulses and lean meat. You don’t need to be a master chef to put together a quick and healthy meal.
  4. Stop buying low fat foods – fat is not bad. Sugar is bad, and sugar gets turned into fat. Low fat foods are full of sugar.

Confused or don’t know where to start? Send me an EMAIL.

Or start The Reboot and start feeling better fast!

Flyer for webWe have made big changes as a family. I want to reduce the chances of more Cancer in my family and to keep my Hashimoto’s disease under control.

Sugar is at a minimum. We eat some fruit each day and have dark chocolate or homemade granola or muffins as a treat every now and then. It is difficult and sometimes we have to Reboot.

It is hard to live a low-sugar life, because it’s become the norm to consume a lot of sugar on a daily basis. It’s normal for kids to have sugary snacks throughout the day, and to top-up on sugar-fill fruit juices or squash. In fact, if you “deprive” your child of these tasty, toxic, treats you are considered slightly strange and probably a bit mean. I try to make it as easy for my kids as possible, and am usually ready with a healthier alternative, but it takes planning and motivation.

I think it’s worth it – I’m sticking at it for our long term health.

Are you on a low-sugar eating plan? How has it benefited you?

Costa Rican Bean night

I am married to a Costa Rican – yep, my name’s a dead giveaway… 😉

Costa Rica is NOT a coastal region of Spain – it’s a small Central American country with amazing wildlife, culture and food.

Being married to this Costa Rican is not only fabulous because he happens to be an amazing person, but he has opened my eyes to the delicious food of Costa Rica – and I’ve tried my hand at cooking it.

To stave off yearning for the neo-tropics, we have “Bean Night’ here in the UK quite frequently.DSC_0471 copy

 

 
Bean Night is great for several reasons. Firstly, it is super family-friendly. Our kids LOVE bean night (especially now with gluten and corn-free, protein-packed tortillas and limey guacamole to make a fabulous, green sticky mess with!).

SDSC_0455 copyecondly, it is super nutritious! Black beans are 20% protein (like a lot of pulses), and serve a decent whack of calcium, iron and magnesium, as well as vitamins including B6, which is used to make serotonin and to protect nerve cells. That’s just the black beans!  

Bean Night includes a lot of fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs, e.g. lime (vitamin C, which helps your immune system), avocado (vitamin E, essential fatty acids and B vitamins (involved in energy production) and coriander (vitamins A, C, E and K). DSC_0462 copy

Check out my Bean Night recipe HERE

Let me know what you think!

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The Reboot

It’s officially Springtime! Hooray!

I love Spring – it is so full of colour and hope, especially after a long, grey winter (which they usually are here!). I find this change of season inspiring and optimistic.  After being in hibernation mode for winter,  I’m ready for the gorgeous sunshine we have had in recent days here in Devon – long may it last! It makes me want to grab life with both hands and go out and live it!

If only I had the energy and time (right?)

As you may know, I’ve had my health problems in recent years, and I know what it is like for your brain to want you to do something, but your body to outright refuse. I have been there, held captive by exhaustion and fatigue – willing my eyes to stay open long enough to read a book, or to stay focussed enough to make a serious phone call. Getting myself out of that state required a major Reboot. A focus on myself and my health. Read more about it HERE.

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Even now I know when I have been overdoing it. When I haven’t been getting my 7-9hours of sleep (I have two young kids, so this is pretty much a given), when I have been rushing from A to B and sorting everyone else out.  I notice that I am less focused, tired all the time and readily feel overwhelmed – I’m not functioning my best. I know that I am putting my health second, which is not sustainable and is not a good thing!

To battle tiredness I get tempted by sugary foods and caffeinated drinks to get me through the day. We all know that this is a temporary fix, and it usually leaves me feeling worse, not to mention the longer term consequences. But how many of us get stuck in this cycle?  I know I’m not alone in this!

It is time to break the cycle! Reboot NOW

There is no better time for change than Spring – shake off that winter lethargy and refocus on your health. Feel Better!

Give yourself the best chance at making positive changes and making them stick.

Check out my new health coaching package: The Reboot

Are you ready to have:

  • More energy
  • Better sleep
  • Weight loss
  • Less chronic inflammation
  • More control of your health

And more!

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Are you vegan?

I get asked this question a lot, and I can understand why – I, and my family, eat a mostly plant-based diet and we avoid dairy.

Am I a vegan?  No.

It took me a good while to work out my family’s optimal “diet”.  I was troubled by the fact that many lifestyle factors, including diet, can significantly affect our chances of developing disease. So, I wanted to put some thought into how to keep my family healthy, through food. I had a Cancer patient, my thyroid and adrenal issues, two kids under 3 and several intolerances to consider, so it was not an easy task!

A quick scan of the light “science” available online told me in no uncertain terms that becoming vegan was the way forward. After all, vegans are reported to live longer and healthier, with lower risk of nasty things like cancer and heart disease.

I toyed with this idea for a while, and it was tempting. But, a few things didn’t sit right. First and foremost, getting your recommended daily allowance of nutrients from a vegan diet requires a lot of vegetables (clearly!), and a fair bit of digestive effort. I had the whims of a toddler and the tastes of a baby to think about, as well as some questionable digestion my part thanks to my thyroid. Secondly, I couldn’t, and still can’t, get past the fact that being a vegan deprives you of Vitamin B12.

B Group Vitamins are water-soluble (you need a regular intake) and enable the release of energy from your food. Energy is not something I take for granted – as a sufferer of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and hypothyroidism I need all the energy release I can get!

Vitamin B12 has a role in the formation of red blood cells, nervous system and the metabolism of fats and proteins, and not enough of it can cause fatigue, shortness of breath and numbness.

Of course, these days, as a vegan you can overcome these risks by taking a daily vitamin B12 supplement. 

Brain Food: We have evolved to eat meat

A recent article in the journal Nature discusses the need for quality meat in our diet, in a world that is rich in nutrient-poor food. Read the article HERE.

Gupta highlights that the consumption of meat by our primate ancestors enabled them to evolve bigger brains. Meat provides readily available iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and fatty acids – all of which are required for brain development and optimal function (so not something I’m willing to deprive my kids of). 

The article does note, however, that nutrient-poor, factory-farmed meats are nowhere near as beneficial for us as free range meat.

So where does this leave us on the “healthiest diet” dilemma?

My view is that your diet needs to suit your needs. For me, and my family, getting our daily requirements for optimal health purely from plants would be challenging. I alone have a thyroid condition which predisposes me to have an array of nutrient deficiencies – including B12!

This doesn’t mean we eat loads of meat everyday – far from it. We eat a diverse mix of gluten-free, plant-based foods including vegetables, nuts, pulses and the odd bit of seaweed!  We eat free-range chicken and well-sourced oily fish, like mackerel and salmon. We rarely eat red meat or processed meat because of the links to increased risk of cancer (Cancer Research UK).

We also don’t eat dairy, primarily because of intolerances (did you know that Thyroxine can make you lactose intolerant?), but also because of the potential links to some Cancers and the fact that our ability to drink milk into adulthood is due only to a chance mutation – only 30% of people can digest the milk sugar lactose (mostly Europeans).

Most importantly, I am open to changes in our eating regime – the aim is to get the most from our food and to feel our best!

This is what works for us. What works of you? 

Are you vegan? 

I make homemade gluten, dairy, egg and soy-free food, many of which are suitable, or can be made suitable, for vegans (or all of which if you are a vegan who eats honey!). Have a look at what you can order HERE.

Is it time you took a look at your diet, but aren’t quite sure where to start? Get in touch HERE and we can have a chat about how I may be able to help.

For more information on my Coaching sessions and Packages click HERE

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Caroline x

Waiting

(Caring for Cancer, Part 2)

Read Part 1 “How our Cancer Story Began” HERE

I never realized just how excruciating waiting could be.

We had already waited an agonising two weeks on the query-cancer pathway for the Consultant Oncologist appointment, and we had left with nothing more than the promise of more waiting. We had naively believed that we would walk out of that appointment with at least a possible diagnosis – it was a query-cancer after all, surely that was urgent? Admittedly the oncologist had stated that my husband did not have cancer, and it was only my absolute confidence in my research, plus a little tenacity, that had secured a follow-up appointment. But, still we had to wait.

We waited for the phone call. We waited with no answers, no plan, no control and no idea when we might hear. By now my husband was in chronic pain and, understandably, clung to the possibility that his symptoms were caused by an infection – after all, that was what the Oncologist had said.

My reality was different.

I had read the research papers. I had assimilated the data presented to me. I was convinced he had cancer, probably metastasized. I knew that with every day that passed his chances of a good prognosis reduced. But all we could do was wait.

My sleepless nights continued – full of anxiety, despair, silent tears and newborn comfort. In a strange way these quiet, long nights offered some relief – a private space to release emotions pent-up during the day.

In the day time anxiety, dread and fear plagued me constantly, but some semblance of normality had to continue. I had a three month old to nurse, feed and change, and a perceptive and inquisitive toddler that, quite rightly, demanded my attention. I had to run the house; do the food shopping, plan dinner, put the washing on, tidy up. I had to interact with other people – talk with neighbours, friends, the postman. I had to go through the motions of normal life. I had to keep it all in.

Staying in control of my emotions was hardest with my son. I struggled to be the happy, playful and present Mummy he knew. I struggled because the real me was fracturing and crumbling inside – unraveling in panic that we would be left alone because a diagnosis would come too late. If he caught me off guard, in his innocence and with empathy he would ask “are you sad Mummy?” My mind would gush with the adult out-pouring that I craved, and my heart longed to squeeze him tight in a possessive embrace and to simply sob. Instead, I would pull him close and allow a few tears to roll down my cheeks as he nestled, unaware and protected, into the crook of my neck.

Adding another layer to my anxiety was the constant threat that my husband might leave the country.

With his family overseas, and aware of the American-style of medical care, understandably his patience with the long, bewildering NHS process was reaching its limit. He wanted to fly away and check into a hospital that wouldn’t discharge him until they had uncovered exactly what was wrong, and treated him for it. Family and friends scattered across the globe were making suggestions; Germany, Costa Rica the USA… I had to admit, the idea of a quick diagnosis was giddily tempting, save a few key points:

  1. The kids and I couldn’t go with him. Our daughter, at just 3 months old, didn’t have a passport. There was a chance that if he got on a plane, I would never see him again.
  2. Being his advocate would be significantly harder. Even if I could follow him later with the kids, I was unsure of my ability to be his advocate in an unfamiliar medical system, living in a hotel and possibly operating in a foreign language.
  3. The NHS has a world-class specialist cancer treatment hospital. If the diagnosis was cancer, then the UK was the place to be.

I felt trapped. I selfishly wanted him to stay, but what if that meant everything happened too late? What if by staying it ultimately led to the worst prognosis? How could I stop him from going?

In truth, I couldn’t. Every day or so he would send me flight details and ask my opinion.

If I didn’t want my husband to leave the country, I had to take matters into my own hands. I had to make the NHS work for us – I could no longer wait for the cogs of the NHS to slowly turn on their own.

In and around being Mummy, housewife and nurse to my poorly husband, I contacted the Patient Advice and Liaison Services (PALS). I updated them almost daily with the lack of progress in my husband’s diagnosis. I spent hours on the phone, ringing the abundance of wrong numbers on hospital websites and waiting on hold to finally reach the relevant secretary or other admin person. I chased everything up and followed every possible avenue to check that everything was in place, all the paperwork had been done and the right people explicitly knew our situation.

Just in case all my efforts were in vain, I also organized my daughter’s passport. I gathered all the relevant documents and signatures and managed to get a photograph of my 3 month old looking straight at the camera with eyes open (no mean feat!). I also just about managed to hold it together in the Post Office when I was told they couldn’t accept my application because of a typo – the fear of my husband flying away without us was renewed and amplified. Somehow I managed not to burst into floods of tears as, at the same time, my toddler was having a meltdown near the stick-it notes and my daughter, strapped to my chest, was desperately head butting me for milk, which had by now, glamorously, saturated my breast pads and was trickling down my front.

 

At last, we received the phone call and were given confirmation of the ENT oncology appointment – just a few more agonizing days to wait. Thankfully this was enough progress to quell my husband’s itchy feet.

Midmorning the day before the ENT appointment, the Consultant Oncologist called my husband at home, which in itself seemed odd. Apparently, while showering, the ‘diagnosis’ had occurred to him – a rare and treatable bacterial infection known as ‘Cat Scratch’. He’d already booked blood tests to confirm his suspicion.

My husband was beaming – in an instant our future had gone from looking bleak to no longer being under threat. He wanted to celebrate, and I wanted to join him.

But I couldn’t celebrate.

My hugs and smiles were strained – something wasn’t right. I didn’t believe it was Cat Scratch – I knew it wasn’t Cat Scratch.

Cat scratch had come up as a possibility in my literature search when I first suspected something sinister. I had eliminated it as an option because the symptoms and timeline didn’t quite fit. I had concluded Lymphoma and/or an abdominal tumour. From my research I had concluded cancer and, as always, I trusted my research.

This was not what my husband wanted to hear from me. He was ready to cancel the ENT oncology appointment – after all who was I to diagnose cancer when the oncologist said infection?

Thankfully, he agreed to go to the appointment.

In the waiting room my Mum rocked the pram. I buzzed with nervous anticipation and my husband fidgeted. This had to be the appointment when things moved ahead. Finally we were called in. After a series of examinations and questions, the oncologist paused, looked at his hands then announced that he thought my husband was seriously ill, and that he probably had been for some time. His best guess was Lymphoma.

Wow. The sense of relief was almost overwhelming – at last someone was on the same page as me, now they surely must take quicker action. But relief was quickly replaced by reality and a renewed terror – this was really happening.

He was booked in for a biopsy and finally was given a referral for a CT scan – something I had asked the GP for at the original appointment. But, again we faced weeks of waiting – waiting knowing that the most likely scenario was cancer, but not knowing the severity or prognosis.

Anxiety hit a new level and the waiting became unbearable. I reverted back to what I know best – proactivity, research and data. I organized paperwork and booked CT scans at private clinics (some 6hours drive away) in the hope of expediting diagnostic tests. But perhaps most significantly, I presented the facts of our experience to PALS and pointed out that the Government’s Cancer Pledge is  “A maximum 2 month (62 day) wait from urgent referral for suspected cancer to first treatment for all cancers” – we were on day 65 and looking at a further 14-21days before diagnosis.

The day after I sent that email my husband had a CT scan. Two days later he got a phone call asking him to go to the hospital immediately for a biopsy of his swollen lymph node.

A few days after surgery, my husband attended the blood clinic appointment booked to test the Cat Scratch hypothesis. This was the only appointment I didn’t attend – I had the kids and it was supposed to be a routine blood test. However, unannounced the Consultant Oncologist turned up to the clinic and presented my husband with a diagnosis:

Cancer. Metastasized Germ Cell Carcinoma, including a 7cm mass in his abdomen.

 

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you thought and don’t forget to share with your friends. By sharing my story I hope to encourage others take control of their health and that of their loved ones. 

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