Vegetable of the Month – Celeriac for September

Eating with the seasons is the best way to nourish your body and to care for the environment. Fruits and vegetables bought out of season have usually traveled a long way and are may have less nutrients as they are picked before they are ripe. Many of us are familiar with the “ripen at home” range in supermarkets, which usually leads to produce going rotten before it ripens.

Solve this problem, support local growers and your health by eating seasonably!

Celeriac is in season from September to April, and is an often-overlooked vegetable.

It is a root vegetable, with a slight nutty flavour. Prepare it by top and tailing with a sharp knife then using a potato peeler to remove the skin. You can boil it (about 20minutes) or roast it (about 40 minutes). I often add it to soups and to mixed roast vegetables e.g. with beetroot and sweet potato.

Health Benefitsceleriac

Celeriac is nutrient rich (as most vegetables are!), and therefore confers a lot of health benefits. The extraordinary quantity if vitamin K and presence of calcium and phosphorous in Celeriac helps to maintain bone density and prevent osteoporosis. Celeriac also has a lot of Vitamin B6, which prevents nerve damage and aids communication among nerve cells. For these reasons, it is thought to be beneficial for those suffering with Parkinson’s disease. Vitamin C, and other antioxidants, helps to maintain a healthy immune system, enabling us to heal wounds efficiently and to fight off infection. Celeriac contains both soluble and insoluble fibre, which promote a healthy digestive system and to control blood sugar.

Have you tried Celeriac before? Why not give it a go?

With warmth,

Caroline x

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Vegetable of the Month – Beetroot for July

Eating with the seasons is the best way to nourish your body and to care for the environment. Fruits and vegetables bought out of season have usually traveled a long way and are may have less nutrients as they are picked before they are ripe. Many of us are familiar with the “ripen at home” range in supermarkets, which usually leads to produce going rotten before the ripen.

Solve this problem, support local growers and your health by eating seasonably!

Beetroot is a purple root vegetable, and relative of spinach, that many of us will have only ever eaten cooked and preserved in vinegar. There is a whole lot more to Beetroot! I can be eaten cooked or raw (as in juices and smoothies) and in sweet or savoury dishes.

I love to roast beetroot slowly in the oven (about 2 hours), then add it to a variety of dishes and salads. I also always eat the leaves. It’s important to get fresh beetroot, with crisp, fresh leaves. They can be wilted slightly and eaten like spinach.

Health Benefitsbeetroot 2

Beetroot is particularly high in Manganese – vital for bones, blood clotting, brain function and more – and folate, a B vitamin used for cell division and DNA formation (hence is necessity during pregnancy). The pigments that make beetroot red/purple are water soluble and provide both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory role capabilities.

Beetroot’s fibre and wealth of antioxidants increase antioxidants in the body and promote the growth of white blood cells – making it and ideal go-to food when your immune system needs a bit of a boost.

Beetroot also contains a high proportion of the amino acid glutathione, which is used in the healing and maintenance of our digestive tract. Beetroot is therefore particularly useful if you have suffer from digestive issues and suspect leaky gut (intestinal hyper permeability).

What’s your favourite way to eat beetroot? Let me know!

Caroline x

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Living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome CFS/ME

I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in 2010 after I had been virtually housebound for nearly a year. At the time of diagnosis, and to this day, I felt like it was an unnecessary  and useless label. The diagnosis didn’t come with any kind of treatment plan, medication or even advice. It simply came with a “we don’t know much about it, but you’ll probably have this for life”. I was sent on my way believing that that was my lot. Thanks Doctor.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome does more then it says on the tin – and that’s why many CFS suffers are fed up with this vague and dismissible name. CFS/ME is a complex chronic illness that manifests differently among it’s victims and involves not only debilitating fatigue, but also chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), brain fog, weight loss, fibromyalgia, headaches, nausea, insomnia, muscle weakness and more.  woman-506120_1920

The causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are still debated, despite it being reported for more than 200 years. It’s likely that there are several triggers, and that a unique mix of factors trigger each individual’s illness.

In addition to viruses as the cause e.g. Epstein Barr, a recent review proposes a disruption of gut microbiota as a possible cause (Navaneetharaja et al. 2016). Our gut microbiome is so important for our long-term health this proposal doesn’t surprise me at all, and it fits with my experience. Because our gut microbes are so important, whether they are disrupted by a pathogenic virus, poor diet, stress or something else, the knock-on effects can be far reaching.  CFS has also been proposed as an autoimmune disease triggered by gut dysbiosis and disruption of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract (Navaneetharaja et al. 2016).

It’s easy to think that the virus that I caught in Costa Rica in 2009 was the culprit, as many studies show connections between CFS and various viruses, but in reality the virus I caught was the straw that broke the camel’s back. My CFS had been simmering away for a long time – I believe since my mid teens.

For me, I believe my immune system has been operating sub-optimally for a long time. I believe that my CFS is a result of gut dysbiosis and autoimmunity.  I know that when I look after my gut and acknowledge my diagnosed autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) my symptoms improve. It’s common to collect autoimmune diseases if you don’t catch them early and work at reducing inflammation.

For years I’d had periods of inexplicable exhaustion. As a child I’d happily curl up anywhere and go to sleep. In the summer holidays I remember systematically sleeping in until 11:30am and being shocked by how tired I was, but I simply couldn’t wake up earlier. I’ve never been sporty or energetic and I know I should be in bed at 9pm. I have been constantly cajoled, pestered and teased into doing things – going for walks, staying up late, going to the pub – when my body is crying out for sleep. At university, during my undergraduate, I had one day of SCUBA diving each week in the winter. I’d suffer severe headaches afterwards and I’d be exhausted the next day, barely able to walk to my lectures. In my early 20s I’d wonder if I’d be able to walk to and from town – just a 20 minute walk – but I was unsure of my strength. I remember catching a cold and being in bed for days, and then unable to walk faster than an 80yr old with a Zimmer frame. It was ridiculous and I remember marvelling at my lack of strength.  Each of these episodes passed and, once they had, I continued on with normal life – after all, all the doctors I saw told me I was normal.

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The final straw

I got seriously ill in 2009, at the end of my PhD. I’d had several quite stressful years during my PhD, but I’d loved my work and was passionate about producing high quality science. I’d worked hard in a very toxic system with no support. I had my ideas and data stolen, suffered abuse of power, manipulation and sexual harassment – things that are rife in academia. No-one had my back. I didn’t have an academic champion or mentor until it was far too late. This stress during my PhD was definitely a huge contributor to my poor health – and a big factor in distancing myself from academia. But it wasn’t the sole cause of my CFS. Many people unhelpfully told me I’d made myself ill by working too hard. While several studies link perfectionism and CFS (as reviewed by Kempke et al. 2015) this isn’t the full story.

What it CFS feels like

The fatigue is like no other. A total exhaustion that stops you from being able to lift your head off of the pillow, from moving your legs to get out of bed, from standing while the kettle boils or from being able to speak. It prevents you from functioning and makes you pause and question the necessity of every action. The brain fog that goes along with it is nothing short of terrifying. I could no longer rely on my brain. I couldn’t recall dates, times, facts or even names of close friends. I couldn’t problem solve. I couldn’t hold a conversation because I couldn’t follow it or remember what had been said or what I had already asked. It was humiliating and scary. I had terrible IBS and, despite eating three or more main meals in a day, I kept loosing weight. I ate and napped. That was it.

I went from being a competent, independent and reasonably intelligent woman to someone who couldn’t communicate with her friends, didn’t have the energy to read and couldn’t walk to the end of the road. I was by myself all day while my husband was at work. I was lonely and down. I needed to be cared for. I needed someone to shop, cook and clean for me, and my husband became my carer.

broccoli-952532__180Slowly I made myself better by focussing on me and allowing myself to put my health first. I took advice, I listened to my body and I learned to let go of anger. I changed my diet, even though my diet was healthy, and my approach to life. I radically reduced carbohydrates and I cut out gluten. I prioritised my sleep and I stopped using chemicals in my home and on my body.

It took time, but I returned to “normal” – at least I was no longer chronically fatigued and ill. I was different though, but in a good way.

I have to keep on top of it, especially since I also have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which shares many of the same symptoms as CFS. When I let my diet slip or if I pack too much in (which is a constant tendency),  I know I’ll pay the price.  It’s all about balance.

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Do you suffer from CFS or another debilitating illness? I’d love to hear your story.

I’ll be posting soon about the changes I made that helped me get my energy back, so FOLLOW my blog to make sure you don’t miss out.

Want to start feeling better right now? Check out my Reboot  I’ve packed all my best tips on how to get your health back on track in just 4 short weeks. This online package allows you to find your foundation of good health. It guides you through changes that will have long-lasting effects on your symptoms and overall health in a safe and manageable way.  It’s a great start towards taking control of your health and reaching goals!

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All the best,

Caroline

 

Love your microbes

I heard Tim Spector’s talk at the College of Medicine’s “Food. Food the forgotten medicine pictureThe forgotten medicine” conference earlier this month. He is mad about gut microbes and health, and has written a book about it The Diet Myth.

We are covered in microbes – single-celled organisms that are invisible to the human eye and the oldest form of life on Earth. These micro-organisms live on us and in us – with a wealth residing in our digestive tracts. Each of us has a unique gut microbial blueprint – passed, in part, onto us by our mother during a natural birth, but dependent upon our genetic make-up (Goodrich et al. 2014). When we are healthy our microbes are diverse and abundant, and responsible for immune system development and long-term health (Romero et al. 2014).

99% of our microbes are beneficial. 

These “friendly gut microbes”, if you will, enable us to breathe, to digest our food, manage our weight, regulate our immune system and resist disease (Stearns at el. 2011).

Altered gut microbial diversity, or dysbiosis, plays a role in chronic and systemic disease, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, IBS, Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease (Kinross et al. 2014), autoimmune disease e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, MS, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Grave’s diseases (Amy et al. 2013) and cancer (Schwabe and Jobin 2013).

It’s therefore worrying that we have grown-up being afraid of “germs” and systematically kill-off these life-giving, protective microbes with hand sanitiser, bleach, antibiotics. We can also cause dysbiosis through infection, lifestyle and diet.

Killing-off or not looking after our microbiome has long-term health consequences. In children, for example, taking antibiotics between 0 and 2years old is linked to increased chance of childhood obesity, growth impairment and allergies (Cox and Blaser 2014). We’ve likely all had antibiotics, and kids are given them routinely because of the plethora of infections they tend to get. If you must have antibiotics, you can buffer the effects by using a good probiotic and ensuring a diet and lifestyle that promotes the re-establishment of a healthy microbiome.

coral 3Our gut microbiome can be thought of as an ecosystem – a biological community of organisms that interact with one another and respond to the physical environment.. A high biodiversity of organisms, relative to climate, is characteristic of a healthy ecosystem – be it a coral reef, tropical rainforest, lake, field, desert or our guts. A high diversity of organisms ensures that each niche, or need, is fulfilled and gives back to the system. As such, an ecosystem is more resilient to short term environmental change and stresses, and therefore less susceptible to disease. Optimal climate is necessary for maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

 

The same is true for our guts.  To ensure optimal health, we need to nurture our gut microbiome by providing a favourable environment for the long-term (Xu and Knight 2015). In general, this means a whole foods diet including a diverse range of vegetables – including the pre-biotic containing ones such as Jerusalem Artichoke which help to provide the food for our microbes. The phytonutrients found in plants are irreplaceable and essential for good health – make sure you eat a high diversity of vegetables. Include some nuts and seeds, fish (for your omega 3 essential fatty acids) and whole grains and dairy. Limit red meat.

burger-1140824_1920A diet high in processed food is high in sugar, trans fats, saturated fat, additives and refined carbohydrates and is undeniably bad for your health, and your microbiome.  A bad diet can can drop your gut microbial diversity by 40%, which of course compromises your health and sets you up for disease.

Want to know what your gut is doing? It can be really useful if you have a chronic illness. I had mine done by a naturopathic doctor when I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  It certainly helped me understand my health and take control of my health.  Though it seems like you need a referral by a doctor, which can be very difficult to get, visit www.mapmygut.com to find out what’s going on with you’re microbiome.

In the mean time, look after your microbiome!

Email caroline@flourishwellness.co.uk to book a FREE discovery session to talk about your health how diet and lifestyle changes can help.

Did you see my post about inflammation and your health? Have a read HERE.

Read how our cancer story began HERE

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Chronic Fatigue- diagnosis to remission

Sometimes I can’t quite believe that I was pretty much housebound for 18 months in my twenties. Other times it seems all too close for comfort. The lack of recognition and respect Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients receive still astounds me.

For me, like many, it was a long road to a very unsatisfactory diagnosis. For over a decade I told GPs that I was exhausted and not able to keep up with my peers. I told them I felt unwell and that I was worried. I told them I was not depressed. I told them that I was sleeping 12hours a day and was still exhausted. I told them I had to rest for days after exerting myself and that I lacked concentration and motivation. At each and every appointment I was told that my symptoms were vague and non-specific and therefore there was nothing to be done. I was told I needed to socialise less (at a point during my degree that I was a hermit), to get more sleep (more than 12hrs a day?) and that I was probably depressed (maybe, but chicken or egg?).

And so I lived in this state of exhaustion. I resigned myself to it. I thought it was just  the way I am. But I could never fathom how people could just get up and do things, how they could achieve so much. Where did they get the energy? Why couldn’t I do everything? Why wasn’t I “normal”?

Things came to a head when I was writing up my PhD thesis. I’d moved to Costa Rica to write up (well, why not!?) and, within a week of being there, I contracted a really bad stomach virus. I didn’t eat anything apart from watery rice for two weeks. I lost a lot of weight and I simply never recovered my energy.

I was extremely ill. I couldn’t shuffle across the apartment without stopping to rest. I couldn’t stand in the kitchen long enough to boil the kettle. I couldn’t hold my arms above my head for long enough to wash my hair. I had to have a nap after a conversation. I had irritable bowel syndrome. I ached all over – in both muscles and joints. I couldn’t concentrate for more than a nano-second and my memory was atrocious. I was constantly hungry and loosing weight rapidly. One day the world went black and I temporarily lost my vision.

I went from doctor to doctor and had test after test. I gave countless vials of blood and saw a seemingly infinite array of “specialists”, but none could offer me any viable explanation. All told me I was “normal”.

I soon learned that being “normal” in the medical world simply means that the test needed to detect what is wrong hasn’t been discovered yet.  Unfortunately, it seems that most doctors tend to listen more to the lab data than to their patients. Either that or they are unwilling to collaborate and problem-solve with the patient.

I wrote my PhD thesis and planned my wedding – I’m not sure whether this was tenacity or stubbornness, maybe a bit of both. I knew that, like most, my PhD was a huge stressor, and had been for sometime. I knew that I wouldn’t start to get better until I could put it behind me. My decision to persevere and finish my thesis was met with a lot of eyebrow raises and head shaking, but I knew having it hanging over me would be worse in the long run. That was my decision.

Back in Australia, newly married and with my doctorate (cum laude) secured, I was unable to leave the house. My GP finally stuck a label on what I had: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She told me there was no cure and that I would likely have it for the rest of my life – that there was nothing I could do.

For me, that meant no career, no kids, virtually no social life and that my new husband would be my carer. Clearly something had to change.

I read and researched CFS, and a friend recommended a local naturopathic doctor. Finally someone who listened to me, who didn’t tell me I was imagining my symptoms or that I was depressed. He is ordered tests and diagnosed me with dysbiosis and intestinal permeability – things that many doctors still deny the existence of despite a wealth of evidence. Together we looked at my diet and lifestyle and I began to make changes. It was slow, and it was hard, but I stuck at it. I designed my own diet, one that suited my needs and took my various nutrient deficiencies into account.

Slowly, I began to get better.

I also took a long hard look at my life, and where, and to whom, I was loosing energy. I realised I wasn’t good at looking after myself and I usually put myself last.

What’s most interesting is that my pre-CFS diet wasn’t “bad”. I’ve always eaten vegetables, nuts and pulses. I hardly ever ate fast or processed foods. I always cooked from scratch and kept myself hydrated. Clearly, a “normal” diet was not ideal for my body and was not going to promote healing and health.

I learned that doctors don’t always know best. That you are the expert of your experience and no-one should try to diminish it. Once you have found someone who will work with you, instead of dictating to you, you’re onto a good thing.

Had I not been told I was “normal” 10 years earlier, maybe the autoimmune storm that seems to be my body’s default status now wouldn’t be raging quite so hard.

After a post-doc in the USA, having a couple of kids and caring for my husband through cancer, I am now help others take control of their health as a Health and Nutrition Coach. I help people with chronic inflammation reduce and eliminate symptoms associated with thyroid disease, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and CFS, and weight management through cancer. I always encourage people to discuss our work with their doctor. But it’s amazing how many doctors refuse to listen and instead belittle the huge steps these people are making in taking control of their health.C_14

The truth about Gluten

We have all now heard of Gluten. But do we all know what it is and why we ‘should’ be avoiding it?

Cutting gluten from my diet was a huge factor in my recovery from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (though I didn’t know it at the time), in shrinking my goitre and significantly reducing many of my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis symptoms.

But, many people think that going “gluten-free” is a fad and that it’s just the latest dieting craze, and for some that is true. For others it is the difference between health and disease – and sometimes that disease is Cancer, sometimes it’s Crohn’s, which could mean losing your intestine, and sometimes it is an autoimmune disease that could continue to attack your body.

Many people don’t know if they should be avoiding gluten or not. These people tend to dabble in gluten-free living. They perhaps buy some items from the “free-from” ranges that now adorn supermarket aisles and feel somewhat virtuous when they manage to consume a gluten-free sandwich (if, of course, it holds together long enough it eat it). But does eating mostly gluten-free count? And what exactly is gluten anyway?

What is Gluten?

  • Gluten is a complex of proteins found naturally in the seeds of cereal grains.
  • The gluten protein types that can cause adverse reactions are glutelins (glutenin) and prolamins (gliadin).
  • These proteins are also responsible for the unique properties of gluten, which make it so appealing for baking – trapping air to enable dough to rise, giving elasticity to bread and dough as well as a chewy texture.
  • Gluten-containing seeds include: bulgar wheat, durum wheat, barley, rye, kamut, faro, graham, semolina, triticale, einkorn and spelt.
  • Gluten is used as a protein supplement (particularly in Asian cultures e.g. seitan), as a thickener in sauces, flavourings, medications, stock cubes and sweets.
  • Gluten is much more widespread in the Western diet, where processed food is more common and widely available.

Check out some of my gluten-free recipes HERE and HERE

What is Gluten Intolerance?

The term “Gluten intolerance” is often used to describe three conditions:

  1. Celiac (coeliac) Disease: Autoimmune disease, where the body responds with an overreactive adaptive immune response, triggered by gliadin and primarily concerning the small intestine. It may manifest several hours or days after consuming gluten. This response harms the delicate villi structures and lining of the intestine responsible for nutrient absorption. An inflammation response may also occur leading to leaky gut syndrome – where large proteins pass through the gut lining, and often leading to chronic poor health and the development of other intolerances. Celiac disease can be confirmed by a blood test for the relevant antibodies and biopsy, though negative results do not mean that you don’t have it.
  1. Wheat Allergy: Strictly speaking is and allergy and not an intolerance. This is an immediate and often severe histamine reaction to the presence of wheat (not specifically gluten). People may develop hives, shortness of breath and swelling – this is known as Type 1 hypersensitivity and is a different type of immune response to that of Celiac disease. 
  1. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS): This is the least well defined of the gluten intolerances. Currently, people who test negative for Celiac disease and who do not present with wheat allergy, but still feel unwell upon eating gluten are labeled with NCGS. They likely also have a “leaky gut” and a host of symptoms associated with a malfunctioning digestive system. People particularly susceptible include those with an autoimmune disease.

Should I quit Gluten?

Cutting gluten from your diet if you aren’t gluten intolerant is unnecessary, but many people are unsure. If you suffer from digestive issues –irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, bloating, cramps, discomfort, weight problems, if you have dry skin and rashes or if you feel very tired after eating gluten and have difficulty concentrating – it’s likely you have a problem with gluten. In which case, going gluten-free will:

  1. Help you achieve good long-term health
  2. Alleviate symptoms
  3. Increase your energy and improve your mood

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Going gluten-free can be overwhelming as it’s in so many things and many of us include it in every meal and snack. You may wonder what on Earth you can eat on a gluten-free diet!

On June 24th I am launching my Go Gluten-free online coaching package. This is a 4-week package that will guide you safely through the tricky transition to gluten-free living. I provide you with information and tools so you can make informed decisions about your health and then implement lasting change. I also enable you to conclusively determine whether you are gluten intolerant and I’ll be on hand to answer your questions. Read more HERE or send me an email: caroline@flourishwellness.co.uk

25% Early Bird Discount if you register by June 17th! Just £30 to transform your health!

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Look after your health and be well!

Caroline x

P.S. Did you read my post “Is your immune system attacking you?”, you might find it useful in reaching your health goals!

Vegetable of the Month – Asparagus for June

Eating with the seasons is the best way to nourish your body and to care for the environment. Fruits and vegetables bought out of season have usually traveled a long way and are may have less nutrients as they are picked before they are ripe. Many of us are familiar with the “ripen at home” range in supermarkets, which usually leads to produce going rotten before the ripen.

Solve this problem, support local growers and your health by eating seasonably!

This month asparagus is in season in the UK (and from May to July). Asparagus is a flowering plant, from which the shoots are edible. Buy perky spears, not limp, and wrap in damp kitchen towel and store in the bottom of your fridge. It’s best to eat asparagus as soon as you can after picking, as the nutrient content diminishes reasonably quickly.

To cook, simply boil for 3 minutes, steam for 4-5 minutes or gently sauté. Many people like to add butter and salt. I find them delicious on their own!

Health benefitsasparagus 3

Asparagus contains a wealth of vitamins and minerals. It’s particularly high in Vitamin K, Folate, Vitamin B1 and B2, Selenium, Vitamin C and E, many of which are antioxidants and confer a wealth of health benefits.

Asparagus is known for it’s diuretic properties, helping us to eliminate waste, and therefore cleanse, by encouraging urination. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, due to the Saponins and is therefore considered potentially helpful in reducing risks of chronic inflammatory disorders and associated disease, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Asparagus also great for maintaining a healthy digestive system, and is commonly used in traditional Indian Medicine, Ayurveda, for promoting digestive health. Asparagus is high in both fiber and protein (for a vegetable!) and it contains Inulin. Inulin is a carbohydrate that bacteria in our digestive system feed on. These bacteria aid absorption of nutrients, reduce allergies and help reduce the likelihood of colon cancer.

Happy Eating!

Caroline x

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