Archive: Sep 2010

  1. It’s not all about blood tests


    The above article got me thinking today. Essentially when you are seeing a doctor with vague symptoms, blood tests will be taken, and as James Le Fanu says this is a very reassuring process. However 99% of my patients have had a battery of tests and when they are all normal are told there is nothing wrong with them. Also at this point some doctors may think well if the tests say the patient is physically right then it must be a mental health problem. I think this is too simple an approach and this is why I am so busy.

    And I’m not being arrogant or clever here, but it doesnt make sense to me to brush people off as having something mentally wrong (usually depression) if a few blood tests say you are fine physically.

    Chronic health is a complex problem. The two most common symptoms I see are tired all the time syndrome (TATT) and IBS. A few basic blood tests will tell you that you are not anaemic, and your thyroid is ok, but TATT needs to be looked into in depth and for that you need time.

    Poor diet, poor blood sugar control, bad sleep patterns, stress, food allergies, vitamin B deficiencies etc etc can be just some of the reasons people are tired and yes of course depression can be one of those, but its not usually the most common in my experience.

    I remember for years being told I was a really awful colour – a kind of lemon yellow and I couldn’t feel my feet and for a long time I was told it was nothing. I had full blood counts and as they were all fine I was well – but I wasn’t – my touch sensation began to go really weird and I had pins and needles everywhere. It wasn’t until I went to a private GP in London that as I walked through the door he asked me immediately if I suffered from pernicious anemia – I said no. A blood test result a week later showed my B12 levels were dangerously low – I didn’t have pernicious anaemia but did need injections and in a couple of hours after the first injection I was feeling a completely different person. Now this was 15 years ago, I wouldn’t let that happen now but I knew nothing of blood tests or disease. To this day, because I’ve had parasite infections and giardia I still for some reason can’t keep my B12 levels up so still have injections three times a year. And yet all that time various doctors had not done a B12, they didnt think it was necessary because my Full Blood Count was ok.

    It isnt always about blood tests, its often important to look at clinical symptoms and actually whether the patient looks well. It was blindingly obvious what I had wrong with me but many people had missed it – perhaps they weren’t looking in the right place ie at my face!

  2. The Young Ones

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    I’m having great fun watching BBC1’s The Young One’s. Taking the simple principle that sending people back in time to their heyday may improve their physical and mental wellbeing has been a joy to watch. The selection of celebrities has been good too – the amazing Lionel Blair (who admits he’s lying about his age, late 70’s, early 80’s?), the splendid Liz Smith, Derek Jameson, Dickie Bird, Kenneth Kendall and Carry on beauty Sylvia Syms.

    I’m not sure it’s just about taking people back to their prime. For Dickie Bird who lives alone and unmarried the comraderie and community spirit is also putting a smile on his face. Last night Lionel Blair got Liz Smith up to dance, which was extraordinary as she entered the house on two sticks. Interestingly when they allowed carers in to help them, there was a split in the group. Some had found their independence and would not give it up easily and found it humiliating and insulting to have someone to do things for them. The other half liked the help and that group went back to the role of very old incapable person when they clearly had been capable the day before.

    I also found it very moving seeing Lionel Blair wanting desperately to go back to work, waiting at home for the phone to ring. I hope he does get offered something – he has so much talent. I’d love Dickie Bird to move in with Derek Jameson after the experiment to keep each other giggling and in high spirits.

    If you are reading this and in your 70’s and 80’s keep fighting for your independence and your youth – keep working for as long as you can if it gives you joy. Early retirement can be dangerous – keep your mind and body active for as long as possible.

    Am looking forward to seeing what the stats show at the end of the programme – I suspect they will all be physically and mentally much younger. Great stuff!

  3. If fat consumption is reducing why are we getting fatter?

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    This is one of the many extracts that I will add to my blog from time to time regarding fat consumption – its dropping not rising. This one is taken from the CDC – the American Centre for Disease Control. So if our fat consumption is getting less and obesity rates are climbing whats going on? Would love to hear your views!!!

    Trends in Intake of Energy and Macronutrients — United States, 1971–2000

    During 1971–2000, the prevalence of obesity in the United States increased from 14.5% to 30.9%. Unhealthy diets and sedentary behaviors have been identified as the primary causes of deaths attributable to obesity. Evaluating trends in dietary intake is an important step in understanding the factors that contribute to the increase in obesity. To assess trends in intake of energy (i.e., kilocalories [kcals]), protein, carbohydrate, total fat, and saturated fat during 1971–2000, CDC analyzed data from four National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES): NHANES I (conducted during 1971–1974), NHANES II (1976–1980), NHANES III (1988–1994), and NHANES 1999–2000. This report summarizes the results of that analysis, which indicate that, during 1971–2000, mean energy intake in kcals increased, mean percentage of kcals from carbohydrate increased, and mean percentage of kcals from total fat and saturated fat decreased . An expert advisory committee appointed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is conducting a review of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (3). Revised guidelines will be published in 2005

  4. September newsletter – The Colour of Food

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    Here we are past mid summer with the hint of an approaching new season upon us – but we’re not there yet, and late summer to me still means vibrant foods full of colour and flavour! This months newsletter is all about colour and I’ve included a few more recipes than usual to get you all in the mood as a colourful meal is so much more appetising than a plate filled with pale “anaemic” food.

    Eating a full spectrum of colours can not only help us receive a fuller range of nutrients in our diet but because all the senses contribute to the experience of eating, it helps our digestive process. Before we eat we look and smell, only then do we taste. Imagine if you will two plates of food: 1) grilled plaice, mashed potato and steamed cabbage, and 2) seared tuna steak with a red and green pepper ratatouille and sweet potato mash. Two very different plates of food, sending out totally different signals to our brain.

    Food Colour

    Colour and the appeal of various foods is closely related. Just the sight of food stimulates neurons in the hypothalamus. In trials, people presented with food to eat in the dark reported an important missing element for enjoying their meal: the actual sight of the food. For the sighted, the eyes are the first place that must be convinced before a food is even tried. This means that some food products fail in the marketplace not because of bad taste, texture or smell but because the consumer never got that far. Think how picky we have become with regard to the shape, colour and texture of our food and if any of you saw The Great British Waste Menu, on BBC1 a couple of weeks ago, what happens to so much of our food is that its just dumped because it does not fit into what we find acceptable.

    The sight and smell of food is vital to our digestion. We need the salivary glands to start working and good digestion starts with the eyes and the taste buds. Bland food is traditionally the food for people who are recovering from illness. Whilst visiting someone is hospital recently, the bland food epidemic so common in institutions was at the forefront of my mind. White macaroni cheese on a white plate followed by white ice cream in a white container failed to get my taste buds going. Not an ounce of colour anywhere and hardly appealing to the eye.

    There are three main classes of colour in foods: natural colours, browning colours, which are produced during cooking and processing, and additives. The principal natural colours, most of which, in refined form, are used as additives, are the green pigment chlorophyll, the carotenoids, which give yellow to red colours, and the flavonoids, with their principal subclass the anthocyanins, which give flowers and fruits their red to blue colours.
    There has been much interest in carotenoids in recent years especially in beta carotene – besides being a natural orange pigment (in carrots, mango etc) it is converted in the body to vitamin A and has antioxidant powers and may be beneficial in reducing the risk of some cancers.

    Food additives

    Increasingly, food additive colours are based on anthocyanins derived from sources such as red grapes or beet but the first additive colours were the synthetic dyes. When synthetic dyes were discovered (mauve was the first, discovered in 1856 by the English chemist William Perkin) they were initially used in textiles, but by 1900 eighty chemical dyes were used in food in the USA. Chemical dyes have stronger colours than natural colouring agents such as cochineal. Many of these dyes were originally derived from coal-tar, and were commonly called ‘coal-tar dyes’. The term is still sometimes used although the dyes are no longer made from this source. Chemically, the dyes are azo dyes, that is they contain the azo group, which confers bright colours which vary in hue depending on the rest of the molecule.

    In 1937 the dye butter yellow (dimethylazobenzene) was found to cause cancer in rats. The other azo dyes became suspects and one by one they have been weeded out of the list of acceptable additives. Today a limited range of azo dyes are still used. Several years ago, the makers of M&M’s which contain a variety of different coloured chocolate sweets, added blue to its pack. Apparently, the result of a vote by M&M fans. It does raise a few questions as of all the colours in the spectrum, blue is actually an appetite suppressant. Weight loss plans suggest putting your food on a blue plate. Or even better than that, put a blue light in your refrigerator and watch your munchies disappear!

    Colour in foods can be seen mostly in fruit, vegetables, salad and herbs and as we are all meant to be eating five portions every day, we could be eating a rainbow of different colours on a daily basis. Colour is of course added to foods, and only as recently as ten years ago, buying a strawberry yoghurt still meant buying a pink yoghurt that had never really seen a strawberry but was full of colouring. We have come a long way now and most shoppers are savvy to the horrors of brightly coloured foods. I think its still pretty obvious if there is an artificial dye in a food, as it will look unnatural but still check the label. You can get wonderful natural colours like turmeric, saffron etc. Purified raspberries, blueberries or strawberries give terrific colours. Even peas made into soup have a fantastic natural colour. Colour is also so important in children’s diet as it is hard enough getting the five portions of fruit and vegetables into their daily diet. Colour (natural not added!) can really help-children as we know love bright colours.

    Whilst on the subject of additives I thought you might find the list below useful.

    A guide to good and bad additives

    Colours (E100 -E180)

    Riboflavin E101
    Carotene E160

    Tartrazine E102
    Coal or azo dyes E104-142
    Caramel E150
    Coal tar dyes E151-155
    Aluminiun E173
    Silver E174

    Preservatives (E200-290)
    Sorbates E200-E203
    Benzoates E210-E219
    Sulpur-Sulphites E220-E227
    Misc E230-E249
    Nitrates E250-E252
    Diacetate E262
    Propionates E281-E283
    Carbon dioxide E290
    Good – there are very few good preservatives!

    Antioxidants (E300-E321)
    Ascorbates E300-E304
    Tocopherols E306-E309
    Gallates E310-E312
    BRA E320
    BHT E321

    Emulsifiers, stabiliser and others (E322-E925)
    Lecithin E322
    Nicotinic acid E375
    Pectin E440
    EDTA E385
    Carrageenan E407
    Sulphuric acid E513
    Potassium hudronxideE525
    Sodium ferrocynadeie phosphate E535
    Sodium injositate E631
    Monosodium glutamate E621
    Chlorine E925

    Coloured foods and their health benefits

    e.g’s artichoke, asparagus, beans, broccoli, celery, leeks, peas, pepper, sprouts, courgette, marrow, kale, spinach, spring greens.
    Benefits: phytochemicals inc lutein. Good for detoxing.

    Red, purple and orange
    e.g’s beets, carrots, aubergine, pumpkin, squash, red cabbage, red peppers, sweet potato, tomato, yam, noni, pomegranates.
    Benefits: high in lycopenes. May help decrease risk of prostate cancer.

    Leafy green
    e.g’s Bok choi, cabbage, chicory, chives, endive, kale, lettuce, parsley, spinach, swiss chard, watercress.
    Benefits: good levels of magnesium and excellent for cultivating prebiotic activity in the gut.

    e.g’s bilberry, blueberry, elderberry
    Benefits: high in anythocyanins. Good for the heart, improve circulation and prevent blood clots.

    e.g’s garlic, onions, leeks, celery.
    Benefits: high in allicin which is anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Celery contains organic sodium which keeps fluids in joints healthy.

    e.g’s squash, pumpkin, carrots.
    Benefits: rich in beta carotene – a by product of vitamin A which aids cell growth.

    Recipes with Colour
    (all serve 2-4 people)

    Watercress, Feta and Orange Salad

    1 x 125g sachet of red/ brown rice
    2 medium oranges, segmented
    80g feta cheese, crumbled
    4 large handfuls watercress

    Empty 1 x 125g sachet of red/ brown rice into a medium sized pan. Pour over 1pt of boiling water, cover and simmer for 25 mins. Pour rice into a colander, drain and rinse under cold water. Mix cooked rice with the orange segments, feta and watercress. Serve.

    Mackerel and Beetroot Salad

    450g new potatoes , cut into bite-size pieces
    3 smoked mackerel fillets, skinned
    250g pack cooked beetroot
    100g bag mixed salad leaves
    2 celery sticks, finely sliced
    50g walnut pieces

    1tbsp good-quality salad dessing
    2 tsp creamed horseradish sauce

    Boil the potatoes for 12-15 mins until just tender. Meanwhile, flake the mackerel fillets into large pieces and cut the beetroot into bite-size chunks. Drain the potatoes and cool slightly. Mix the salad dressing and horseradish sauce together in a salad bowl and season. Tip in the potatoes – they should still be warm. Add the salad leaves, mackerel, beetroot, celery and walnuts, and toss gently.

    Warm Radish Salad with Almonds

    1 tbsp olive oil,
    250 g radishes, halved
    2 tbsp red wine vinegar,
    handfuls almonds, toasted

    Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the radishes. Pan fry for a couple of minutes then deglaze the pan with the vinegar. Stir through the almonds, season and serve.

  5. Jamie’s American Food Revolution

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    On second viewing Jamie’s American Food Revolution is even more uncomfortable to watch. How he takes on these mammoth tasks – I have no idea – its like climbing Mount Everest with no oxygen, almost getting to the top and being pushed to the bottom to start it all over again. It’s a shocking window into America’s school food. If you haven’t seen it I’d recommend it.

  6. Fat Free… my a***!

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    For every one hundred positive responses I get to my blog there will be about five who tell me I am a killjoy and should stop ruining people’s fun. I didn’t think ill health was fun or good health a non serious topic. I get angry and vent and am as controversial as I can be because I care. I care greatly at what is really happening not only in the world but in the food industry and who has the power over what we eat. The wrong messages are beamed into our living rooms or through the media telling us continually that sugar free and fat free foods are good for us. And this makes me mad.

    With that in mind I’m back today on advertised food. Activia’s Snackpots (I wish Martine McCuthcheon would rise from the dead and go back to Eastenders): they ALL contain artificial sweeteners and I’ve just been reading forums on people who are buying them saying how great they because they are FAT FREE.

    People, wake up! You are still being sold FAT FREE as healthy. FAT CONSUMPTION HAS DECREASED IN THE LAST THIRTY YEARS – and yet obesity has risen – if you dont believe me – research it yourself – google fat consumption trends. Do not be hoodwinked into eating FAT FREE food – its full of sweetener that may indeed tell your tastebuds that you are not full up so guess what…

    you eat MORE, not less..and what does that make.. the companies more money….

  7. BBC2′ s E numbers – an Edible adventure

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    Stefan Gates’ BBC2 programme on E no’s did not tell us anything new. Of course there are good E numbers eg ascorbic acid etc however I recommend everyone to google You tube and watch Sugar: the bitter truth. Everything on tv has to have balance and not much controversy – no one is pushing the boundaries and saying what needs to be said.

    I will rest my case there for today!

  8. Youtube clips of fast food

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    The above clip is an oldie but a goodie – still want to eat McDonalds french fries after this?

    Pamela Anderson talking about KFC chickens and finally

    the old 4yr old macdonald burger and fries – aging well!