Tag Archive: food

  1. Coeliac Awareness Week – 10th-16th May 2010

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    If you are in doubt, get tested and look out for the following symptoms:

    The symptoms can be subtle, and you may feel unwell for some time for no reason before the diagnosis is made. It used to be thought that coeliac disease affected about 1 in 1500 people. More accurate diagnosis through blood tests has shown that the condition affects up to 1 in 300 people in the United Kingdom, Europe and the USA. It is more common in some areas of the world, particularly on the west coast of Ireland, where 1 in every 100 people are thought to have coeliac disease. Coeliac disease can affect you at any age. It was thought to be more common in men, but probably occurs equally in men and women. One definite risk factor is a history of the condition in your family. Coeliac disease occurs in people who are genetically prone to it. If you have a parent, sibling or child with coeliac disease, you have a 10 per cent chance of also developing it. If you have an identical twin with coeliac disease, your chances increase to more than 70 per cent.

    Coeliac disease has many and varied symptoms, and symptoms in adults are different to those in children.

    Childhood symptoms

    In childhood symptoms do not appear until gluten-containing foods are introduced into the diet.

    • Poor appetite, irritability and a failure to gain weight are usually the first symptoms.
    • Pale, bulky stools that smell nasty.
    • Vomiting and diarrhoea, which can lead to a wrong diagnosis of gastroenteritis.
    • Swollen stomach.
    • Arm and leg muscles may become wasted and thin.

    Adult symptoms

    • weight loss with pale, offensive diarrhoea
    • constipation
    • abdominal bloating with wind.
    • extreme tiredness – which is a sign of anaemia
    • psychological problems like depression
    • bone pain and sometimes even fractures – which are due to thinning of the bones
    • ulcers in the mouth
    • a blistering, itchy skin rash mostly on the elbows and knees, called dermatitis herpetiformis.

    In one neurology clinic, several patients who, for no apparent reason, had difficulty walking and coordinating (ataxia) were tested for coeliac antibodies in the blood. A significant number were found to have coeliac disease, although many of them did not have any gut symptoms. Your doctor may also want to know whether you have lost weight or whether you have symptoms of anaemia (tiredness, exhaustion, pallor). The doctor may:

    • examine your abdomen
    • look for a blistering rash on your skin
    • check for mouth ulcers
    • Your doctor will check for anaemia, testing the levels of iron, folic acid and calcium in your blood

    Another blood test detects antibodies that are often found in coeliac disease. Several antibodies are linked to the condition, but the most specific is anti-endomysial antibody. If this is present in the blood, you are very likely to have coeliac disease.

    An endoscopy test is often used to diagnose coeliac disease. Your doctor should arrange this test at the endoscopy unit at your local hospital.

  2. How to successfully lose weight without dieting

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    Over the last twelve years, hundreds of people have come through my doors wanting to lose weight. I have listened to their stories of weight loss programmes, fad diets, shakes, weightwatchers, soup diets, lighterlife, slimming world, starving and binging. In the end it comes down to treating the individual in a way that looks at their particular lifestyle, health issues and metabolism. There are the lucky few that do lose a lot of weight on fad diets, but the majority pile it back on and the sense of failure only succeeds in worsening self esteem.

    Isn’t it better to completely forget the word diet, and go for a more upbeat phrase like “lifestyle change”. This implies you are in it for the long haul and more importantly, it has to be achieveable. You should never feel hungry or get cravings, your body should be well and vital. Your nutrient intake should be high and the quality of your food the best you can afford.

    Earlier this year a woman came to see me and started crying when she told me that her friend had lost 3 stone doing a shake diet and she hadn’t lost anything. She couldn’t maintain the 500 calorie a day programme, she felt ill and faint but more importantly she felt a failure. I assured her that it was a near impossible feat to live off that fewer calories when she had bad blood sugar control and a very stressful life. Nearly three months on, she has lost two stone with me and is amazed at how much food she is eating. Here’s what she has to say:

    “Since January Kate has asked me to eat five times a day combining protein with carbohydrate. I have never felt so full, but not in a bad way. She also put me on probiotics which has sorted out my bloating so my stomach feels flatter. What I have noticed apart from the weight loss and which I’m actually more pleased about is far greater energy and enthusiasm with life. I don’t get crashes in blood sugar any more, my headaches have cleared up and my whole attitude to food has changed. I was also really confused about food labelling and foods marketed for weight loss. Kate and I had an hysterical hour in Sainsburys as she took me around and really opened my eyes as to what to eat – it was a lot of fun and I learned so much. Whereas before it would be bottom of my list of priorities, I now go without other things so I can put my family’s health first. Our weekly food shop has completely changed. At first I was scared that it would cost so much more, but actually its about the same. As Kate told me when I saw her its a lifestyle change not something that lasts a couple of months and I’m so grateful that at last I have something that is achievable to do for not only myself but my family” .

  3. If there is one thing you do this year – watch Food, Inc

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    I would urge everyone to buy Food, Inc on dvd and watch it and pass it on to your friends. Please go to www.foodincmovie.com for more details and also the short trailer. If you buy it from the US be careful that you buy the right Region for your dvd player.

    Sadly the contents of this are nothing new to me but my friends have been horrified and called it a food horror movie. It’s a must see. Would like to know your thoughts! Let’s see how many people we can get to watch it. Change comes by taking one small step forward…..

  4. Nutrition myths debunked

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    Taken from this month’s newsletter, just out – to subscribe and receive the newsletter, click here.

    Scrambled eggs on toast1. A cooked breakfast is bad for you.
    Scrambled eggs on toast is a wonderful way to start the day rather than a sugary based cereal. Hold back on the fried bread and sausage though. A protein breakfast will leave you feeling fuller longer and keep your blood sugar levels stable until lunch and stop the urge to snack on sweet foods.

    2. Fat makes you fat/all fat is bad.
    This is the strongest held myth still talked about today. It’s a long-held nutrition myth that all fats are bad. But the fact is, we all need fat. It helps with the absorption of nutrients, nerve transmission, and helps to maintain cell membrane integrity. However, when consumed in excessive amounts, fats contribute to weight gain, heart disease and certain types of cancers. However not all fats are the same. Some fats can actually help promote good health. The key is to replace bad fats (saturated fats and trans fats) with good fats (monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats). It doesn’t make you fat either! When you eat fat, your body has to break it down into building blocks and then its absorbed. The fat you have in your body is not the same as  you eat. In fact, the fat naturally found in whole foods is fat you actually need for your body to function properly. Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) are a type of fat that you need to eat. This is why they are called essential. Your body cannot make them, so you must get them from food. Every cell in your body is partly made up of these EFA’s. To breathe, to have your heart beat, to run, walk, think, to make hormones, to remember anything, you need essential fatty acids. If you don’t have them in the food you eat, your body will not function properly, and the only place you can find them is in food that has naturally occurring fat e.g. oily fish, nuts and seeds etc. So if you try and cut fat out of your body, you will actually be causing harm and not really be doing anything to get rid of the fat already in your body.

    So if fat doesn’t make you fat – what does? The answer is sugar and refined carbohydrates. You have a relatively set amount of fat cells in your body. It is just a matter of how big those cells are. Sugar affects the size of your fat cells. This is because glucose is stored in your fat cells, and there is a “gate” that controls the movement of sugar in and out of your fat cells.  The key to this gate is insulin. Insulin is the key that opens the gate to the fat cells and allows excess glucose in the blood to go into the fat cells. So if you never eat anything that raises your blood sugar levels beyond normal, your body will not release insulin, and you will not get bigger fat cells. The body releases insulin to lower blood sugar levels that are too high. So sugar and refined carbohydrates are actually the largest contributing factor to why people are overweight. The ironic part of all of this, is that low fat foods usually have added sugar.

    Brown sugar3. Brown sugar is better than white sugar.
    The brown sugar sold in stores is usually white granulated sugar with added molasses. Even though it does contain minute amounts of minerals., you would need to eat a large portion of brown sugar every day to gain anything from these minimal amounts. Nutritionally I think unrefined brown sugar is better for cooking and eating as it does contain iron, chromium and minerals that are essential for health. Refined white sugar is the only “food” substance that has absolutely no nutrients in it whatsoever.

    4.  Avoid carbohydrate to lose weight.
    The key message that many low-carb diets convey is that carbohydrates promote insulin production, which in turn results in weight gain. Therefore by reducing carbohydrate intake, you can lose weight. Unfortunately, this is just another nutrition myth. Many low-carb diets actually do not provide sufficient carbohydrates to your body for daily maintenance. Therefore your body will begin to burn stored carbohydrates (glycogen) for energy. When your body starts burning glycogen, water is released. Therefore the drastic initial drop of weight at the beginning of a low-carb diet is mostly the water that you lose as a result of burning glycogen. The truth is that low-carb diets are also often calorie-restricted! Followers only eat an average of 1000 – 1400 calories daily, compared to an average intake of 1800 – 2200 calories for most people. To lose one pound a week, you only need to eat 500 fewer calories per day in your normal diet. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you eat a high- or low-carb diet, you will lose weight if you decrease your caloric intake to less than needed to maintain your weight. However in my weight loss programme I do advise a higher ratio of protein to carbohydrate with every meal, with the emphasis on protein particularly for breakfast. So reduce carbohydrates a little when losing weight – do not cut them out totally.

    5. Nuts are fattening.
    Nuts can be quite “calorically dense” e.g. 15 cashews have 180 kilocalories! On top of that, it is very tough not to overeat these tasty snacks. If you can restrain yourself from overeating them, nuts can be a source of protein and a good snack food. It’s a nutrition myth that nut should be avoided. They are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as well as plant sterols, all of which have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. In 2003, the FDA approved a health claim for seven kinds of nuts stating that “scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces (45 grams) per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.” Instead of simply adding nuts to your diet, the best approach is to eat them in replacement of foods high in saturated fats. If you are watching your weight you are probably avoiding nuts as they are high in fat – however nuts are high in protein, fibre, vitamins, selenium, other minerals and omega 3 oils. However, do avoid salted nuts and limit yourself to 8-10 nuts a day.

    6Water. Everyone should drink 8 glasses of water per day.
    You need to replace water lost through breathing, excrement and sweating each day – but that doesn’t necessarily total 64 ounces of water. It’s hard to measure the exact amount of water you have consumed daily in food and drink, but if your urine is pale yellow, you’re doing a good job. If it’s a darker yellow, drink more water. Daily requirements will vary according to your needs. Marathon runners will need more than sedentary workers and those of you taking medication may need more as well. The standard 1.5 litres is normal, but this will vary with the amounts of fruit and vegetables you eat and how active you are.

    7. Skipping meals can help lose weight.
    Many people think that by skipping a meal, they will be eating less food and therefore lose weight. As we now know, this is a nutrition myth. People who think skipping meals means weight loss do not understand how our bodies work. If you skip a meal, your body will think that you are in starvation mode and therefore slow down the metabolism to compensate. You then tend to overeat at the next meal. Often, skipping a meal and then eating too much at the next one means that you have a higher total caloric intake than if you just ate more frequently throughout the day. A better approach is to eat smaller frequent healthy meals and snacks to keep your blood sugar balanced.

    8. Red meat is bad for your health.
    I often hear people saying they avoid eating red meat. When I ask why they don’t, or even what they consider to be red meat, the answers vary dramatically. Many of my patients have studied the Eat Right for Your Blood Type and have discovered that they feel better when they eat red meat. However, it’s not right for everyone. Best avoided for those with gut problems, arthritis and high cholesterol or heart problems. If you do eat red meat choose lean cuts and try and by free range or organic. This does not include processed meat which should be avoided at all costs, but by all means enjoy a good roast lamb for Sunday lunch.

    9. Eat less food in hot weather.
    As the temperature outside rises your appetite may decrease. Even if you do not feel hungry you need to eat because you need as much energy to perspire and stay cool as you do to stay warm. If you do not find yourself eating so much in the summer months and lose a few pounds that’s fine but don’t forget to eat your quota of essential nutrients and remember to keep well hydrated. It’s key to keep an eye on your sodium and potassium levels in severe heat.

    10. Raw vegetables are better than cooked. Raw vegetables
    There is nothing wrong with raw vegetables but they are not always so nutritious as cooked. Some pulses such as red kidney beans contain a toxin which if not cooked can cause sickness and diarrhoea. Butter beans contain cyanide that could be dangerous if eaten raw. Some vegetables improve – cooking carrots or tomatoes helps to release carotenoids and lycopenes. However do remember when cooking vegetables to steam them and eat them al dente to retain as many of the nutrients as possible.

    11. Eating for two is necessary during pregnancy.
    Energy requirements vary among individuals. Unfortunately, the idea that pregnancy is an ice cream free-for-all is a nutrition myth. It is generally recommended that pregnant women increase their daily intake by 100 kcal in the first trimester and 300 kcal in the second and third trimesters. An extra snack before bedtime consisting of a fruit, a serving of milk or yogurt, and a few biscuits is often enough. A daily prenatal multivitamin supplement is often recommended during pregnancy, but not a daily bowl of ice cream! Trying to eat little and often whilst pregnant is also a good idea as it keeps blood sugar and energy levels stable.

    12. Brown grain products are whole grain products.
    Brown dyes and additives can give foods the deceiving appearance of whole grain. Read labels to be sure a food is whole grain. For example brown bread is not necessarily wholemeal bread it is often white bread died with caramel.

    13. Eating eggs will raise your cholesterol.
    This myth began because egg yolks have the most concentrated amount of cholesterol of any food. However, there’s not enough cholesterol there to pose health risks if eggs are eaten in moderation. Studies suggest that eating one egg per day will not raise cholesterol levels and that eggs are actually a great source of nutrients. Eggs contain Vitamin A,D, B12, niacin and protein and many are rich in omega 3 from the feed.

    14. Eating fibre causes problems if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
    There are two kinds of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fibre can cause problems in IBS sufferers; soluble fibre, however, is more easily absorbed by the body and helps prevent constipation for those with IBS. Soluble fibre is found in most grains, particularly porridge and psyllium husks are also a good source. For those with severe IBS, avoid bran cereals as they can be abrasive and make IBS worse. That can also be the case for a diet high in fruits and vegetables. Take it easy and see what works best for you.

    15. All alcohol is bad for you. Alcohol
    Again, moderation is key. Six ounces of wine and 12 ounces of beer are considered moderate amounts, and should not pose any adverse health effects to the average healthy adult. All alcohol is an anticoagulant and red wine also contains antioxidants, so drinking a small amount daily can be beneficial.

    16. Diet food is healthy food.
    Don’t get me started on this one! When you choose diet food you are probably not eating as well as you think. Calorie controlled ready meals are high in salt and sugar and the portions are tiny so they won’t fill you up. For example, some low fat biscuits contain more calories than regular varieties – that’s because the manufacturers have added more sugar to make them taste better – always check the label. When I do my home visits I’m always shocked at the amount of diet food in people’s cupboards and fridges. Stop choosing low fat and sugar free foods. Look at the back of the packet not at the front – that’s where you will see the real ingredients.

    17. Eating before bed makes you gain weight.
    Many diets recommend a carbohydrate curfew after 6pm. This limits the amount of calories you have a day and can also can give you a low blood sugar attack in the night as you would be going over 12 hours without food before breakfast. You will gain weight if you expend the calories you use in the day – when you eat them does not make the slightest bit of difference. However it’s not a good idea to go straight to bed after a heavy meal though.

    18. Diet drinks are healthy.
    Diet drinks may be low in calories but they are very acidic which can damage the tooth enamel. They also contain artificial sweeteners which can be toxic to the body. There is also evidence that the body responds to the sweeteners in the same way it does sugar, raising insulin levels and leaving you craving for more sweet food. Avoid them at all costs and choose juice, which can be diluted half and half with water.

    19. A vegetarian diet is healthier.
    A vegetarian diet can be extremely healthy if you are not relying heavily on cheese as your main protein source. Include pulses, tofu and nuts as well. Keep an eye on your iron and B12 levels as well.

    20. Eating any more than three meals a day will make me fat.
    Eating five smaller meals a day will keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day and balance your insulin levels Supplementsmaking it in fact easier to lose weight.

    21. Supplements are a waste of money.
    Not always. It’s important to get the right advice when choosing supplements. Some people need them and some don’t. It completely depends on your diet, lifestyle and overall health.

    22. Vitamin C stops a cold.
    Actually there is no research to back this up. Once you have the cold virus, you have it. Vitamin C can however boost your immune system on a general basis and you may catch fewer viruses but it can’t stop the virus itself.

  5. Latest newsletter: The outward signs of health problems, and personality types

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    Taken from this month’s newsletter, just out – to subscribe and receive the newsletter, click here.

    The outward signs of health problems

    As a complete unique individual you will have completely unique individual traits in not only your personality but also how you look. Starting with the eyes (often referred to as the windows of the soul) here are some symptoms that people suffer from and what they could (but not necessarily) mean:

    Glassy-eyed: too much adrenaline, exhaustion, prescription or recreational drug use
    Bloodshot: lack of vitamin B, tiredness, allergy, infection
    Itchy/dry: allergy, vitamin B deficiency or lack of tears (sjorgrens syndrome)
    Dark circles: tiredness, anaemia, parasites (often seen in children)
    Allergic shiners: usually seen in children – an allergy to a food or inhalant
    Photophobia: lack of vitamin B, migraine/headache sufferer
    Sunken eyes: dehydration/exhaustion
    Pallor under eyes: anaemia

    White spots on nail: calcium and/or zinc deficiency (often seen after an illness)
    Pitted nails: can indicate partial or total hair loss
    Ridges: vertical can indicate general poor health and horizontal can occur after severe

    Very slow: i.e. if under 50 bpm and little/no exercise done it can be braccycardia – a sign of hypothyroidism
    Fast/irregular pulse: heart conditions/anxiety

    Spots: there are many reasons for spots or acne. Usually where they are on the face can give a clue, e.g. around the chin and hairline is usually hormonal.
    Rashes: can indicate an allergy or fungal infection
    Dry and scaly: dehydrated, lack of vitamin A, lack of EFA’s (essential fatty acids)

    Skin colour:
    Lemon Yellow: lack of vitamin B12, pernicious anaemia
    White: anaemia, lack of zinc
    Orange: can indicate liver problems, jaundice
    Dark Pink/Red: high blood pressure/heart problems

    Athletes foot: fungal infection
    Easy bruising: can indicate a lack of vitamin C
    Dandruff: usually a fungal infection
    Psoriasis: stress, lack of EFA’s, allergy
    Eczema: stress, lack of EFA’s, allergy
    Vitiligo: autoimmune conditions/lack of PABA’s

    Cracked: lack of essential fatty acids or vitamin B
    Sores at the corners: lack of vitamin B3
    Dry: lack of EFA’s

    Dry mouth: dehydrated, medication or lack of saliva (sjorgrens syndrome)
    Ulcers on tongue: run down or allergy
    White coating round the gums: oral candida
    Bad breath: tooth decay or bad digestion

    Your personality

    Although there is no scientific basis whatsoever, I love the idea of the very old practice of humors. Ancient Greek philosophers such as Hippocrates (400 BC) and Galen (140/150 AD) classified four types of “humors” in people. Each type was believed to be due to an excess of one of four bodily fluids, corresponding to their character. The personalities were termed “humors”. All diseases and disabilities resulted from an excess or deficit of one of these four humors. The four humors were identified as black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. Greeks and Romans, and the later Muslim and Western European medical establishments that adopted and adapted classical medical philosophy, believed that each of these humors would wax and wane in the body, depending on diet and activity. When a patient was suffering from a surplus or imbalance of one fluid, then his or her personality and physical health would be affected. This theory was closely related to the theory of the four elements: earth, fire, water and air – earth was predominantly present in the black bile, fire in the yellow bile, water in the phlegm, and all four elements were present in the blood. Theophrastus then developed a set of characters based on the humors. Those with too much blood were sanguine. Those with too much phlegm were phlegmatic. Those with too much yellow bile were choleric, and those with too much black bile were melancholic. Here are the general personality types of those humors:

    A person who is sanguine is generally light-hearted, fun loving, a people person, loves to entertain, spontaneous, and confident. However they can be arrogant, cocky, and indulgent. He/She can be day-dreamy and off-task to the point of not accomplishing anything and can be impulsive, possibly acting on whims in an unpredictable fashion. The humour of Sanguine was once commonly treated with leeches.

    A person who is choleric is a doer. They have a lot of ambition, energy, and passion, and try to instil it in others. They can dominate people of other temperaments, especially phlegmatic types. Many great charismatic military and political figures were cholerics. On the negative side, they are easily angered or bad-tempered.

    A person who is a thoughtful ponderer has a melancholic disposition. Often very kind and considerate, melancholics can be highly creative – as in poetry and art – but also can become overly pre-occupied with the tragedy and cruelty in the world, thus becoming depressed. A melancholic is also often a perfectionist, being very particular about what they want and how they want it in some cases. This often results in being dissatisfied with one’s own artistic or creative works and always pointing out to themselves what could and should be improved. They are often loners and most times choose to stay alone and reflect.

    While phlegmatic are generally self-content and kind, their shy personality can often inhibit enthusiasm in others and make themselves lazy and resistant to change. They are very consistent, relaxed, rational, curious, and observant, making them good administrators and diplomats. Like the sanguine personality, the phlegmatic has many friends. However the phlegmatic is more reliable and compassionate; these characteristics typically make the phlegmatic a more dependable friend.

    As I said, the humors have no scientifically proven basis, and are out of favour now. Like an astrology chart though, part of the thought process does have a sense of… something.

    Type A and B personalities

    If we bring things up to date slightly, our 21st century equivalent is the Type A and Type B personality, first suggested by Meyer Friedman, an American cardiologist, who noticed in the 1940s that the chairs in his waiting room got worn out from the edges. He hypothesized that his patients were driven, impatient people, who sat on the edge of their seats when waiting. They labelled these people “Type A” personalities. Type A personalities are workaholics, always busy, driven, somewhat impatient, and so on. Type B personalities, on the other hand are laid back and easy going. “Type A personality” has found its way into our general vocabulary.  Since its inception, the theory has been widely popularized and also widely criticised for its scientific shortcomings. It is thought to be that Type As tend to get more fatigue syndromes (the yuppie burn out so common in the ’80s and ’90s), and also heart disease, than Type Bs.

    Type A can be described as impatient, time-conscious, concerned about their status, highly competitive, ambitious, business-like, aggressive, having difficulty relaxing; and are sometimes disliked by individuals with Type B personalities for the way that they’re always rushing. They are often high-achieving workaholics who multi-task, drive themselves with deadlines, and are unhappy about delays. Because of these characteristics, Type A individuals are often described as “stress junkies.”

    Type B individuals, in contrast, are described as patient, relaxed, and easy-going, generally lacking any sense of urgency. Because of these characteristics, Type B individuals are often described as apathetic and disengaged.

    Whatever your personality, there are certain traits individual to you that make you unique. That is why for me no one is ever treated the same. It’s extraordinary how two people with two similar health problems have completely different symptoms, coping strategies and outlooks and that’s why I love my job so much! Again there is no scientific basis on constitutions but we use them in everyday language, i.e. he has the stomach of an ox. There are also certain types of people that are forever strong – Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill showed the same ‘never show weakness’ mentality. Churchill lived into his nineties and smoked and drank, and I look at people like the actress June Brown (Dot Cotton), 81 years old, who smokes and drinks and gets away with it whilst still working full time. For me these people have strong constitutions and good genes, but maybe its more simple than that – perhaps they have a more healthy way of coping with stress than others (more of that in another newsletter!).

  6. Weight loss without the the ‘d’ word (diet!)

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    (From an article featured on my monthly newsletter – click here to sign up for regular updates)

    Our relationship with food is one of the most significant we will have in our lives and what we eat every day can have a huge impact on our weight, health and mood. We all eat and choose different foods for different reasons. For some its routine, some comfort eat in times of stress or don’t eat at all while others crave sugar, salt or carbohydrate. Some don’t eat enough and others too much. Let’s look at two key areas of our relationship with food: why we are more attracted to certain foods, and how portion control has changed the way we eat.

    Why do we crave certain foods?

    Your feelings are generated by tiny brain chemicals called neurotransmitters; these include dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline. These neurotransmitters are responsible for dictating your mood and are greatly affected by what you eat. Serotonin is associated with a reduction in stress, tension and feelings of happiness, whereas dopamine and adrenaline have different mood effects by boosting concentration and alertness. In times of stress many of us crave chips, cheese or chocolate. As some foods directly stimulate a neurotransmitter response, e.g. carbohydrates influence serotonin production and caffeine stimulates adrenaline synthesis, we can begin to understand why the idea of a portion of cheesy chips is so tempting! Two other neurotransmitters are: GABA, which restores calm after a stressful event, and dopamine, which enables your body to deal with stress more efficiently, helping to reduce feelings of anxiety – these are also extremely helpful and can be found in food.

    GABA is found in cheddar cheese, cows milk, chicken, turkey, eggs, flour and potatoes.

    Dopamine is found in soya products like tofu, miso and soya yoghurt, peanuts almonds and tuna.

    Serotonin is important to maintain feelings of happiness and positivity. It’s formed from the amino acid tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid – this means it can’t be made in the body and has to be sourced from food. This is where carbohydrate comes into play – it is used to make serotonin. One of the symptoms of a low carbohydrate diet is irritability and anxiety. To raise your serotonin levels naturally you will need to increase foods rich in tryptophan, e.g. cashew nuts, bananas, figs, cheese, milk and turkey. Avocados, lentils and bananas all contain levels of vitamin B6 which help with the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin.

    What about chocolate?

    Most palatable foods stimulate an endorphin release in the brain, however there is something rather special going on with chocolate. Chocolate is full of mood-enhancing chemicals. To start with, it is loaded with sugar, which is a carbohydrate and triggers the release of serotonin. Chocolate also contains fat, which in itself provides a feeling of satisfaction since it answers the urge for calories. Chocolate is also said to have the same mood-enhancing chemical that is found in marijuana, although in much smaller quantities. Chocolate also contains caffeine and sugar, which both give you a little energy high after eating and make you feel good. However, neither are actually addictive in the true sense of the word. It does contain ‘anandamide’, a cannabinoid, which hooks up to the same brain receptors that catch similar ingredients in marijuana smoke. So can you be a chocoholic? You usually crave chocolate when you are low in mood or blood sugar, and women crave it premenstrually. You are probably attracted to how it makes you feel. If you have a sugar ‘addiction’, at least change the quality of your chocolate to an organic, dark form if possible and let it melt on the tongue slowly.

    Portion control

    As waist lines expand, portion control has gone out of the window and I doubt many people know what a normal portion size is any more. Everything seems to be larger and super sized. A good example of this is chocolate bars and crisps. Did you know that a normal bag of crisps in the 1980s weighed 25g, it’s now 50g. Does that mean that you will eat half the 50g bag – of course you won’t! The 50g bag then becomes the norm and our point of view becomes distorted. Scones used to weigh about 50g and had about 160 calories – in a high street coffee shop they can now weigh as much as 190g and can contain 600 calories! All without us noticing. It only takes a few hundred extra calories eaten here and there over a typical day to gradually build up and trigger a gain in weight.

    Hidden calories

    As I go through my client’s food diaries, it’s amazing how much hidden fat and sugar they are eating without knowing it, and when it’s written down over a week they are amazed how much excess they are eating without knowing. If you are struggling with your weight, have a look at these main culprits and ask yourself – are they slipping into your diet without you noticing?

    Wine: A glass of wine can be 150-200 kcals per glass, depending on how large the glass is of course. Going out with your friends for a few drinks every night and having three glasses of wine would total 600 extra calories a night, an eye watering 4,200 extra kcals per week!

    Sandwich fillings: If you didn’t see the Dispatches programme recently about what goes into bought sandwiches, it was an eye opener. Bought sandwiches are often very high in fat or salt and making your own is the best option. Try and keep the ratio of protein, i.e. the filling greater than the bread. Also the addition of mayonnaise can add hundreds of calories to a sandwich. A bought tuna mayo sandwich could contain as much as 500 calories. A homemade turkey and avocado sandwich on wholemeal bread may contain as little as 300 calories.

    Lattes: Women who pick up a coffee on their way to work could be consuming almost a third of their recommended daily calories in one go. Increasingly sophisticated coffees and larger cups mean chains are regularly selling drinks that contain well over 600 calories each. A well-known high street coffee chain sells a large white chocolate mocha with “whip” made with whole milk – it has 628 calories – nearly a third of the recommended daily amount for women. So if you are addicted to your daily mocha chocca latte, take note. “I only have one a day,” I hear you say defensively – well, on a weekly basis that could add up to a staggering 3,500 kcals – that’s well over one day’s calorie intake for women.

    Dried fruit: If you are wanting to lose weight, I don’t consider dried fruit a healthy snack as it’s very high in sugar. Dried fruit should be soaked or eaten in minimal quantities. It is a high GI food, therefore not good for the blood sugar – normal fruit like apples, pears, peaches and berries are medium and low GI. Marketed as a healthy snack, you may eat much more of course, and a packet of dried apricots will have your blood sugar soaring.

    Smoothies: There has been a lot of marketing hype recently about how smoothies are good for you and can be an easy way to have your Five a Day, but they can have as much as 11g of sugar per 100ml. Be sensible – if it tastes sweet, it is sweet. Having a daily smoothie is not good at all, sugar-wise you might as well be drinking a coca cola. If you really like your smoothies, limit them to two a week.

    Flavoured crisps: Avoid crisps with flavours like sweet chilli as most companies will add sugar to any flavoured crisp; that may include salt and vinegar and black pepper as well. Stick to ingredients that say potato, sunflower and salt.

    When trying to lose weight, bear in mind:

    * No two people are the same as to what works
    * The foods you crave are usually the ones to avoid
    * Don’t go on a fad diet, i.e. starvation or shake diet – it’s not the way to go for long term weight loss
    * Avoid low fat diets – these are not healthy – certain fat is good for you and actually helps you lose weight

    In a recent survey, 9 out of 10 people said that if they were dieting they would cut out fat from their diet. The truth, however, is that low fat diets are not always healthy and do not necessarily help you lose weight. Although a diet high in saturated fat is not good either, we tend to put good and bad fat into the same mould. One calorie of saturated fat is not the same as one calorie of essential fat, which is needed by the brain, immune system, skin, hormones and heart. Crash dieting makes you hungry and the most important thing to remember when losing weight is to never go hungry. Starving yourself does not help you lose weight but causes your metabolism to go haywire and in the end can lead to the addictive patterns of yo yo dieting. As every person is individual a tailored weight loss programme is best – just because your friend has lost a stone on a fad diet, doesn’t mean that you will. You might have:

    Different genes, hereditary illnesses, differing metabolic rates, nutritional deficiencies, food allergies, bad digestion, an under-active thyroid, specific medication needs, different motivational needs, work or family issues…

    all of which will not help your weight loss. Remember we are all different and what works for one person will not necessarily work for someone else. People with an under-active thyroid will find it harder to lose weight so it’s important you know your thyroid is functioning before starting a weight loss programme.

    An example of a day’s diet

    Breakfast: Two scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast – rooibosh tea
    Mid morning snack: Two apples and a handful of nuts – water
    Lunch: Wholemeal pita stuffed with cold chicken, peppers, spring onion and lettuce. Fruit or a few square of organic chocolate
    Mid afternoon snack: 2 oatcakes with hummus – water
    Supper: Grilled/poached salmon, steamed vegetables and sauté potatoes.

    Does this sound like a diet to you? No of course not – some of you are used to starving yourself, having a carbohydrate-based breakfast, a couple of coffees, and going long periods with not eating!

    If you would like an individualised weight loss programme please call me. If you have been yo yo dieting all your life you will need to be de-brainwashed about the facts on losing weight and what is suitable for you. The key is to never think you are dieting. I’ve never put anyone on a diet and usually with a low to medium GI diet people lose about 4-6lbs per month eating five times a day.

    Tips for losing weight

    * Eat every three hours
    * Eat protein and carbohydrate together
    * Eat low to medium GI food

    If you follow the above, you will automatically cut out high sugar foods

    * Cut out all caffeine, and refined foods
    * Drink approx 1.5 to 2 litres of water per day
    * If you have an under-active thyroid you will need more exercise to boost your metabolism
    * Have protein for breakfast rather than carbohydrate.

    If you can remember one thing when losing weight it’s this:

    Why is the thyroid gland important?

    The thyroid gland lies in front of the neck between the skin and the voice box. The entire gland weighs less than an ounce. Despite its small size, it’s an extremely important organ which controls our metabolism and is responsible for the normal working of every cell in the body. It achieves this by making the hormones thyroxine (t4), and triiodothyronine (T3) and secreting them into the bloodstream. In healthy people the amounts of T3 and T4 in the blood are maintained within narrow limits by TSH which is secreted by the anterior pituitary gland. If your GP suspects that you may have an under-active thyroid they will send you for a blood test. High levels of TSH means you have an under active thyroid. You will then need to go on thyroxine. The typical (but not necessarily accurate) type of person to get this is female, fat and over forty.

    However, that is too specific. I’ve seen many underweight people who have under-active thyroids in their late 20s and 30s. If you are having trouble losing weight, feel the cold a lot and feel tired, it’s worth getting your GP to get a test. I have listed most of the other symptoms below. Unfortunately the thyroid blood test is notoriously unreliable as the thyroid secretions change quite a bit, so you might need several tests to get a positive result. If your blood tests come out positive your GP will usually leave it a month or two and do another one just to make sure. You are measuring your TSH level and often you can be borderline and then normal several months later. It is often hereditary, and particularly so in women.

    What are the symptoms of an under-active thyroid?

    * Cold hands and feet
    * Tendency to feel the cold
    * Fatigue, especially in the morning
    * Depression
    * Dry skin
    * Headaches
    * Constipation
    * Loss of hair
    * Aching in the joints
    * Muscle cramps in the feet at night
    * Swollen eyelids (especially in the morning)
    * Swelling of hands and feel
    * Heavy periods
    * Loss of libido

    Diet considerations for hypothyroidism

    Your diet should include apricots, dates, egg yolks, molasses, parsley, potatoes, prunes, raw seeds and whole grains. Eat fish and chicken.

    Eat in moderation (they can suppress the thyroid function): broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, mustard, greens, peaches, pears, radishes, spinach and turnips.

    Avoid white sugar and refined foods

    If you are not doing so already, begin a moderate exercise regime to boost your metabolism.

    Do not take sulphur drugs or antihistamines unless specifically directed by your GP.

    Avoid fluoride and chlorine which both block iodine receptors in the thyroid gland, i.e. avoid fluoride toothpaste and highly chlorinated water.

    An under-active thyroid may increase your risk of a heart attack, so take nutritional steps to make sure your heart is healthy.

    Exercise can help the thyroid to work more effectively.

    Eat zinc-rich foods such as almonds, tofu, chicken, turkey and pumpkin seeds.

  7. Keeping your immunity in peak condition and how to prevent getting ill in the first place

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    (From an article featured on my monthly newsletter – click here to sign up for regular updates)


    When we think about immunity we often forget about our gut. Seventy per cent of the body’s immune system is in the gut, so keeping it healthy is crucial. Let’s look firstly at probiotics. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria normally present in the digestive tract. They are vital for proper digestion and also perform a number of other useful functions such as preventing the overgrowth of yeast and other pathogens, and synthesizing vitamin K. The probiotics most often used as supplements are acidophilus and bifidobacteria. Cultured fermented foods also contain various types and amounts of beneficial bacterias. These foods include buttermilk, cheese, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, tempe and yoghurt. The digestive tract is known as the gut associated immune system. Incomplete digested foods can result in immune reactions like allergies. Whether you succumb to infections is also linked by your balance of gut flora. Probiotics produce substances which stop harmful bacteria growing. They are nature’s antibiotics. They keep E coli, enterobacteria, staphylococci, salmonella and campylobacter at bay and help prevent food poisoning. But they don’t just stop there – probiotics give pathogenic bacteria a hard time and boost your immune system so are useful in all types of disease from cancer to allergies.

    The two main types of good bacteria are acidophilus and bifidobacteria. Acidophilus has antifungal properties that help to reduce blood cholesterol levels, aid digestion and enhance the absorption of nutrients. The flora in a healthy gut should consist of at least 85 per cent lactobacilli and 15 percent coli form bacteria. However, the typical colon bacteria count is usually the reverse. This can result in gas, bloating intestinal and systemic toxicity, constipation and malabsorption of nutrients.

    Taking supplements help to combat all of these problems by reintroducing the intestinal flora for a healthier balance. There are many good acidophilus supplements available. Acidophilus products come in tablet, capsule and powered forms. Non dairy formulas are best for those who have dairy intolerance. Acidophilus can die at high temperatures. Keep it in a cood dry place, refrigerate it but don’t freeze it.

    Bifidobacteria aid in the synthesis of the B vitamins by creating healthy intestinal flora. These are the predominant organisms in the intestinal flora and establish a healthy environment for the manufacture of the B complex vitamins. When you take antibiotics, the friendly bacteria in your digestive tract are destroyed along with the harmful bacteria. Supplementing your diet can help you maintain a healthy intestinal flora. Unhealthy flora can result in the liberation of abnormally high levels of ammonia as protein containing foods are digested. This irritates the intestinal membranes and in addition the ammonia is absorbed in the blood stream and must be detoxified by the liver or it can cause nausea, a decrease in appetite, vomiting and other toxic reactions. By promoting the proper digestion of foods the friendly bacteria also aid in preventing digestive disorders such as constipation and gas as well as food allergies. If digestion is poor, the activity of intestinal bacteria on undigested food may lead to excessive production of the body chemical histamine which triggers allergic symptoms. So in the coming months if you feel your immunity is low, it is worth taking a daily probiotic supplement. As some of you know I’m not a fan of the probiotic drinks, as they are expensive and the levels of good bacteria in them are low. For those sensitive to dairy foods, they are not suitable and they contain sugar. Eating a diet high in probiotic foods will serve you just as well and these include: leeks, onions, garlic, shallots, asparagus, artichokes, fruit and vegetables and a high soluble fibre diet encourages the right bacteria.

    Vitamin D

    As the cold and flu season approaches, Vitamin D’s benefits on the immune system function are more important than ever. Medical research shows that maintaining high levels of Vitamin D is one of the best things people can do to help fight off colds and flu. It plays a major role in supporting immune function and is known to be an effective agent against inflammation, which is typically caused by flu and other respiratory viruses. By helping modulate the body’s response to respiratory viruses, it helps prevent dangerous and even fatal build up of fluid in the lungs. Though as yet there is no clinical evidence that supplemental Vitamin D can be considered a flu preventative or treatment, there is ample evidence that low levels of the vitamin are associated with higher incidence of a wide range of serious illnesses, including respiratory infections. In addition, numerous studies have shown that people with high levels of the vitamin appear to be less likely to contract flu and other respiratory viruses. Long recognised as important to bone health and strength, Vitamin D has recently been identified as crucial to almost all aspects of health. Deficiency has been recognised as a global health problem, and has been implicated as a factor in a host of illnesses and disorders including cancer, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. In addition, low levels of the vitamin have been associated with depression, chronic pain, birth defects, and periodontal disease. Because sun exposure is necessary to stimulate the body’s production of the vitamin, some researchers speculate that the indoor lifestyle and weaker UV rays of winter weather make the traditional cold and flu season even more of a challenge. There are relatively few dietary sources of the vitamin, so without adequate sun exposure deficiency is very common. The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies, responsible for establishing Recommended Dietary Allowances of various nutrients, set an RDA of 200 mgs of Vitamin D per day. That recommendation has been questioned as being insufficient, and in 2008 the American Association of Paediatrics announced a new recommendation that literally doubled the existing RDA to 400 IU per day. The AAP recommends that supplementation begin in the first two days after birth.

    Our bodies make natural antibiotics called anti microbial peptides and it is thought that vitamin D increases the production of these. Is it then just coincidence that there are fewer bugs around in the summer than in the winter? Children with rickets (lack of vitamin D) often have more infections. It was first thought that this was due to weakened bones but its more probably down to a lack of vitamin D. Vitamin D is found in fish liver oils, butter, cod liver oil, egg yolks, halibut, liver, milk, oats, salmon, sardines, sweet potatoes, tuna and vegetables oil. Vitamin D is also made by the body in response to the action of sunlight on the skin. Herbs that contain vitamin D include alfalfa, horsetail nettle and parsley. Any intestinal disorders and liver and gallbladder malfunctions can interfere with the absorption of vitamin D and also some cholesterol lowering drugs, antacids, mineral oils and steroid hormones can also interfere with the absorption. The message here is get out in the sunlight, particularly in winter, as much as possible.


    I could write a thesis on garlic – it’s my favourite natural food supplement. To me garlic is one of the most valuable foods on the planet. It has been used since biblical times and has a mention in the literature of the ancient Hebrews and Egyptians. The builders of the pyramids supposedly ate garlic daily for endurance and strength. It is a potent immune system stimulant and a natural antibiotic. Garlic contains an amino acid derivative called alliin. When converted to allicin, garlic has an antibiotic effect that exerts an antibacterial effect estimated to equivalent 1 percent of penicillin. Because of its antibiotic properties garlic was used to treat wounds and infection and to prevent gangrene during the first world war. There is also some evidence that it can destroy certain viruses. If you can’t cope with it raw, roasted and stir fried you can take Aged Kyolic Garlic from Quest. The versatility of garlic is amazing: it has antioxidant properties; the sulphur and hydrogen compounds in garlic are potent chelators of toxic heavy metals binding them so they can be excreted. These same compounds are effective protectors against oxidation and free radical damage. Garlic aids in the detoxification of peroxides such as hydrogen peroxide and helps to prevent fats from being oxidised and deposited in the tissues and arteries. Studies on aged garlic extract (AGE) have shown that the aging process boosts the antioxidant potential. AGE protects against DNA damage, keeps blood vessels healthy, and guards against radiation and sunlight damage. If you’re worried about garlic choose an odourless form, like AGE or try chewing parsley.

    Vitamin C

    Vitamin C is an antioxidant that is required for at least three metabolic functions in the body including; tissue growth, repair of adrenal gland function and healthy gums. It also aids in the production of anti stress hormones and interferon. Studies have shown that taking vitamin C can recede symptoms of asthma and it protects against the harmful effects of pollution, helps to prevent cancer, protects against infection and enhances immunity. Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron, so they are often taken together. As we are unable to make it ourselves, it must be obtained through the diet or in the form of a supplement. Alcohol, analgesics, antidepressants, oral contraceptives and steroids may reduce the levels of vitamin C in the body but smoking causes a serious depletion of this vitamin, more so than anything else. Be careful taking large amounts of ascorbic acid as this can lead to stomach irritation – trying taking non ascorbate acid e.g. magnesium or calcium ascorbate. I’ve never found personally or professionally that vitamin C stops a cold or flu but certainly it’s worth taking 1g daily in the flu and cold season to boost the immune system.


    One of the most important factors in preventing flu and colds is hygiene. Contrary to popular belief, viruses are not usually airborne. The two main ways they spread are: firstly, if someone who is infected sneezes or coughs and you come in contact with the virus in the air; and secondly, if you touch an object which may have the virus and you then touch your eyes, mouth or nose. I don’t want you all becoming OCD about hand washing(!) but washing your hands thoroughly can reduce your likelihood of catching viruses by a whopping 35%. It’s common for people to touch their nose, eyes and mouth. Most of these actions are sub-conscious, like licking your tongue for flipping pages of a book or a magazine. As soon as you feel an itch you immediately rub or scratch your eyes. Remember the virus can be anywhere – a door knob, a remote control, phones, computer keyboards, etc. All you need to do is keep washing your hands with soap and water frequently. And most importantly, stop touching your face. Try and wash your hands before handling food and eating, putting on contact lenses, going to the loo, blowing your nose, or coughing and sneezing, touching animals, handling rubbish, smoking, changing nappies and door handles, going into hospital or visiting sick or injured people.


    Otherwise known as purple coneflower, this herb has amazing properties. Cells are glued together with the help of hyaluronic acid. Bad bacteria like staphylococci and streptococci produce hyaluronidase which dissolves the “glue” allowing the bacteria to get in to the cell membrane. Echinacea has an active constituent with neutralises the hyaluronidase and stops the bacteria from spreading, leaving the white blood cells to deal with the infection locally. Cell membranes have receptor sites to which viruses attach themselves and each have molecules which block the receptor sites so that viruses cannot become attached. It will also increase the activity of the immune system by activating the coding of T cells. Generally it fights inflammation and bacterial and viral infection and stimulates certain white blood cells. Echinacea is good for the immune system, colic, colds, flu and infectious illnesses. It should not be taken for long periods of time with people with autoimmune disorders, and it’s best not to take it all year round, but now is an excellent time of year to start. Some of my patients swear by it and say they never get ill during the winter. You can buy it in a tincture in drops or in tablets. I prefer the tincture as it’s more potent.

    Before you get the flu, general symptoms of an impaired immune system include fatigue, repeated infections, inflammation, allergic reactions, oral thrush and slow wound healing. It is estimated that a healthy adult will catch on average two colds per year – people who have more colds and infections are likely to have some problem with their immune function.

  8. Bread – what is it we are actually eating?

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    (From an article featured on my monthly newsletter – click here to sign up for regular updates)

    http://farm1.static.flickr.com/121/307745952_aba643d082_m.jpgBread is part of the staple diet of millions of people – but what is it that we are now actually eating? Bread has been made since the dawn of civilisation – in fact, it can be argued that bread is the foundation stone of civilisation as we know it, and it still forms part of the staple diet of millions of people around the world. Every day thousands of children ask for their daily bread when reciting the Lord’s prayer. But what is it exactly that they’re actually praying for? If they knew then they may well have second thoughts.

    Lets start with some facts. Changes in bread making have been quite drastic over the last 40 years. In 1961 The Chorleywood Bread Process was created, which used chemical additives, intense energy and high quantities of yeast to produce the maximum amount of loaves in the shortest time. Mostly all bread in the UK is made by this method or one that uses similar additives.

    The trouble comes if dough is not allowed to ferment for several hours. Natural bacteria doesn’t then have a chance to destroy harmful elements in the dough and therefore make important nutrients available to the human body. There is also the addition of genetically modified enzymes, added to flour and dough to make loaves larger and more “squishy”, so they have a longer shelf life. Worryingly some recent research has suggested that transglutaminase, an enzyme used in baking and food manufacturing, may change the gliadin protein in wheat flour into a form that may be toxic to the human body. If you’re thinking going organic will solve this problem, think again as even organic loaves made the same way can contain this, and cause the same problem.

    We have bred wheat to produce high yields in intensive growing conditions with little regard for its nutritional quality. Modern varieties have 30-50 per cent fewer minerals than traditional ones. Fast roller milling separates grain into its constituent parts so effectively that white flour has up to 88 per cent less of a range of minerals and vitamins than whole wheat. A recent study showed that organic stone-ground flour had 50 per cent more magnesium and 46 per cent more zinc than chemically grown roller-milled flour. So, what about refined flour – why is it so bad? Modern roller milling is extremely efficient at stripping away the nutrient rich outer layers of wheat grains, leaving behind not much more than starch and gluten. Additionally, the heat generated by the process actually destroys some of the compounds. Compared to whole wheat, refined white flour is highly depleted. These are the average amount of vitamin loss: Vitamin E 93%, Vitamin B6 87% ,Vitamin B2 81% ,Vitamin B3 80%, Iron 70% and Calcium 56%.

    To clear up any confusion, white bread is no longer bleached – they stopped that in the late 1990’s. Soya flour is often added to whiten it. Wholemeal or wholegrain will guarantee you the benefit of grain, however a loaf labelled “brown bread,” could be white flour coloured with caramel. Again, check the labels.

    Ok, so hopefully now you can see that bread is not all it appears. What ingredients should be in a real loaf? Simply… flour, water, yeast and a little salt.

    Let’s have a look at what other lovelies are now being added:

    E481 (sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate), E472e (mono- and diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids), E920 (l-cysteine), E282 (calcium propionate), E220 (potassium sorbate), E300 (ascorbic acid), E260 (acetic acid). Soya flour, vegetable fat and dextrose are just some of the other things that you might find in industrial bread.

    Bread additives explained
    Calcium Propionate. This is used to inhibit mould growth in bread – meaning that the bread has a much longer shelf life. However as well as being toxic to mould, calcium propionate can also be toxic to humans; possible side effects include: migraines and headaches, stomach upsets, skin rashes, nasal congestion, depression, tiredness, irritability, restlessness and attention problems to name but a few.

    Mono-and diglycerides. These chemicals are known as emulsifiers and are found in a variety of baked goods. Basically they allow oily substances and watery ones to mix more efficiently and give the finished bread a smoother texture. Mono and diglycerides have the additional function of prolonging the life of bread by keeping it from becoming stale.

    Potassium bromate. When added to bread, this acts as a dough conditioner and strengthener. Under the proper baking conditions, this additive is completely used up and doesn’t pose a threat to health. In certain cases where the bread isn’t baked long enough or at the proper temperature, small amounts may remain in the bread. This is of some concern since potassium bromate is classified as a possible carcinogen and banned in Europe as a food additive. This is best avoided when possible.

    Dextrose. Sometimes you’ll see dextrose on the ingredient list of a packaged bread. It is just another term for sugar. A small amount of sugar can be used when baking bread to provide fuel for the yeast that help the bread to rise.

    Sodium stearoyl lactate. This food additive helps to give the bread a lighter, more uniform texture. There doesn’t appear to be any significant health issues associated with its use although those with lactose intolerance, may find it exacerbates their symptoms.

    Partially hydrogenated oils. The other name for these undesirable food additives are trans fats. You’ve probably already heard about the health dangers of trans fats. If you see mention of any type of partially hydrogenated oil or fractionated oil on a bread ingredient label, steer clear of it.

    You may remember in a past newsletter about food labelling that I compared two packets of crisps and told you as a rule of thumb the lesser ingredients on the packet the better. This does not count when looking at the ingredients in bread. Due to an extraordinary labelling law the manufacturer does not legally have to declare that the following can also be added: phospholipase (can be pig or GM origin), fungal alpha amylase 9 (a known inhalant allergen), transglutaminase, xylanase, maltogenic amylase, hemicellulase, oxidase, peptidase and protease. I won’t bore you with what they are but wanted you to be aware that they can be in your loaf sitting in your bread bin as you read this!

    I think of myself as a rational human being(!), however if I eat bread with anti-mould agent in it, I feel like I’ve either been drugged or had to much alcohol and it takes about six hours to pass. You might like to ask yourself the question: is it the natural ingredients you are intolerant to – i.e. gluten, yeast etc., or is the additives? It doesn’t surprise me that people are riddled with symptoms when they eat “bad” bread because our poor bodies haven’t adapted to know how to digest this toxic loaf.

    So enough of the doom and gloom. What can you do to ensure that you are eating delicious “real” bread? Well, there are several options and it is quite possible to obtain bread without additives. Firstly try and use local bakeries – the bread is usually of better quality and you can chat with the baker and ask what is put in the loaf. If you don’t know how to, go on a bread making course and learn to make proper real bread. Get a bread making machine and use really good ingredients – after the initial cost of the machine, each loaf should cost about 50pence. After going out of fashion, bread making machines are back in vogue!. Obviously avoid breads that have the above ingredients where you can. You can buy additive free bread and slice it and freeze it, if you are concerned about it going off. Use companies that are still making bread in a real way. Try www.village-bakery.com or go to www.realbreadcampaign.org for more information. For those of you who are really interested in this topic, I’d recommended these great books:
    Bread Matters: The State of Modern Bread and a Definitive Guide to Baking Your Own by Andrew Whitley – or,
    Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3 by Daniel Stevens, if you are looking to make your own bread.

    Coeliac disease
    If you think you have a problem digesting bread and have vague symptoms, go and see your GP who can arrange a blood test. These will include tissues transglutaminase antibody (tTGA) and/or endomysial antibody (EMA). More often than not it will come back negative. Coeliac disease is not just a bit of bloating, it is actually classed as an autoimmune disease. Symptoms can include: bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhoea, excessive wind, heartburn, indigestion, constipation, any combination of iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency, tiredness, headaches, weight loss (but not in all cases), recurrent mouth ulcers, hair loss (alopecia), skin rashes (dermatitis herpetiformis) joint or bone pain, neurological (nerve) problems such as ataxia, (poor muscle co-ordination), and neuropathy (numbness and tingling in the hands and feet). It is hard for GPs to diagnose as you can see the symptoms are varied and some quite common.

    “Coeliac disease affects 1 in 100 people in the UK however research suggests that only 1 in 8 of those affected have been diagnosed leaving 500,000 million people undiagnosed and at risk.” The Coeliac Society

    Dr Chris Steele, resident doctor of ITV’s This Morning and Ambassador for Coeliac UK said “I strongly support the need to raise awareness among the medical profession for diagnosing coeliac disease. It is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. Working together we can help find the half million people in the UK who are undiagnosed and ensure they receive the best advice and assistance.”

    The average length of diagnosis is 13 years. Go to www.coeliac.org.uk for more help and information.

    If you are not coeliac that doesn’t mean you don’t have problems digesting grains. There are IgE allergy tests for rye, oats, barley, maize (corn) wheat etc. which can be most useful to eliminate any underlying allergy problem. Sadly, these are not usually available on the NHS. Before you do this though, check the loaf of bread in the bread bin. You might want to swap it and see if the symptoms go. There will be a bread out there that doesn’t cause symptoms. Rotate bread types – pita or flattened breads often have less yeast, or try rye, spelt, gluten free etc. and more often than not you will find a bread that does suit you. If you guts are in good shape, you should be able to eat bread twice a day. It’s not a good idea to start the day with a grain based cereal, then have a sandwich for lunch and then pasta in the evening – that may be too much. Keeping a food and symptom diary might help eliminate the problem. Bread is so useful it seems a shame to eliminate it totally from the diet.

    (From an article featured on my monthly newsletter – click here to sign up for regular updates)