Lactobacillus acidophilus, probiotic for a healthy gut

Lactobacillus acidophilus. Photo bPhoto by Doc. RNDr. Josef Reischig, CSc.

Photo by Doc. RNDr. Josef Reischig, CSc.

Probiotics are “good bacteria” which inhabit healthy humans in a similar way to humans inhabiting the Earth. On our skin, in all our orifices (mouth, nose etc) and especially in our gut there are hundreds of probiotics living out their lives and helping us to stay healthy. Without them our health starts to break down, so it’s true to say that we have a symbiotic relationship.

Antibiotics are indiscriminate. They kill all bacteria (except resistant strains) including probiotics, so after finishing a course of antibiotics it’s wise to replenish the ones in your gut, which are essential for digestion and many other functions we’re only just beginning to understand. For example, it’s recently been discovered that mental health is linked to the flora in the gut – including probiotics.

Probiotics are often recommended for improving digestion and normalising bowel health, reducing intestinal irritation, improving lactose tolerance and for the treatment of halitosis and bacterial vaginosis.

They can be obtained from foods such as kefir, kimchi, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, tempeh and yogurt. There are also various supplements available.

Although often present in commercial yogurt, the quantities found are generally very low unless it’s labelled specifically as “live acidophilus yogurt”. Another good way to get sufficient acidophilus for positive health benefits is to add lots of fermented vegetables to your diet or you may prefer to take an over the counter supplement.

Many practitioners recommend taking “prebiotics” along with probiotics. Some probiotic supplements include prebiotics in their formulation. Prebiotics is the medical name for soluble fibre. The most well known of these are fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and inulin. They are found in asparagus, bananas, barley, beans, garlic, honey, onions, tomatoes, wheat and many other foods, also in breast milk.

There are many different probiotics which are helpful specifically for the gut, but the majority are Lactobacillus species. The most well known is Lactobacillus acidophilus, considered by many to be the best probiotic for human health, and in fact many of the others are now regarded as varieties of L. acidophilus (sometimes called just acidophilus), even though they are called by different names.

Lactobacillus acidophilus was discovered in the early years of the 20th century by a pediatrician called Dr Ernst Moro, who also discovered the pathogen E. coli (Escherichia coli).

Acidophilus is naturally found in the intestines, mouth and the female genitals. In the gut it produces lactase (the enzyme required for the digestion of lactose in milk products) and vitamin K. It also produces hydrogen peroxide, lactic acid and the natural antibiotics acidophilin, acidolin and lactocidin, so it is helpful for suppressing pathogens, and it also aids absorption of vitamins and minerals. It’s been found to boost the immune system, in particular against E. coli.

The strength of probiotic supplements is usually expressed in colony forming units (CFUs). Adults should take 1-2 billion CFUs a day unless advised to take more (up to 15 billion CFUs) by their doctor. Do not use oral supplements for vaginal use; there are vaginal probiotic suppositories designed for this purpose.

Use specific childrens’ probiotic products for kids, and follow the dosage instructions on the label.


Research has shown that L. acidophilus is beneficial for:

  • preventing candidiasis (Candida, yeast infection, thrush)
  • as a daily dose to reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • to suppress growth of Helicobacter pylori (formerly called Campylobacter pylori) – gastroduodenal disease, peptic ulcers
  • to reduce fecal enzymes in the colon which could otherwise convert procarcinogens to carcinogens
  • to reduce symptoms of antibiotic-induced diarrhea and diarrhea caused by rotavirus
  • to help prevent leaky gut syndrome
  • may lower blood cholesterol
  • as a topical treatment for vaginal thrush (yeast infection)
  • as a topical treatment for bacterial vaginosis (BV) (some doctors may prescribe oral probiotics for this purpose)

Contra-indications and warnings

Lactobacillus acidophilus is generally regarded as safe. However, it should be avoided for children with short-bowel syndrome.

Some people should take medical advice before supplementing with acidophilus, including:

  • Patients with abnormal heart valves
  • Newborns and infants (0 to 1 year)
  • People with weakened immune systems (including those on chemotherapy or taking immunosuppressants)
  • Patients taking sulfasalazine, azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone) and corticosteroids (glucocorticoids)

If you take more than 1 to 2 billion CFUs of L. acidophilus daily you may suffer from wind/gas, upset stomach and/or diarrhea. Reduce the dosage if affected.

If you decide to take L. acidophilus in the form of supplements you should store them in the refrigerator unless the label says there’s no need.

 


The Harvard Food Pyramid

Diabetic, Gluten and Dairy Intolerant on a Budget!

The Harvard Food Pyramid

The Harvard Food Pyramid

Q. How can I follow a balanced diet as inexpensively as possible, when I seem to be intolerant/sensitive to gluten, wheat and lactose and prone to diabetic hypos too ?

[Gluten is the protein part of wheat, and is also found in some other grains, including rye, barley, spelt and a few other closely related cereals. Lactose is the sugar found in milk and most other dairy products.]

A. A difficult diet, but not impossible. It’s not too surprising that you have both diabetes and multiple food intolerances, because all of these seem to have strong links to an auto-immune condition. However, I understand your confusion as to what to eat. A balanced diet is important for everyone, but even more so for diabetics.

A properly balanced diet has to contain some of each of the 3 main food groups: carbohydrate, protein and fat. There are important nutrients that cannot be obtained if you omit fats from your diet, many of them actually called “essential fatty acids”, but there are also fat-soluble vitamins. So it’s probably easiest first to just look at possible sources of each of these groups, and then see where we can go from there.

Carbohydrate

Although the Western diet tends to include mainly wheat-based carbs, there are other sources which aren’t that foreign to our palates. These include sugar and molasses (these are probably off-limits to you, except in very small quantities), fruit of all kinds (which contain sugar in combination with fiber, though some are not usually recommended for diabetics, eg. bananas), potatoes, rice, corn and legumes (vegetables that grow in pods, like peas, beans and lentils). You can also eat gluten free flour, pasta and breads. Carbohydrate is a fast energy source, which is why athletes generally eat a lot of it.

Protein

Protein is mainly for building and maintaining muscles. This means that a protein-rich diet is most important for children, people who work in occupations that involve a lot of exertion or possible injury, and those recovering from serious illness. However, we all need some protein every day to cope with general wear and tear. It’s said that for an average adult in a sedentary job, the minimum requirement of protein is only 25g – less than an ounce, but in my opinion, around 4-6 ounces a day is a reasonable amount. You can obtain protein from meat and fish of all kinds, legumes, nuts, grains and other seeds and products made from these, like tofu. However, don’t overdo soy products as large quantities can have estrogenic effects which are injurious to health in the long term.

Fat

If you can’t use dairy products, most of the fat in your diet is likely to come along with whatever meat you eat. Regular butter contains only trace amounts of lactose, so can be included in your diet in small quantities, if you don’t like the substitute spreads. Clarified butter (ghee) contains no lactose at all, so makes a good cooking fat – and unlike most other options it does not turn into trans fats when heated.

Supplements

As many of the dairy and wheat-based products in our diet are fortified with vitamins and minerals for historic reasons, it’s quite likely that by cutting these out you will experience a loss of essential nutrients in your diet. To avoid bad effects, I advise everybody to take a good one-a-day multivitamin and mineral tablet (look for one that contains selenium, as this is an indication that it is fairly complete) and a high dose fish oil capsule every day. This is especially important for anyone on a restricted diet.

The fish oils will provide omega 3. Don’t be tempted to substitute vegetable-based omega 3 capsules, as recent research has shown that this is not easily absorbed by the body, in contrast with the fish-derived omega 3. However, if you are vegetarian, I’ve heard good reports about algae-derived supplements.

Putting it all together

If you cook for yourself, you will find that by some judicious substitution, you can eat pretty much what you’ve always eaten, apart from pies (as gluten free pastry doesn’t hold together very well and is best avoided).

Traditional meals from the past – when most people ate meat or fish, potatoes and a couple of veg. at every meal – are easy enough, though gravy has to be thickened with a gluten free product such as cornstarch (UK: cornflour).

Singapore rice noodles are one of my favourite foods.

Singapore rice noodles are one of my favourite foods. Photo by AlekhyaDas.

Meals with rice, like Chinese, Indian and other Asian cuisines are usually almost the same, though you need to ensure that if you use soy sauce you make sure it’s a gluten free type (most is made with wheat). Many Far East cultures also make noodles from gluten free grains like rice, buckwheat and so on, which is helpful. Singapore-style rice noodles are absolutely yummy if you like spicy food.

The breads served with Indian food are rarely available gluten free, but poppadoms should be fine – they are made from lentil flour. Pakora is made with gram flour (besan/chickpea flour), but check with the restaurant, as some low quality pakoras may be made with wheat flour.

There are some very good gluten free pastas and noodles, in particular I recommend Orgran brand, but there are others which are ok – and some which are not nice at all!

You can also get gluten free pizza bases and tortillas. Tortillas? Yes, because although these were originally always made from pure corn, most of the ones you find on sale nowadays also contain at least some wheat flour (some contain no corn at all), so look out for genuine, pure corn tortillas if you like them, or buy from gluten free producers.

I offer a wide range of gluten and dairy free food products in my online store. Although not all will be suitable for diabetics, I’m sure a good proportion of them will be.


Gluten and Depression – How does that work?

photo by senapa

photo by senapa

If you visit online forums about depression or celiac disease, you will probably notice quite a few people saying that depression symptoms improve when they stop eating gluten, and come back with a vengeance when they “get glutened”. Is there an explanation for this?

For a lot of years, there has been anecdotal evidence linking depression with gluten (along with more serious mental disorders, up to and including schizophrenia). The problem is, scientists in general, and doctors in particular pay little or no attention to evidence of this type. However, new discoveries have begun to throw light on what is going on.

Clinical depression appears to be linked with serotonin levels in the brain. This has led to the development of new types of anti-depressants, including SSRIs (Prozac is the most well known brand). These new drugs are not without their problems, however. Although initially hailed as dependency-free and safe, there has been a worrying rise in suicide amongst people taking these drugs, and certain patients have apparently had great difficulty in coming off them.

Serotonin is a natural substance which is produced in the body. This natural production appears to be impaired or reduced in various groups of people, including depressives.

The reasons for this impairment are not yet completely clear. However, 90% of the production of serotonin occurs in the digestive tract. So it begins to make sense that the food eaten might have an effect, either positive or negative, on serotonin production.

A report by Ron Hoggan M.A. & James Braly M.D. examines the relationship between depression and diet. They cite various studies carried out by Christine Zioudrou and later followed up by Fukudome and Yoshikawa. They point to morphine-like substances caused by incomplete digestion of proteins in cereal grains and dairy products (called “exorphins”). It is thought that these exorphins can be absorbed through the intestine, offering a possible explanation for the psychiatric effects experienced by otherwise healthy individuals.

Another report by Alessio Fasano and Carlo Catassi states that there is an “Asymptomatic Silent Form” of celiac disease. The term asymptomatic is a bit of a misnomer, as it refers only to the lack of positive test results. Symptoms of this form of gluten intolerance (which may not all be present) are: iron deficiency, a tendency to depression, irritability, or impaired school performance in children “feeling always tired,” and easy fatigue during exercise, and reduced bone mineral density.

In a lecture he gave in 2002, James V. Croxton, M.A. talked about new discoveries relating to previously ignored cells in the brain called glial cells. These appear to be closely involved in the immune system, and directly affected by gliadin, part of the gluten found in wheat and other cereals.

Gluten-free diets (sometimes combined with dairy-free) have been used for autism, depression and schizophrenia, with some success. Even though the mechanism is still not fully clear, it does appear that there is a scientific basis for a connection between gluten and depression in susceptible individuals.

Further research may bring a cure. For the time being, though the only safe approach is to exclude gluten from the diet entirely.

I offer a wide range of food for special diets in my online shop.


Can’t Eat Gluten, Can’t Eat Lactose. What CAN I Eat?

photo by Carsten Schertzer

photo by Carsten Schertzer

More and more people are suddenly finding themselves either unable to handle gluten in their diets, or unable to handle lactose, or both.

It is a known fact that most animals can’t handle cows milk, and that it is quite bad for adult humans to drink, so why is so much of our food dairy based?

For someone who isn’t allergic to lactose, just intolerant and therefore I can handle some dairy products, it’s much easier just to suffer a little discomfort now and then, rather than change your diet. At least, that is what I thought for quite some time, as there really isn’t much out there for a lactose-intolerant person to eat.

What I didn’t know is that I was making myself much worse by continually eating dairy products such as cheese or yoghurt. I noticed a huge change in my health when I stopped eating these products, my asthma was seriously improving, my hay fever was much better and I generally felt much healthier.

However, after only a short time of not eating these products, I felt the cravings and sadly I gave in to them. Dairy products are surprisingly addictive, so once you start eating even a little cheese, you start wanting more. My friend started to notice the change in my health again and politely advised me that I really ought to stop eating dairy products and possibly try a short stint on a gluten free diet.

I decided to pay attention to her and as I was living with her at the time, I was able to live gluten free easily, because she is intolerant to it. Almost right away I noticed a huge difference in my health and wellbeing and I thought to myself, “Is there a connection between the two products?”

I started to ask around my friends and soon found that where one was allergic or intolerant to lactose, they were also intolerant to gluten, at least those who were aware of it were. So I started to look around on the internet and found that my friend had been correct. It is common for celiacs (those intolerant or allergic to gluten) to also have problems with lactose intolerance. I started then thinking, how many people out there are actually aware of this connection, because until my friend pointed it out I had absolutely no idea of this.

So what CAN I Eat?

This is a very good question, and one that sprang almost instantly to my mind. I thought “Wait, how am I supposed to live if I can’t eat gluten or lactose. So many products contain either one or both.” So I began shopping around and straight away noticed how restricted I was in the way of things I could actually eat or buy.

Sure, there are supermarkets that sell a range of “free from” products, but either they taste disgusting or are far too expensive. So, yet again I decided to skip the new diet and go back to my old ways of eating, purely because I was too lazy to actually check the labels or be inventive with food.

Though I didn’t eat dairy, I still ate bread and cakes and things that contained gluten. I soon began to regret my decision and started to suffer terrible burning pains in my throat and other unmentionable symptoms. I thought “Hey, the research is right… I had better stop eating this stuff” and I did.

Now I am finding that my health is dramatically improving, my joints don’t hurt as much and so many things have changed now I have cut both products out of my diet. Don’t be disheartened, there are plenty of foods out there that you can eat, trust me.

More and more people are becoming aware of the growing food intolerances in children and adults and many companies have started selling their “free from” products in supermarkets. If you experience symptoms such as: bloating, nausea, abdominal pain, tiredness, diarrhea, to name just a few, then it may be worthwhile checking to see if you suffer from gluten intolerance.

If you are gluten intolerant, then it may be worth leaving out dairy products, too. You will be amazed at how healthy you feel in just a short time, trust me. Even if you aren’t found to be allergic by your doctor, I would advise just leaving out gluten and dairy for a week or so and see how you feel afterwards. You might be surprised by the results.

[Editor’s note] I offer a wide range of food for special diets in my online shop.


Take Control of your Health

take-control

Take Control

I’ve had to retire a couple of suppliers recently. Regular visitors will have noticed a huge drop in the number of items available in the store, but I’ve been busily adding stuff from my new supplier, which is why I’ve been so quiet lately.

I’ve always said that, barring accidents, your health is under your own control. The whole point of Frann’s Alt.Health is to give you the tools to achieve that. So obviously, it’s important to have a wide range of options available, because we’re not all the same. Some of us have intolerances, some of us follow vegetarian, vegan or other special diets, and so on.

It’s not always easy to get what you need, especially if you live in a rural area or are housebound. It’s true that you can get almost anything you want online, but it’s way easier if you can find it all in one place (you save on postage for a start), and that’s why it’s my aim to provide a one-stop shop for your health needs here at Frann’s Alt.Health.

If you haven’t visited for a while, why not pop over and see what’s new? Taking control of your health is so important.

 


What is gluten intolerance?

cakes8

photo by Ines Hegedus-Garcia

Gluten intolerance affects a large proportion of the population. Yet many people who may be affected aren’t even sure what it is. This article sets out to explain what gluten intolerance is, how it can affect you, and, just as important, what it is not.

Let’s start by looking at what gluten intolerance is not. This may seem an odd place to start, but many people, even among the medical profession (who should know better) think that when people say they are gluten intolerant they mean they have an allergy to gluten.

Gluten intolerance is not an allergy. Neither are other forms of food intolerance. An allergy involves the immune system. Food intolerances do not. That does not mean that they cannot cause severe illness, just that they are not fixable by anti-histamines or other drugs, and that it’s extremely unlikely that a mouthful of pasta will result in you keeling over instantly (I bet that’s a relief). Unlike an allergy, food intolerance is caused by an inability to absorb or process a particular food correctly, leading to a buildup of certain toxins, which are damaging, but not generally immediately fatal.

So now we’ve got that out of the way, we can look at what gluten intolerance actually is. What it means is that the body is unable to deal with food containing gluten, and because of this it reacts in ways that range from uncomfortable to crippling, and even life-threatening if the cause is not removed.

The problem is that, barring some parts of Asia, almost all of us eat large quantities of gluten every day, day in and day out, and we have done since we started eating “proper” solid food. So if your body is not able to cope with gluten, every day, several times a day, it comes up against this irritant, and over time the situation becomes more and more intolerable.

The most extreme form of gluten intolerance is celiac disease. This is a dangerous disease, and sufferers must avoid all gluten altogether. Unfortunately, although there is a test available, it is not always completely accurate, so there may be people suffering from celiac disease who have not been diagnosed as such.

The rest of us, thankfully, will just get irritable bowel, aches and pains, depression or if we are unlucky, obesity. This is bad enough, for sure. Still, these problems go away if you eliminate gluten (if that’s what’s causing them), whereas celiac disease doesn’t.

Since there are no accurate tests available for gluten intolerance, you need to discover whether you are intolerant or not by experiment. If you suspect you may be, please see my article “How can you find out if you are gluten intolerant?” to learn how to go about this.

Now you know what gluten intolerance is, next time someone says it’s an allergy, you will be able to put them right!

I offer a wide range of food for special diets in my online shop.


Natural remedies for anxiety/depression

Get on top of anxiety and depression in your life

Photo by Cat from Sevilla, Spain

There are many natural remedies for anxiety and depression. This post only covers readily available products which will help with both problems.

Anxiety and depression are closely related and often occur together. Anxiety is generally associated with stress or fear, whereas depression is often considered to be a result of suppressed anger. Both are linked to serotonin levels in the brain.

Anxiety, depression and deficiency

There are strong indications that both depression and anxiety are at least partly deficiency diseases.

Deficiencies in vitamin B, vitamin D, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and tryptophan (an amino acid which is involved in the production of serotonin) have been linked to symptoms of anxiety.

Depression has been linked to deficiencies in Omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids, vitamin B, vitamin D, folate, chromium, iron, magnesium, zinc, iodine or selenium.

Note: Gluten (found in wheat, rye, barley and some other closely-related grains as well as foods made from these, eg. pasta, bread and pastry) is also sometimes associated with depression. If you discover this link affects you, you should ask your doctor for a test for celiac disease.

An Epsom salt bath will give you a lift

Epsom salts (Magnesium sulphate) added to your bath are a simple and easy way to relieve emotional stress and depression. As a nice side effect, it will also help flush toxins, ease muscle pain and give your skin a new smooth softness.

Originally discovered as a component of healing springs in Epsom, Surrey, England, these salts have been used for centuries for their rejuvenating properties. Magnesium is involved in many of the body’s functions including energy production, the ability to utilise B vitamins and transmission of nervous impulses. It is readily absorbed using this method.

A balanced diet helps keep anxiety/depression at bay

The first step in fighting off the symptoms of anxiety and depression is to ensure that you are getting a really good balanced diet with all the relevant nutrients.

As a short term fix, a good one-a-day supplement such as Quest Super Once a Day and a high dose (1000mg or more) fish oil supplement will reinstate your nutrient levels quickly.

Foods which help keep your emotions on an even keel

Bee pollen is rich in nutrients are essential for a healthy brain and nervous system including vitamins B1, B2, B3 and C and the minerals iron and zinc. Adding bee pollen to your breakfast cereal or smoothie may help to reduce anxiety and stress.

Chia seeds contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and tryptophan.

Omega-3 is also found in oily fish, walnuts and flax seeds (also called linseed).

Tryptophan is found in dairy products, soy milk, meat, seafood, avocados, winter squash, nuts, and legumes (peas, beans and lentils).

Herbal infusions for anxiety and depression

Chamomile tea is well known to be calming and relaxing, but lemon balm, also called melissa, is helpful both for anxiety and also depression. Two other alternatives you might have in your kitchen cupboard are sage and turmeric. In each case, you can make tea using a teaspoon of the dried herb to a cup of boiling water. Brew for at least 5 minutes and strain before you drink it. You can add honey to sweeten if you like. Some of these herbs are also available in tea bags.

Turmeric is easier to drink as golden milk: stir into a cup of dairy or non-dairy milk in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer and serve. You can add ginger, honey or black pepper to this mixture. It’s very good for you, not just on the emotional front but also as an anti-inflammatory and to boost your immune system.

Essential oils for anxiety and depression

There’s a wide range of essential oils which can be used to fight off blues and angst. You can either add them to a massage blend, put a few drops in the bath or use them in an oil burner or electric diffuser.

There are professional blends such as De-Stress blend, or if you prefer to use single oils or make your own blend, you can choose from sweeter oils like bergamot, rose geranium, jasmine grandiflorum or officinale, lavender, neroli and ylang ylang or more masculine ones such as Virginian cedarwood, Roman chamomile, rosewood, sandalwood and turmeric (be a little careful with turmeric oil, as it can stain quite badly if it gets in the wrong place).

As with all essential oils, none of the oils mentioned in this post should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Exercise raises your spirits

I’ve left exercise till last for two reasons. The first one is, as anyone who has suffered from depression will tell you, getting the motivation together even just to crawl out of bed is a major undertaking when you are dealing with the ‘black dog’. The other is that some people are physically unable to exercise because of underlying health conditions that may themselves contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety.

However, if you are more at the anxiety end of this spectrum and are able, a bike ride, a run, a workout at your local gym, or whatever your preferred form of heartbeat raising activity will increase endorphins and your confidence, both of which will help to make you feel better.

 


Chronic Fatigue and Gluten: is there a connection?

photo by fir0002 flagstaffotos.com

photo by fir0002 flagstaffotos.com

CFS (sometimes called ME) is a pretty horrible diagnosis – not like the big C, but in a different way. Basically, if your doctor decides you have CFS he will wash his hands of you, because there is nothing he can give you in the way of medicine to “fix” it.

CFS or chronic fatigue syndrome is a growing problem. But according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are: “no physical signs that identify CFS… no diagnostic laboratory tests for CFS… no known cure for CFS [and] no single therapy exists that helps all CFS patients.” In other words, CFS is Bad News.

There’s a list of symptoms which can lead to a diagnosis, including extreme fatigue that has lasted at least 6 months, waking up tired after a night’s sleep, memory and concentration loss, pains in muscles and joints, severe headaches and sore throat. Sufferers may feel completely drained after any activity, mental or physical, for more than 24 hours afterwards. Not all patients experience all symptoms.

If you suspect you may have CFS, it’s important to go to your doctor, as other diseases can cause similar symptoms. However, if you already have your diagnosis, you’re probably feeling pretty fed up about it. After all, the whole point of getting diagnosed is so that you can get the solution, isn’t it? But according to the medical profession, all you can do is treat the pain, and basically do as little as possible for months or years until, if you’re lucky, it goes away by itself.

There is one possibility that may be worth a try, though. It may be a bit of a long shot, but there is a certain amount of research to make it worth going into further.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is often linked to gluten intolerance, the most severe form of which is celiac disease, which has many of the same symptoms. So if you are looking for a possible solution to this problem, and you have given up on the doctors (or they’ve given up on you), one option is to try going gluten-free for a few weeks and see if it makes any difference.

Gluten is something we all eat large quantities of every day, because it is found in wheat, barley and rye (and a similar protein is also found in oats). It’s not that easy to avoid gluten completely unless you’re in charge of kitchen supplies.

The first thing to do if you are going gluten free is to go through all the kitchen cupboards. Throw away all wheat based products. This includes flour (all types), pasta (spaghetti, macaroni, linguine etc.) bread, cakes, biscuits, crackers and cookies. Have a look at the labels for everything. Discard anything that mentions barley, rye, wheat, flour or starch (unless it specifies vegetable or potato starch). Cheap ketchup usually contains flour. Don’t forget to check the fridge and the freezer. Low fat yoghurt may be thickened with starch, grated cheese may be coated in starch, and so on.

The easiest way to work out what you can eat is to imagine you’re on a low-carb diet, eat the sorts of food recommended (but NO FLOUR), with the addition of potatoes and rice.

If you like to eat out, it’s best to go to very healthy types of restaurant, where they are familiar with gluten free cooking concepts, or you could choose to go Indian or Chinese. Just remember to avoid the breads and the noodles (although rice noodles are fine) and ask them to leave out the monosodium glutamate (this mainly applies to Chinese food). Wheat is a fairly recent introduction to both these cuisines, so the selection is much wider than you will find elsewhere. Do ask them not to thicken the sauces for food you are going to eat, though.

If you try this diet for a few weeks, you will most likely be able to tell reasonably quickly whether or not it is helping you with your CFS. And with that information, you will be in a position to decide whether to go gluten free for life.

Good luck!

I offer a wide range of food for special diets in my online shop.


Creatine health benefits: natural power boost for body and brain

CNP Pro Creatine Powder

CNP Creatine is a popular brand

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a natural substance discovered in 1832, which is used by the body to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is then used to provide energy for the muscles and brain.Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for everyone – up to 30% of users find no benefit. So far as I know, there’s no way to find out whether it will be helpful for you without trying it for yourself.

It’s also not a magic pill, you need to do the work for it to have any effect, and you need a healthy diet as well so as to get all your other nutrients. Junk food ain’t going to cut it.

Everybody has creatine in their body, mostly stored in the skeletal muscles. Some of this is created by the body, the rest is obtained from food. The foods with the highest levels of creatine are muscle meat and fish. Unsurprisingly, studies have found that vegetarians generally have much lower creatine levels.

Who is Creatine for?

Creatine is used by both professional and amateur athletes to help build muscle. A study shows that short term use can increase maximum power and performance by 5-15%. It is not on the list of IOC or NCAA banned substances.But it’s not just great for building muscle. An Italian study found significant improvements in other types of athletic performance, from sprinting to jumping.It also reduces muscle and cell damage and inflammation after exercise and enhances bone regeneration. Another benefit of using creatine is that it buffers lactic acid build up, so you can do a bit more before you have to stop.

Creatine improves brain power

A double blind study by two Australian universities in 2006 found a significant increase in brain power in volunteers given 5g creatine a day for 6 weeks.

How does creatine work?

Creatine seems to work best for high intensity workouts or intense mental activity. It won’t do much for yoga enthusiasts or anyone else who follows a slower type of exercise regime.

How to use creatine

Creatine does cause some water retention in the first week or two of use, but in the longer term it will start to stimulate protein synthesis. It’s important to take plenty of water with your creatine supplement, as otherwise you may find that you end up dehydrated.

For the same reason, though it may seem counterintuitive, you should take creatine immediately after your workout, not before, to avoid bloating or muscle cramps.

In the past, “loading” (by taking 20g a day) was advised for five days, but many experts now say there’s no evidence this is beneficial and recommend a dose of 3-5g a day.

If you’re vegetarian, you should go for the higher dose, but if you’re a meat-eater who already eats a lot of meat and fish (which contain creatine), the lower dose should be all you need. The body can’t store a lot at a time, so any excess will just be wasted.

Research suggests that creatine taken along with carbohydrates improves uptake. This will also help to avoid bloating. Add a protein source like a protein bar for best results.If you’re taking it in powder form, it’s very important to make sure that it’s properly dissolved before taking it. Mix it with fruit juice (without artificial sweeteners) to provide the carbs that help it work. Mix well: if you can still see powder floating around or you can feel it on your tongue, it needs to be mixed for longer.

Creatine is hydroscopic, so if it’s not properly dissolved, it will suck water from the parts of your body that need it.

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is also helpful in addition to creatine, because it enhances muscle phosphocreatine.

Creatine side effects

Although there are some myths associating creatine with kidney disease, cancer and other problems, there have been many studies to check this out, and none of them found any evidence of this. Several studies have concluded that 5-20g creatine is safe for daily use. However, as with all supplements, it’s best to consult your doctor before starting to take creatine.

Which type of creatine is the best?

There are many types of creatine available, however the one on which almost all research has been carried out is creatine monohydrate, so this is the type I recommend.

Creatine as a treatment

Research published in 2009 concluded that creatine and CoQ-10 taken together may be useful in the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease and Huntingdon’s disease.

A 2007 study found an 8.5% increase in muscle strength in muscular dystrophy patients who took a creatine supplement.

Three South Korean university studies found that creatine combined with antidepressant medication doubled the speed of recovery from depression.

Contra-indications

Creatine is not suitable for anyone under the age of 18, or during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It should not be used by anyone who has kidney disease, liver disease or diabetes or in combination with diuretics, ibuprofen and other NSAIDs, caffeine, ephedra, paracetamol (acetaminophen), cimetidine (Tagamet), probenicid, insulin or other medication which affects blood sugar levels.

Where to get creatine

I have a range of creatine supplements in my online store, but they do tend to sell out fast, so if you see something you want is in stock, it’s best to order while it’s available.


Natural Remedies for Hay Fever

hay-fever

Sore eyes are a classic symptom of hay fever

Hay fever (also called allergic rhinitis) is a real problem for many people, ruining their summers. When everybody else is making the most of the beautiful weather, hay fever sufferers tend to try and stay indoors, away from the dreaded pollen. It’s either that or put up with streaming eyes, blocked nose, sneezing and the rest.

While you can protect your eyes to a certain extent by wearing wraparound sunglasses, the other symptoms can make you feel like you have a heavy cold, not really conducive to fun in the sun, but there are many different remedies that have been used with some success over the centuries. Here is a rundown.

The “immunisation” approach to hay fever treatment

An old remedy which some people still swear by is to take a spoonful of local honey every day, both in the run up to hay fever season and right through to its conclusion. This is believed to work by “immunising” you against the pollen produced nearby. But the honey you buy in your local supermarket probably won’t do the job, unless you’re very lucky, and it’s hard to find local beekeepers with honey for sale.

Another idea on the same lines that is sometimes suggested is to take bee pollen. To my mind, this suffers from the same problem as honey – mostly bee pollen is imported from places where the local flora are completely different to the ones that are causing your symptoms. But it’s tasty and nutritious in its own right, so you might want to try it on the basis that “it can’t hurt”.

There are also homeopathic remedies such as Pollenna®, which are specifically created to fight hay fever symptoms. Like the honey, you start taking this a few weeks before the beginning of the season, and continue until the end. This is definitely worth a try, as people who use it often swear by it.

Food for hay fever sufferers

Three foods have a particularly good reputation for helping get hay fever symptoms under control:

Moringa is a very strong antihistamine. This is a superfood which contains all 9 essential amino acids, and is high in fibre and protein. It is often added to smoothies, dairy or non-dairy milk or fruit juice. It can also be used in other recipes. If you haven’t used it before start with half a teaspoon a day and increase gradually to a maximum of 4 teaspoons a day.

Hot peppers are a decongestant. The dried version may be labelled cayenne pepper or chilli powder, but be careful with “chilli powder” and check the ingredients. Some chilli powders contain other seasonings that won’t help and make working out how much to use difficult. Fresh chilli pepper is just as good, possibly even better, but the dried powder can be used by people who can’t tolerate the fresh product.

Garlic is antihistamine and decongestant. It’s important to use it freshly crushed unless you buy the frozen type which is ready to use. Garlic granules and similar dried seasonings are not medicinally active.

Other foods that have antihistamine properties that you might have in your fridge or kitchen cupboards include ginger, tarragon, thyme, turmeric, onions, watercress, apples, peaches and pomegranates as well as proper Chinese bean sprouts grown from mung beans.

Try and eat some of these every day. At the very least they’ll give you a wide range of nutrients that will help to improve your underlying health.

Herbal teas for hay fever

Several herbal teas have been recommended for hay fever, the most frequently suggested being German chamomile (Matricaria recutita). Others include elderflower, nettle, tulsi (holy basil), ginger and apple, green tea and green tea with ginger.

All these are natural antihistamines, so you can mix and match your afternoon herb tea and know you’re helping to relieve your symptoms.

Supplements for hay fever

Vitamin C, quercetin and garlic are all recommended for their antihistamine effects. You may also be able to find single herb remedies like German chamomile, turmeric, thyme, elderflower, nettle and tulsi.

Essential oils for hay fever relief

As with all essential oils, none of the oils mentioned in this post should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

The following essential oils can be used in burners, added to the bath or used in steam inhalations to help with symptoms:
German (blue) chamomile – antihistamine
Eucalyptus blue gum
Rose
Hay fever blend

Other hay fever treatments

Leaving aside prescribed medication, there are two main alternative therapies that some people have found to be helpful. These are acupuncture and hypnotherapy. I have no experience with either of these, but they have some good reports.

Summary

Hay fever can be distressing, but there are many lines of attack you can take to gain control. You have nothing to lose but your sneeze!

Remedies mentioned in this post

I offer the following remedies in my online shop:

bee pollen
chamomile tea
chilli/cayenne
Eucalyptus blue gum essential oil
garlic supplement
German (blue) chamomile essential oil
ground gingervarious ginger tea blends
tea products
moringa
mung beans
nettle tea, nettle juice
Pollenna®
quercetin
rose essential oil
dried thyme, thyme juice, thyme tea
tulsi tea
turmericturmeric capsules
vitamin C