THE BLOG

22
Sep

Staying on track while you’re on the road

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From naturopath Robyn Chuter.

By the time you read this, I’ll be in San Francisco, one of my favourite cities in the world. My husband, 2 kids and I are spending 2 weeks exploring California (with a dash across State lines to visit the Grand Canyon), culminating – for me – with 3 days of full-tilt learning at the 3rd International Plant-Based Nutrition Healthcare Conference. (To read my reports from last year’s conference, go to my Article Library and scroll down to the Conference and Seminar Reports section.)

Our trip involves 5 flights and looooong stretches of driving on American highways, notorious for their endless procession of fast food outlets. So, you might be asking, are we going to dump our usual healthy eating style, ‘bust out’ and fill up on airline slop and all that world-famous (or infamous?) Yank junk food?

No way, José! I want to pack as much hiking, canyon climbing, tram riding and museum visiting as I can into this trip, and still arrive at the conference bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. That means I’ll need to be at my physical and mental peak, and the only way I can do that is to stick to my usual high-nutrient plant-based eating style and get regular exercise, any which way I can.

Here are my tips, gleaned from previous travel experiences, for staying on track while you’re on the road:

1. Surviving Long Flights

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  • Be sure to specify your meal preferences when booking your flight. All airlines offer a wide range of ‘special’ meal choices including vegetarian, vegan, raw food and gluten-free. We’re flying Fiji Airways, which previous experience indicates serve quite delicious vegan meals with plenty of vegetables. A little heavy on the oil for my tastes, but loads better than the usual mass-produced airline food!
  • Personally, I prefer to eat as little as possible when flying to minimise the abdominal bloating that I tend to suffer on long flights (sorry if that’s TMI ;-)) but my kids and husband eat like horses whenever we travel, so I always pack some travel-hardy fruit such as bananas, apples and mandarins; raw vegetables such as carrot and celery sticks; and baked potatoes and home-made oven-baked falafel which are light but filling. Stay away from salty snacks which just exacerbate the dehydration that aeroplane travel is notorious for.
  • Speaking of avoiding dehydration, I grab the largest bottle of water I can find in the airport stores after I’ve passed through the security screen, and start sipping as soon as I board. Not only does this combat dehydration, it also forces me to overcome the inertia that tends to set in on long flights, as my bladder prompts me to keep walking down the aisle to the bathroom! Once I’m up, I will attempt to do a lap of the plane each time I make a pit-stop, unless the cabin crew are moving through with food and beverage trolleys.
  • I also stay on my feet as much as possible before the flight, knowing that I’m going to be confined to my Cattle Class seat for a bum-numbingly long stretch of time after we board the plane (aside from my bathroom excursions, of course). While others slump in the Departure Lounge seats, I do laps of the concourse, so I can keep my circulatory and lymphatic systems pumping until the very last minute. The risk of deep vein thrombosis from long-distance air travel is actually pretty low –somewhere between 1 in 4,656 flights and 1 in 6,000 flights – but I find that prolonged sitting just makes me feel lethargic.
  • I always pack some herbal teabags in my carry-on luggage. When the flight attendants come around offering tea and coffee, I just ask for hot water to make my own tea. I tend not to sleep well on planes (if at all), and the last thing I need is caffeine buzzing around my system while I’m trying to catch a little shut-eye!
  • Essential oils are helpful for combatting some of the unsavoury aspects of air travel. Inhaling essential oil of peppermint soothes airsickness (and other forms of travel sickness too); clary sage is wonderful for inducing sleep when you’re feeling too wired to unwind; and lavender oil calms the jitters if you’re an anxious flyer, which I’m fortunate not to be – probably the legacy of being the daughter of a Qantas flight engineer, and spending half my childhood around airports and on planes ;-). Essential oils generally come in quite small bottles (5-25 ml) so you’ll be safely under the 100 ml limit for liquids.
  • And finally, if you suffer from painful clogging and popping in your ears when you fly, do yourself a favour and pick up a pair of EarPlanes – cool little ear plugs that help to equalise the pressure on either side of your eardrums when the air cabin pressure changes as altitude drops. I bought them for my last trip to the US, and it was the first time that I’ve flown since perforating my eardrum in childhood, without suffering excruciating ear pain on the descent, and feeling like I was hearing all the sounds around me from under water for the next few days after the flight! Now I won’t fly without them, even if it’s just an inter-city hop.

2. Evading Hotel Traps

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  • The first thing I do when I get into my hotel room is to clear all the soft drinks, mini-milk cartons and alcohol out of the bar fridge and replace it with fresh fruit, salads, hommous, and any other healthy foods I can pick up at farmers’ markets (for which San Francisco is famous – yay!!), health food stores or supermarkets. Likewise, the chocolate bars and packets of chips get cleared off the counter so that my daughter, who has a bit of a taste for junk food, won’t nag us to buy them.
  • When we travel, we mostly book self-contained accommodation so that I have cooking facilities. I’ll hit the local grocery shop and stock up on bags of frozen mixed vegetables, cans of beans and tomatoes so that I can throw together easy nutritious meals in 10 minutes or less. Unfortunately, this type of accommodation isn’t widely available in the US so on this trip we’re stuck with regular hotel rooms, some of them with a microwave oven. I’m not a big fan of microwave cooking – no real health concerns; I just don’t like the taste and texture of microwaved food – but if that’s the only way to cook a meal, I’ll take it.
  • We always travel with plastic plates, bowls, cutlery, a sharp knife and a flexible chopping mat, and on this trip we’re also taking a Birko food and drink heater which will allow me to cook porridge (or ‘oatmeal’, as they call it Stateside), warm up soup and boil water for beverages – annoyingly for me as a non-coffee drinker, American hotel rooms tend to be equipped with coffee makers rather than kettles!
  • I always prefer to book a hotel with an in-house gym so I can fit an early-morning workout in before my kids are awake. Exercise is my stress-buster and sanity-saver; anyone who knows me is all too familiar with the fact that I’m very grumpy if I don’t get to exercise each day! If there’s no gym I’ll content myself with running up and down the stair-wells for 20 minutes or doing a workout in my room, using a video from one of my favourite online fitness channels such as Fitness Blender orBodyRock.
  • Walking and cycling are always better ways of experiencing a new destination than whizzing past the sights in a car or bus, so whenever possible I hire a bike to get around, or just walk. Naturally, we’ll be taking a ride on San Francisco’s famous cable cars, but the city also offers wonderful walking tours of its historic sites. Hello, Haight-Ashbury – we’re gonna revisit the Summer of Love!

 

Car trips

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After 3 days in San Francisco, which is blessed with a surfeit of vegan restaurants and cafés, not to mention numerous Whole Foods Markets (supermarket-sized health food stores bursting at the seams with fresh produce and prepared foods, many of which meet my high standards for healthfulness), we’ll be heading out to Yosemite National Park.

This long drive, and our subsequent trip to the Grand Canyon, will present the most serious challenge to staying on track with healthy eating (not to mention our sanity, with 2 kids in the back of the car chorusing “Are we there yet?”, hour after hour!). Once we leave the post-hippie vegan paradise of San Francisco, it’s all strip malls and fast food chains with nary a Whole Foods Market in sight!

  • We’re taking a soft-sided cooler bag which squishes up nicely to fit into a suitcase, and some freezer blocks. We’ll stock the cooler bag with salad vegetables, fruit, hommous, wholemeal wraps and whatever healthy pre-prepared meals we can find in Whole Foods Market before we leave San Francisco.  Roadside picnics are so much more fun than sitting in some soulless fast food outlet, eating same-old same-old pap!
  • Between the Birko and microwave oven, I’ll be able to throw together some simple evening meals using cans of beans and tomatoes, and fresh or frozen vegetables. My kids are quite accustomed to relatively fancy home-prepared meals, but as long as they have full bellies at the end of a day of hiking and canyoning, they’ll be happy enough to ‘rough it’ with simpler fare… which means I will be too!

 

Eating Out Without Busting Out

  • San Francisco, Monterey and all the other coastal towns we’ll be driving through, as well as Los Angeles itself, where we’ll be ending our trip, are blessed with an abundance of plant-based dining options. Café Gratitude, Gracias Madre and Sharkey’s with its famous Chef AJ vegan burritos, are all on my hit-list!
  • Although fast-food Mexican outlets serve up the same gloopy Tex-Mex slop that passes for Mexican food here in Australia, California – home to so many Mexican immigrants – also boasts an abundance of ‘real’ Mexican food outlets, featuring the corn, beans and vegetables that are the staples of Mexican food the way actual Mexicans eat it.
  • Other ethnic cuisines that offer delicious plant-based options include Middle Eastern, Indian, Thai and Chinese. I do my best to steer around the excessively oily and salty dishes, and stick to simple stir-fries, vegie curries and fresh salads.
  • All meals are provided at the International Plant-Based Nutrition Healthcare Conference, and if last year’s fare was anything to go by, I’m going to be spoiled rotten!

So there you have it – how to survive a holiday without blowing your healthy eating plan… and coming back with unwelcome extra kilos and that “I-need-another-holiday-to-recover-from-my-holiday” feeling!

14
Sep

The pleasure trap

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The pleasure trap – or how your brain gets tricked into thinking BAD is GOOD

By Robyn Chuter

The human brain and body are both adapted to live in a very different world than the one we inhabit today. Many of the health problems that are so prevalent in developed countries, and among the wealthy in developing countries – such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer of the breast, bowel and prostate – are simply the inevitable consequences of eating a diet rich in kilojoules but poor in micronutrients, and not getting enough exercise.

The problem is, over millennia of evolution in an environment where energy-dense food was scarce, our brains developed neural circuits that reward us with sensations of pleasure when we eat fatty, sweet or rich food.

This was a brilliant adaptation in our earlier history; it caused us to preferentially seek out energy-dense foods during the brief times that they were available and eat as much as we could, so we could lay down fat stores that we could live off during the lean times.

And during those lean times, we would still have access to low-energy but high-nutrient foods (leaves, berries, tubers), ensuring we didn’t become malnourished.

But in our present setting, there are no times of scarcity. Most of us are eating, on a daily basis, what our ancestors only ate rarely – even though those foods, when eaten any more often than on special occasions, undermine our health.

This phenomenon is the foundation of what psychologist Doug Lisle and Alan Goldhamer, director of the TrueNorth Health Center in California, have dubbed ‘The Pleasure Trap‘.

Put simply, your ‘primitive’ brain tells you that that chocolate bar, doughnut, hot chips, ice cream, hunk of cheese or whatever else your weakness is, is GOOD and you should eat more of it – even while your ‘rational’ brain is screaming at you to stop right now if you ever want to fit into your favourite jeans again!

Backed by millennia of evolutionary drive, the primitive brain wins the contest more often than not, leaving the rational brain to beat you up afterward for your weakness, and make you promise never to do it again.

So how do we break out of this pleasure trap and bring our eating habits into line with our knowledge and good intentions? Not through will-power, which flounders in the face of addictions such as these. I have found that using EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) is the simplest, fastest and kindest route back to dietary sanity.

EFT is a superb tool for beating food cravings, as a client I’ll call Jacinta discovered recently. Jacinta had a long history of addictive eating, and a generally uncomfortable relationship with food. She knew exactly what she should be eating, and had experienced the benefits of this way of eating in the past. But her healthy diet plans repeatedly came unstuck when cravings hit.

I taught her how to use EFT to deal with her craving for fresh bread and butter, and by the end of the session she felt repulsed by the thought of eating it – a very common experience, as I’ll discuss in a moment.

On her own, at home, she then tapped on her craving for hot chocolate and cola, which she’d been having daily. In each case, her desire for these foods simply disappeared, to the point where she could not recall even thinking about them, let alone wanting to consume them, over the last few weeks.

I have observed time and time again, that when people tap on their craving for unhealthy foods, their perception of the taste and smell of those foods start to shift, to the point where they experience repugnance for foods they previously would have driven across town, in the middle of the night, to get hold of.

Often they report that the food tastes or smells of chemicals, or feels oily in their mouths. My understanding of what is happening here, is that when you abolish your addictive cravings, you get back in touch with what your body’s infinite wisdom knows is actually good for you – and lo and behold, now it actually tastes good to you!

And that’s the good news about the Pleasure Trap: when you break free of the stranglehold of addictive cravings, your brain’s pleasure circuits recalibrate, and you find that you can get a very satisfying buzz out of things that really are good for you – nourishing food, physical activity, and of course that ultimate source of healthy pleasure, good sex :).

There’s no diminishment in the amount of pleasure you feel when you dump your bad habits and live a healthy lifestyle; in fact my personal and professional experience is that we feel much more pleasure, and of course there’s no guilt afterward!

08
Sep

Beat menopausal hot flushes with fruit-and-veg-powered weight loss

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By Robyn Chuter, 7th Sep 2015

Hot flushes are the bane of many perimenopausal women’s lives. That sudden rush of heat from the chest up to the neck and face, is not just embarrassing or inconvenient. Hot flushes that occur at night – commonly called night sweats – can severely disrupt sleep, causing day-time fatigue.Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the standard medical answer for hot flushes, but the worrying findings that HRT dramatically increases the risk of heart disease and breast cancer have made many women understandably wary of taking it. So what’s a hot-and-bothered perimenopausal woman to do? A recent study published in the journal Menopause suggests a remarkably simple answer: lose weight by adopting a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in fat.

17,473 women with menopausal symptoms, who were not taking HRT, were recruited for the Women’s Health Initiative study, which compared outcomes in women who were given dietary counselling, to a control group who made no dietary changes.What’s particularly interesting is that weight loss wasn’t even a goal of the study; the participants were initially recruited to evaluate the effects of a low-fat, high produce dietary pattern on risk of heart disease, breast and colorectal cancer, and fracture in post-menopausal women.However, when the data were analysed, women who had been assigned to the dietary counselling group lost an average of 2 kg between baseline and year one, compared to the control group.

This modest weight loss achieved some benefits, but women who lost over 4.5 kg, or 10% or more of their baseline body weight, were significantly more likely to reduce or eliminate their hot flushes and night sweats after one year of follow-up, compared to women in the control group who continued with their normal diet. Although hot flushes are still not completely understood, they are believed to be caused by the impact of fluctuating hormone levels on the hypothalamus, a region in the brain that regulates our body temperature, blood vessels and sweat glands, and brain chemicals.

Previous research had indicated that both being overweight at the onset of menopause, and gaining weight during the perimenopausal period (as so many women do, when they eat the conventional Western diet!), increased the risk of suffering from hot flushes and night sweats, one reason being that these phenomena provide a way to dissipate the heat that is retained by the insulating effect of excess body fat. However, this study is one of the first – and the largest to date – to show that a diet high in fresh produce and whole grains, and low in fat (read, a wholefoods, plant-based diet low in animal products), improves the most common symptom of menopause.

It echoes the mantra I share with my clients – forget about weight loss, and focus on health gain. When you shift your perspective in this way, you step out of the deprivation/self-punishment model that characterises dieting, and into a place of self-love and appreciation for your magnificent body and the miracles that it performs every day. From this place, you want to make choices that nurture and support your body… and it just so happens that these choices facilitate effortless weight loss.

25
Aug

Diet and immunity: What’s the connection?

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By Robyn Chuter, 24th Aug, 2015

I have a confession to make. Sometimes, I spend too much time on Facebook. In my defence, I don’t post pictures of my lunch, or watch cat videos (well, not very often, anyway ;-)). No, my version of spending too much time on Facebook is getting involved in pointless discussions/arguments with people who hold silly beliefs about nutrition and health.

Just recently, a member of a Facebook group I’m in posted to ask if improving her son’s diet could help with his glue ear (a build-up of fluid in the middle ear that often follows a middle ear infection). Another member of the group – an individual who happens to work in a research capacity for the NSW Department of Health – replied that diet wouldn’t make any difference to her son’s condition unless he was a malnourished child from a developing country, and that she should give him the antibiotics that the GP had recommended as soon as he diagnosed the glue ear.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. First up, every reputable authority on children’s health advises against using antibiotics for glue ear unless the condition persists for at least 3 months after it’s diagnosed (for example, see the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne’s Clinical Practice Guidelines for Treating Otitis Media and their Parent Fact Sheet on Treating Glue Ear, the UK National Health Service’s advice on treating glue ear, and the Cochrane Review ‘Antibiotics for otitis media with effusion (‘glue ear’) in children’).

So just what was a researcher from the Health Department doing, urging a parent to contradict all this expert advice and give her son a treatment that was extremely unlikely to offer any benefit to him, may cause long-term disruption to his gut microbiome, and contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant ‘superbugs’?

But what I found even more disturbing was the researcher’s insistence that diet makes no difference when it comes to fighting infection, unless you’re suffering from the kind of protein-calorie malnutrition that we in Western countries only see in TV reports on starving kids in Africa. This belief is so wildly wrong, I can’t begin to tell you how perplexed I was that anyone who has read any research at all in the field of nutrition could hold it. Like I said, I wasted WAAAAAY too much of my precious time arguing with this closed-minded person, so I’m going to make sure I didn’t completely waste my time by sharing this important information with you, instead!

For those who love all the sciencey stuff, I have a detailed article on diet and immunity that you can download. That article is several years old now though, and there’s been some very interesting research on the link between diet, the gut microbiome, the immune system and human health since I wrote it.

Here are the points you need to know:

Sweet and deadly
Research from over 40 years ago indicates that concentrated sugar – whether in the form of glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, or orange juice… but not starches – reduces the ability of white blood cells to gobble up invading bacteria, a process known as phagocytosis (pictured above). Shockingly, the reduced bug-chomping capacity persisted for at least 5 hours after volunteers ate the various kinds of  sugar (1). Think about that for a moment. If you consume the typical Western diet, which contains added sugar in everything from breakfast cereal to biscuits, muesli bars to McDonald’s fries and chai latte to cheesecake, you’re essentially paralysing your white blood cells from the first meal of the day until long after you’ve turned in for the night.

Fat chance of defending yourself
Excess fat intake raises the production of the inflammatory prostaglandin E2. The omega 6 fat arachidonic acid, found primarily in animal products, and overproduced if we eat too many vegetable oils, alters the balance of fats in the membranes of our immune cells, disrupting their function (2).

Saturated fats (which come mostly from animal products, but also occur in large amounts in coconut and palm oils) are even worse, because of their impact on Toll-like receptors, a crucial element of the immune system designed to evaluate what specific type of invader – bacterial, viral, or fungal – is threatening the body (3). Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) is designed to sense the presence of bacteria. In order to carry out its job, TLR4 binds to a part of bacteria called lipopolysaccharide, which is mostly composed of saturated fatty acids (4). A high dietary intake of saturated fats causes TLR4 to constantly ring the alarm bell, announcing to the rest of the immune system that a bacterial invader is present and inciting inflammatory activity to combat it (5). This misguided attack on saturated fat causes intestinal  hyperpermeability (‘leaky gut’), further increasing immune dysfunction and worsening infection control (6). It’s also a major factor in triggering autoimmune disease (7).

Being overweight – or even just having a higher than ideal body fat percentage – compromises your immune function in several ways:

Firstly, fat cells are constantly pumping out inflammatory substances including interleukin (IL-) 1, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) (8). Over time, this constant release of substances that should be deployed only when there’s an infection to fight, may result in a ‘boy who cried wolf’ situation – the immune system becomes so blasé about the constant warnings of danger, that it doesn’t respond to a real threat when it should (9).

Secondly, obese people have been found to have significant abnormalities in the number and activity of their infection-fighting white blood cells compared to lean individuals: they have fewer natural killer cells (which kill tumour cells and virus-infected cells), and reduced activity of T and B cells which give the immune system its ‘memory’ – that is, its ability to rapidly respond to bugs that it has encountered in the past, so it’s able to fight them off without you actually getting sick (10).

What this means is that if you’re carrying extra fat mass, you’re more likely to pick up an infectious disease; you’ll feel sicker when you have it (because it’s the inflammatory compounds produced by your immune system, not the bug itself, which cause the malaise, lassitude, fatigue, numbness, coldness, muscle and joint aches, and reduced appetite you suffer when you’re fighting off a bug (11); and you’ll be sicker for longer.

Good bugs, bad bugs
All of us have a diverse mixture of bacteria inhabiting our gut, primarily the large intestine (colon). There are beneficial bacteria (probiotics), which produce vitamins and health-promoting short chain fatty acids such as butyrate; help us to excrete metabolic toxins; and instruct our immune system to fight dangerous invaders while tolerating friendly bugs. Then there are dangerous bacteria (pathogens) which, if they get the upper hand, can produce toxins that can make us sick and even kill us. And then there are bacteria that could swing either way (pathobionts) depending largely on the prevailing food supply that’s available to them.

Broadly speaking, beneficial bacteria prefer to ferment the indigestible portions of carbohydrate (fibre and resistant starch) while unfriendly bacteria thrive on refined carbohydrate, protein and fat (12). So what you choose to eat doesn’t just feed you; it feeds the teeming populations of bacteria that inhabit your gut… for better, or for worse.

Pulling it all together
Back to the woman who posted in the Facebook group I belong to. By pulling the refined carbohydrate, vegetable oils (including saturated vegetables fats such as palm and coconut) and animal products out of her son’s diet, and increasing his intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, she will be essentially deactivating the handbrake that holds his immune system back from effectively combatting the bug that caused his middle ear infection – regardless of whether it’s bacterial or viral. On the other hand, if she gives him antibiotics, she’ll destroy the probiotic bacteria in his gut and further cripple his immune system’s ability to respond appropriately to infection.

Please note that I don’t oppose the use of antibiotics across the board. They are the appropriate prescription for life-threatening bacterial infections. But they’re completely inappropriate, and frankly harmful, for garden-variety middle ear infections and most cases of glue ear. Dietary change should always be trialled for several months before you even think about antibiotics, except in very rare circumstances.

– See more at: http://empowertotalhealth.com.au/diet-and-immunity-whats-the-connection/#sthash.4MQfkVov.dpuf

19
Aug

Does low meat consumption increase or decrease life expectancy in humans?

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By Robyn Chuter, 17th Aug 2015

The priests of the Paleo movement constantly preach that humans evolved eating large amounts of meat (for evidence pointing in the opposite direction, see my Hot Topics April 2013 and June 2014 webinars), and that therefore we need to eat meat regularly – as the major source of daily calories – in order to achieve optimal health.

Optimal health may mean different things to different people, I suppose. Young women tend to equate being thin with being healthy, while young men tend to think BIG = healthy.

Less subjectively, one of the ways that statisticians calculate the health status of a nation, or its ethnic or cultural subgroups, is by examining and comparing life expectancy.

I think most people would agree that a diet that promotes optimal health would be one that allows people to live longer, in good physical and mental condition. If the Paleo folks have got it right, people who eat little to no meat should suffer poorer health, and die sooner due to the higher intake of carbohydrate, and lower intake of protein that inevitably accompanies a low- or no-meat diet.

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So what does the science show?

Back in 2003, researchers from Loma Linda University in southern California reviewed findings from six different studies of the dietary habits of adults in North America and Europe, and Californian Seventh Day Adventists, to answer the question:

Does eating meat very seldom (less than once a week) increase life expectancy?
The answer, in a word, was ‘yes’. Of the six studies examined, four showed a significant trend toward longer life in those who ate meat infrequently, a fifth study showed a nonsignificant increase in life expectancy in people who ate meat infrequently, and the sixth showed virtually no association between meat eating and longevity (1).

In two of the studies that found an association between lower meat consumption and longevity, it was also found that a longer duration of adherence to a low-meat diet (more than 20 years) contributed to a significant decrease in risk of death, and a 3.6 year increase in life expectancy.

Now, you might be thinking that a 3.6 year increase in life expectancy doesn’t sound like much, but it’s actually more impressive than the contribution made by modern medicine – both preventive services and therapeutic interventions – to increased lifespan in the second half of the twentieth century:

“Three of the seven years’ increase in life expectancy since 1950 can be attributed to medical care” (2).
Think about that for a minute. All the innovations in diagnostic technology; cancer screening programs; surgical techniques; device, vaccine and drug development and every other new-fangled thing from 1950 until the article cited above was published in 1995, added just 3 years to life expectancy – and at a truly extraordinary financial cost. To think that the same result could have been achieved just by encouraging people to minimise or avoid eating flesh foods!

For further comparison,

• If every smoker quit smoking, the population as a whole would gain about 1½ years of life expectancy.
• If you’re overweight, you would add roughly 6 months to your own life expectancy if you returned to normal weight, while if you’re obese you’ll gain up to 1½ years.
• If you’re sedentary but otherwise healthy, you could increase your life expectancy by as much as 12 months just by getting off the couch, while if everyone did as much exercise as the fittest people in society, the population would gain 2-2½ years of life expectancy (3).

Now how good does limiting or eliminating meat sound to you?

You may be thinking at this point that maybe there are newer studies than this 2003 review, which provide more support for the Paleo position on the central importance of meat. In a word, nup.

A 2014 literature review found that among Seventh Day Adventists – a population already known for enjoying a roughly 10 year longer life expectancy than the average American – those who avoid meat enjoy

• Lower BMI;
• Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer – especially of the colon risk reduction for cancer of the colon, other sites in the gastrointestinal tract, and prostate; and a dramatically lower risk of dying of breast cancer;
• And a longer life expectancy;

when compared to non-vegetarians (4).

Channelling Professor Julius Sumner Miller, the researchers were inspired to ask ‘Why is it so?’ The answer, it turns out, goes beyond the simple avoidance of meat. When Californian Seventh Day Adventists nudge meat off their plates, they tend to replace it with legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, washed down with extra serves of fruits and vegetables, all of which have been found to have disease-fighting and lifespan-extending properties. British vegetarians, on the other hand, tend to replace the dead animal parts with dairy products and fake meats, which is probably why they don’t enjoy any longer lifespan than health-conscious meat-eaters (5).

So here’s the deal on diet and lifespan: Eating meat regularly will shorten your lifespan, but if you want to add the maximum possible number of years to your life – as well as adding life to your years – you need to eat health-promoting whole plant foods that are rarely eaten by people who eat meat-based meals, not a slab of isolated soy protein doused with salt, artificial colours and flavour enhancers and extruded from a factory production line!

– See more at: http://empowertotalhealth.com.au/meat-consumption-life-expectancy/#sthash.b2wBTU56.dpuf

10
Aug

How to use EFT to aid weight loss

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By naturopath Robyn Chuter

As discussed in my article How to make an ‘obese brain'; just add saturated fat, researchers believe that a diet high in saturated fat may cause permanent changes in the brain, driving cravings for high-kilojoule foods that sabotage the efforts of overweight people to lose weight and keep it off for good.

That’s a depressing thought, but given the burgeoning research into neuroplasticity, or the ability of the brain to change its structure and function depending on what we habitually think and feel, and what tasks we assign it, we may have cause for optimism after all.

My own experience in working with people who’ve battled with their weight over many years, suggests that cravings for unhealthy foods can definitely be abolished, and a preference for health-promoting foods firmly established, by using Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).

You can learn the basic EFT (‘tapping’) routine in this video.

How I use EFT to aid weight loss

1) Tap on cravings for unhealthy foods. When doing cravings tapping, I encourage clients to really get into the nitty gritty about the foods they desire: their appearance, smell, taste, texture and mouthfeel; how they feel when they contemplate eating that food; and how they would feel if they were prevented from eating that food (murderous impulses surface at times, at this point :)).

2) Tap on memories associated with the unhealthy food you crave. I often find that the foods people crave, were given to them when they were children by adults with whom they had a special, loving connection. No wonder they crave those foods when they are feeling down now – the memory of receiving love, affection and approval from their favourite uncle, granny or babysitter is strongly associated with the memory of the chocolates, cakes or sweets that loved one gave them!

3) Tap on negative associations with dieting, food deprivation and poor body image. I have lost count of the number of female clients I’ve seen, who were ‘put on a diet’ when they were pre-teen or even younger, by well-meaning but somewhat insensitive parents!

The shame, isolation, self-judgment and sense of deprivation felt by a child whose access to food is restricted in this way, is truly devastating. It often triggers an urge to rebel which results in a pattern of self-sabotage that persists into adult life.

Many of my female clients also report witnessing their mothers criticising their own bodies, and following extreme weight loss diets. These negative experiences leave a deep imprint on impressionable young brains, which fortunately is highly correctable with EFT.

4) Tap on aversions to healthy food. Dislike of health-promoting foods often has its roots in early-life experiences – and these too are amenable to tapping. Many of my clients have memories of being forced to eat everything on their plate even when they were full, or were repulsed by the food.

Others recall being made to eat their Brussels sprouts, while another family member (usually Dad) left them on his plate and still got ice cream for dessert! A rankling sense of injustice and the desire to rebel often lingers after experiences like these, creating a deep psychological aversion to eating healthy foods such as vegetables and salads.

5) Create a vision of your future self and tap on your resistance to realising that vision. A funny thing often happens when you imagine your future self – healthy, vibrant, at your ideal weight, finding it easy to consistently make good choices with food, not even tempted to eat junk – along with the excitement about achieving your goal, often comes some trepidation.

In EFT circles, we call these ‘yes-buts’:

‘Yes, I could lose weight, but then my overweight friends might get jealous and reject me.’

‘Yes, I’d love to choose healthy foods, but might I not feel deprived if I give up my ice cream?’

‘Yes, I’d love to get into exercise, slim down and tone up, but how will I handle it if I start getting more attention from the opposite sex?’

These ‘yes-buts’ are highly tappable issues, and once we collapse them with EFT, weight loss often proceeds at a truly startling rate.

05
Aug

Baba Ganoush

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Pair perfectly with falafels in a wrap, through pasta or enjoy with crackers and veggie sticks. This dip freezes well and is very versatile for an easy entertaining idea.

By Cassie Heneghan

Ingredients
2 x large eggplants, washed, halved
¼ cup olive oil
1 tbsp flaked salt
1 head of Australian garlic
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp white pepper

1. Preheat a fan forced oven to 160C.
2. In a bowl, toss the eggplants in the oil and salt. Place them cut side down on a large baking tray. It is okay if they are touching. Bake for 40 minutes. Allow to cool for 20 minutes.
3. At the same time, wrap up the head of garlic in aluminium foil and place onto the racks in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes.
4. Using a spoon, scoop the eggplant flesh out of the eggplant and into a bowl. Do the same with half of the garlic. You should be able to squeeze the base of each clove and the creamy garlic will burst from the top.
5. Add the tahini, lemon juice, paprika and pepper. Place all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until it is soon and consistent. If it isn’t coming together, add a teaspoon of boiling water at a time until it becomes smooth and creamy.

05
Aug

How to make an ‘obese brain'; just add saturated fat

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By vegan naturopath Robyn Chuter

  • Saturated fat is derived primarily from animal products, but also occurs in high amounts in coconut and palm oils.
  • Saturated fat may damage a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is involved in memory and learning.
  • The type of damage inflicted also affects the ability to self-regulate food intake, leading to a downward spiral of food cravings and weight gain.
  • EFT is a form of therapy that has been found to be highly successful at overcoming these cravings.
The latest diet craze, the Paleo Diet, urges its followers to load up on saturated fat, found in animal flesh, eggs and dairy products, and a handful of plant products such as coconut oil.Paleo writers extol the virtues of saturated fat, claiming that its consumption is absolutely necessary for good health and weight loss.But if you’re tempted to jump on the Paleo diet bandwagon, think twice: all that saturated fat can cause a phenomenon dubbed ‘the obese brain’, destroying your ability to regulate the amount you eat, and sabotaging your weight loss goals.

First, a little background on 2 aspects of the anatomy of your brain:

1) The blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier is comprised of specially modified blood vessel cells that act like a filter, keeping potentially harmful substances circulating in the blood away from brain cells, while facilitating the passage of glucose, hormones, oxygen and other substances vital to the brain’s function.

2) The hippocampus. This seahorse-shaped part of the brain is crucially involved in memory and learning, and also in our response to stress. It forms a component of the limbic system, the brain’s emotion centre.

Now for the really scary part: Recently-published research (1) on the impact of saturated fat consumption on the brain indicates that this type of fat damages the blood-brain barrier, allowing toxins into the brain which impair the function of the hippocampus. The result of this damage is impaired learning and memory – and a vicious circle of overeating and weight gain.

The research was conducted on rats, whose blood-brain barrier and hippocampal function is essentially the same ways as humans’. The rats were initially fed on standard low-fat ‘lab chow’, while receiving training in several learning and memory tasks, some of which involved the hippocampus.

After the training phase, the rats were divided into 2 groups. One group was fed low-fat lab chow ad libitum (i.e. as much as they wanted), while the other group was offered food high in saturated fat, again ad libitum.

Some of the rats in the high saturated fat-fed group became obese while some did not; lead researcher, Terry Davidson, points out that just like humans, some rats have a preference for high-fat food and will gorge on it when it’s offered to them, while other rats (and humans) don’t.

When the researchers presented the rats with the learning and memory problems again, they found that the rats who became obese on the high saturated fat diet, performed much more poorly than the non-obese rats did on the hippocampal-dependent learning problem. Their performance on the learning task that did not involve the hippocampus was unaffected.

This decline in memory and learning ability was attributed to damage inflicted on the hippocampus by impaired blood-brain barrier function in the rats who had become obese on the high saturated fat diet. Davidson commented,

“We have compelling evidence that overconsumption of a high fat diet damages or alters the blood-brain barrier. Now we are interested in the fact that substances that are not supposed to get to the brain are getting to it because of this breakdown. You start throwing things into the brain that don’t belong there, and it makes sense that brain function would be affected” (2).

 

What this means for overweight humansIn a nutshell, what the research indicates is that diets high in saturated fat are not only obesigenic (obesity-causing) in susceptible individuals; they also cause changes to the brains of obese people that in turn may fuel overconsumption of high-fat foods, making weight loss nigh on impossible.Lead researcher Terry Davidson, who is the director of American University’s Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, summarises the implications of his study for humans:
“What I think is happening is a vicious cycle of obesity and cognitive decline… you eat the high fat/high calorie diet and it causes you to overeat because this inhibitory system [i.e. the ability to inhibit overeating by recognising when you’ve had enough] is progressively getting fouled up. And unfortunately, this inhibitory system is also for remembering things and suppressing other kinds of thought interference [i.e. thoughts of high-calorie food that pop unbidden into your mind – generally as soon as you commit to your new weight-loss plan!].” (2).
There is strong evidence that the results of this animal study probably do apply to humans: people who are obese in mid-life are a whopping 74% more likely to develop dementia as they age (3), and shrinkage of the hippocampus is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia (4).

Davidson suggests that the difficulty formerly obese people have in maintaining weight loss, could be partly due to permanent changes in the brain as a result of eating a saturated fat-rich, obesigenic diet for many years.

Now, if you’ve been overweight for years and you’re starting to feel just a little depressed about your prospects of permanent weight loss, I have some good news for you: there is an effective therapy that can literally rewire the brain, dramatically reduce levels of the hormone cortisol, which in excess causes the hippocampus to shrink, and completely transform your emotional response to the unhealthy foods you crave. Read all about it in my article Rewiring the ‘Obese Brain‘.

20
Jul

5 reasons to think twice before taking blood pressure drugs

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By Robyn Chuter

  • High blood pressure dramatically increases the risk of stroke, kidney damage, eye disease and dementia.
  • Various classes of blood pressure medications have side effects including an increased risk of diabetes, cardiac arrhythmias, and lung cancer.
  • Even if antihypertensives successfully lower blood pressure, they aren’t very effective at preventing strokes and heart attacks in most people.
  • Aggressive lowering of blood pressure in people who have coronary artery disease dramtically increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and dying from it.

High blood pressure (hypertension) kills. It is the most significant risk factor for stroke and congestive heart failure; in fact, people with high blood pressure have 4 times the risk of stroke compared to people with normal blood pressure.

In addition, it accelerates the build-up of atherosclerosis, a fatty plaque lining the artery walls, and increases the likelihood that one of these plaques will rupture, triggering a heart attack or embolic (clotting) stroke.

High blood pressure also damages the kidneys, and since the kidneys play a huge role in regulating blood pressure, this damage generates a vicious circle of escalating blood pressure and organ destruction, which may eventually result in kidney failure and the need for dialysis.

The tiny arteries feeding the eyes can rupture due to the effects of constant high blood pressure, causing blurred vision and even blindness.

And high blood pressure accelerates dementia.

So high blood pressure obviously requires urgent treatment. But are prescription drugs the answer?

All classes of antihypertensive (blood pressure-lowering) drugs present serious hazards, including these:

#1. Diuretics (commonly used as first-line therapy in hypertension) increase the risk of developing diabetes and arrhythmias.

An analysis of 22 clinical trials including 143 153 participants who were free of diabetes at enrolment, found that those who were prescribed a diuretic (such as Moduretic, Chlotride or Lasix) had a significantly higher likelihood of developing diabetes (1). Having diabetes dramatically increases your risk of both stroke and heart disease – the very conditions that antihypertensive medications are intended to reduce!

Diuretics can also cause abnormal heart rhythms (known as arrhythmias) which increase the risk of sudden cardiac death (2).


#2. Beta blockers (also commonly used as first-line therapy in hypertension) also increase diabetes risk, increase the risk of stroke and death in newly-diagnosed diabetics, and DO NOT lower the risk of either complications or death in simple hypertension.

Beta blockers (such as Inderal, Visken and Betaloc) raise the risk of developing diabetes by around 30%, with the risk rising the longer you stay on them (3). Since patients are usually told they will have to take antihypertensives for the rest of their lives, this should give serious pause for thought.

Beta blockers are commonly prescribed to lower heart rate in patients at high risk of heart attack, but a metanalysis of over 70 000 such patients found that those heart rate was lowered the most by beta blockers, had the greatest risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure and death (4).

Beta blockers DO NOT prevent heart failure in people with high blood pressure, and compared to other classes of antihypertensives, they raise the risk of stroke by 19% in elderly patients (3).

The authors of a major review on beta blockers concluded that

“despite the blood pressure lowering effect, beta-blockers have little, if any, efficacy in reducing stroke and MI [heart attack] in hypertensive patients as was shown in a variety of prospective, randomized trials and meta-analyses” (3).


#3. Calcium channel blockers dramatically increase the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, especially when combined with diuretics.

The Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study tracked over 30 000 women with hypertension but no history of cardiovascular disease (CVD), and compared the outcomes of women on a variety of different antihypertensive medications.

Women treated with calcium channel blockers (such as Norvasc, Adalat and Isoptin) alone had a 55% greater chance of dying from CVD than women treated with diuretics alone; while those on a combination of a calcium channel blocker plus a diuretic had a massive 85% greater risk of CVD death compared to those treated with a diuretic plus a ß-blocker. Even worse, when women with diabetes were excluded from the analysis, the risk rose to 116% greater! (5).


#4. Angiotensin receptor blockers increase cancer risk.

Angiotensin receptor blockers (such as Neosartan, Micardis and Pritor) affect hormone receptors involved in several factors relating to cancer growth: regulation of cell proliferation, angiogenesis (the development of a new blood supply, allowing a tumour to grow), and tumour progression. Researchers found an 11% increased risk of cancer in patients who had been on an angiotensin receptor blocker for at least 1 year, while lung cancer risk was 25% higher (6).

Old fashioned drug bottle with label, isolated, clipping path.
#5. Over-aggressive treatment of high blood pressure by any drug increases the risk of death in people with coronary artery disease (which is virtually everyone over the age of 60 who has eaten the typical Australian diet).

An analysis of 22 576 patients with hypertension and coronary artery disease found that the patients whose diastolic blood pressure was lowered to 60-70 mm Hg had almost double the risk of death or nonfatal heart attack or stroke compared to those with a diastolic pressure of 80-90 mm Hg, while those diastolic BP was pushed down to 60 mm Hg or less had triple the risk! (7).

Given these extremely worrying findings, what is a person with high blood pressure supposed to do? If you have recently discovered you have high blood pressure but are not yet on medication, I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of adopting a comprehensive blood pressure lowering program, incorporating dietary change, regular exercise and stress management.

Many of my clients have achieved phenomenal results after just a couple of weeks on my program, lowering their blood pressure to the point where their GP told them they no longer needed medication.

Obviously, if you are already on blood pressure medication, you cannot simply stop taking it abruptly. I advise clients who are taking antihypertensives to buy a home blood pressure monitor when they commence my blood pressure-lowering program. They take their BP regularly, present the results to their GP, and as their blood pressure drops (which it invariably does), the GP can gradually reduce their antihypertensive medication.

Several of my clients have experienced such dramatic drops in blood pressure that they had to halve their medication in the first week of following the program, because their blood pressure dropped uncomfortably low!

The bottom line: if you have high blood pressure, you need to be on an integrated program that addresses all the factors that cause blood pressure to rise in the first place, and therefore lowers your risk of heart attack, heart failure and stroke – not a drug that simply forces your blood pressure down, while increasing your risk of dying!

 

20
Jul

Vegan Coconut Spiced Lentils

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With just a hint of chilli, this is the perfect winter warmer. It’s easy on the wallet and the waist line and even reheats well for tomorrow’s lunch

By Cassie Heneghan

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2cm piece ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, ground
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, ground
  • 1 tsp flaked salt
  • 1 birds eye chilli, thinly sliced
  • 1 x kaffir lime leaf
  • 3/4 cup red lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tbsp moist shredded coconut
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp coconut cream
  • 1 x bunch coriander, roughly chopped, to serve
  • juice of 1 lime, to serve

1. Using a 2 litre saucepan, heat the oil over a medium heat and then add the onion, garlic and ginger and saute for 5 minutes or until golden. Add the spices and lime leaf and stir through, constantly for 2 minutes.

2. Add the lentils, coconut and stock and allow to simmer over low, stirring every 3 minutes, until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the lentils are cooked. Approximately 20 minutes.

3. Stir through the coconut milk and serve into bowls. Top with coriander and lime juice.