The Way Gut Bacteria Affects Anxiety and Depression Will Blow Your Mind

 “Every molecule in your brain starts at the end of your fork.” ~ Dr. Drew Ramsay (Nutritional psychiatrist).

Have you ever had a gut feeling about a person or a situation, or perhaps had butterflies in your stomach? Has hunger ever changed your mood? It certainly brings on grumpiness in my children!

Our digestive system and brain are physically and biochemically connected in a number of ways, meaning the state of our gut microbiome can alter the way our brains work and behave, giving a whole new meaning to ‘food for thought’!

In my first post, What You Need to Know About the Most Influential Organ in Your Body I covered some pretty startling facts about the microbiome, but today I’m focussing on how the second brain in our gut microbiome can literally ‘speak’ to the brain in our heads, controlling mood as well as impacting on our mental health.

#MicrobiomeMorsel: There are more microbes in the gut alone than there are cells in our bodies.

Lifestyle and the Microbiome

Hippocrates was telling everyone back in 400 BC that all disease begins in the gut, and that food is your medicine.

Life in the 21st century has strayed a long way from this ethos. Global populations live mostly in urban areas and are exposed to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs,) such as Glyphosate which is prevalent in the western food chain. We lead busy, stressful lives, with many relying on shelf-stable, processed food that is high in sugar and salt, with no nutritional content, which have been designed and marketed for taste buds and not for health.

Simple carbohydrates such as pasta and white bread are another nail in the coffin. Whilst we all resort to pizzas and fast-food once in a while, it’s worth remembering that on a regular basis, convenience kills. And it kills us with a raft of modern plagues because it is damaging our microbiota.

If we don’t feed our microbiota with the food to make them flourish then we are self-harming at a fundamental level.

Western medicine, it seems, has a pill for every ill. Drugs are adding to the problem rather than solving it – what has been termed rather aptly as ‘Pharmaggedon’.

There are 50 million prescriptions for anti-depressants every year in the UK alone.

Poor gut health is the root cause of the global health crisis we see today: obesity, diabetes, allergies, auto-immune and disgestive disorders, and believe it or not, mental health challenges like depression, anxiety, OCD and autism.

Obesity and diabetes alone threaten to bankrupt the NHS in the next 10 years unless as a society we take a more proactive attitude to our wellbeing.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: If you fix the gut, you fix the problem!

The genes contained in the microbiome outnumber our human genes by 100 to 1 – and by that reckoning we are only 1% human! We are literally walking bacterial colonies. Humans have evolved over millennia alongside these micro-organisms in a symbiotic relationship.

The Invisible Universe of the Human Microbiome:

The friendly, essential bacteria helps us to synthesise and absorb nutrients, control appetite, manage weight, make short chain fatty acids (SCFA’s such as Butyratethe primary source of fuel for the cells of the colon), activate our genes, regulate metabolism, signal the immune system (of which 75% resides in the gut), and affect our mood and skin.

Harmful pathogens can upset the balance and if not rectified, a toxic gut microbiome will evolve, known as dysbiosis– a dangerous state indeed.

Causes of Dysbiosis

In addition to a poor diet, a toxic environment caused by traffic pollution, pesticides/heavy metals in food, personal and household products; emotional stress is also a big factor. Because the microbiome is so sensitive, even two hours of severe upset and worry can have a negative impact.

When we are under emotional stress our bodies are gearing up for an emergency response, and need extra fuel, therefore using more of the amino acid L-Glutamine, which is stored in the gut lining.

The mucous membranes are the primary interface between the external environment and the internal environment of the body. Most absorption of nutrients and toxins occurs across the mucous membrane. Most pathogens enter the body by binding to and penetrating the mucous membranes.

If this becomes ravaged over time the damage to the gut lining causes leaky gut, where pathogens escape through the now permeable gut wall, and can travel all over the body, igniting many potential health challenges.

Inflammation starts in the gut but generally ends up manifesting in any number of symptoms:

  • Constipation/diarrhea – many people who suffer with depression also suffer with constipation or dysfunction of the gut.
  • Gas and bloating
  • IBS
  • Joint and muscle aches and pains
  • Anemia
  • Increase in allergies
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Immune dysfunction

Inflammation Assesment Quiz

The Second Brain

Our gut microbiome is part of the Enteric Nervous System and weighs about the same as our brain. Even though our brain only makes up 2% of our body weight it uses up to 20% of our energy resources. Inflammation in the Gastrointestinal tract also directly impacts the levels of the feel good chemicals of serotonin and dopamine in the brain.

Through evolution our species has had 4 billion years of optimising inter-cellular communication. Our second brains have 100 million nerve cells sandwiched in between layers of the gut which regulate digestive processes. These nerve pathways go both ways, but predominantly travel from the gut to the brain via the Vagus Nerve.

These powerful neurotransmitters and sensors communicate with our brain which then processes the information and acts accordingly. The second brain can survive being cut off from the brain via the Vagus Nerve but cannot generate conscious thought.

A fascinating TED talk about how our bellies control our brains by Ruairi Robertson:

Moody Microbes!

A whopping 95% of the serotonin used by our bodies is stored and produced in the gut in special cells; by far the largest store of that molecule that plays such a crucial role in modulating our mood and wellbeing, appetite, pain, sleep and sensitivity.

Serotonin is synthesized in the gut from precursors that come from the food we ingest, because the microbes that live in our gut microbiome produce powerful mood regulating neurotransmitters.

It is estimated that 60% of chemical production in the body is due to signals that come from our gut bacteria.

Food for thought…

The food you eat determines the bacteria you grow in your ‘gut garden’.  Bacteria turn on different genes, and genes either prevent or activate disease. Bacteria follow the diet not the other way around…

Ladies, be aware that the contraceptive pill depletes vitamin B12, folate, zinc levels and kills off beneficial bacteria. When certain beneficial bacteria are missing from the microbiome, so is their protection from disease.

Cravings – the devil in your gut!

In my best Bridget Jones moments I used to regularly sit and consume a whole bar of Galaxy after my evening meal. I felt powerless to resist these cravings.

If bad bacteria and fungi such as Candida Albicans get out of control they communicate via the information highway from the gut to the brain that you must consume sugar, which they thrive on. It’s almost impossible to resist.

The more they get fed the more they crowd out the good guys and the more acidic our bodies become, creating a cycle of cravings for carbs, sugar and chocolate, continually feeding our harmful bacteria, creating a vicious cycle of dysbiosis and ultimately disease.

In my next installment I’ll cover the best foods and nutrients that promote a well balanced gut microbiome, as well as a holistic supplementary 21-day programme that turned my gut health around.

When you reset the gut and alter your body chemistry these cravings disappear – they did for me. Since last October chocolate has had absolutely no control over me whatsoever. Seven months and counting!

Helping people to improve their energy levels and overall health and wellness is a passion for me, so I will soon be setting up an Elite Health Page on the main menu, with links to my health articles (and others), as well as the Holy Grail of supplements I personally use to achieve elite health.

Until the next time, be well.

What You Need to Know About the Most Influential Organ in Your Body

You could be forgiven for thinking that the most influential organ in your body is your brain or your heart, but I’m going to suggest otherwise. All our organs are important, however the most influential organ that directly affects our brain, our heart, our digestion, our mood, our weight, our immunity and our overall health, is in fact not actually human…

It’s the microbiome.

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Our own cells though much bigger in volume and weight, are outnumbered ten to one by the cells of the microbes that live in and on us, our trillions of bacteria known as microbiota, the total sum of which constitutes the human microbiome.

#MicrobiomeMorsels

Right now, your body is hosting 100 trillion micro-organisms, a thriving megapolis of living, hardworking microbes. These colonies of microbiota that make us their ‘home’ live in environments as diverse as the geography of Earth. They may be small, but they are essential. Your inner ‘eco-system’ consists of over ten thousand identified species in strains and numbers unique to each of us, and when our inner eco-system flourishes so do we.

  • Did you know that only 10% of your cells contain your human DNA?
  • The other 90% consists of bacteria, fungi and microflora – termed by science as your microbiome; and it’s crucial to perform life sustaining functions.
  • The human microbiome could be considered an additional organ.
  • We all carry approximately 1-2 kg of microbes in our gut.
  • Astonishingly, up to 75 – 80% of your immune system is located in your gut.
  • Our microbiome is constantly evolving and is sensitive to food, air, toxins, antibiotics and cosmetics.

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A healthy gut flora benefits us in a myriad of ways, by performing life enhancing functions such as synthesising essential vitamins, phytonutrients and breaking down tough plant fibres.

Scientists are now discovering that inflammation starts in the gut, something that Hippocrates, the erudite father of medicine postulated thousands of years ago  when he said, “All disease begins in the gut”.

“This perception of the microbial side of ourselves is giving us a new view of our individuality. A new sense of our connection to the microbial world. A sense of the legacy of our personal interactions with our family and environment early in life. It’s causing us to pause and consider that there might be another dimension to our human evolution.”  ~ Professor Jeffrey Gordon

Think of the gut as the centre (or hub) of a wheel, with spokes leading to the neurological system, the vascular system, digestive system, lymphatic system, skin, hormonal system and saliva, (the oesophagus).

The glorious gut

If the environment of our gut is well balanced – meaning ‘good’ bacteria outweigh harmful bacteria, it allows our immune system to operate effectively and judge friend from foe in our bodies. It is the first, second and third line of defence: skin, mucous membrane and the gut.

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A healthy digestive system is crucial for the breakdown of food and optimal absorption of nutrients. If disease causing pathogens get out of control and start to rule the roost, ill health will follow. The scientific community believe that a toxic microbiome is the initiator of metabolic illness such as obesity and Cardiometabolic Syndrome.

A direct correlation can be seen between the consumption of simple carbohydrates, processed, shelf-stable foods, a more toxic environment and the rise in obesity over the last 60 years. Whether we like it or not, we are part of the largest nutrition experiment in the history of mankind. It doesn’t seem to be going too well for us collectively at the moment…

Scientific American: How Gut Bacteria Help Make Us Fat and Thin

Despite our advancements in medicine, there is a global health pandemic that is costing the NHS and health care providers in America almost 3 trillion dollars a year.

Does the Gut Microbiome Play a Role in Autoimmune Disease?

Allergies, digestive disorders, obesity, autoimmune conditions such as diabetes, MS, rheumatoid arthritis, crohn’s disease and lupus are a result of our bodies being in ‘metabolic dysfunction’.

This is how cardio metabolic health issues develop:

Inflammation > Metabolic Dysfunction > Insulin Resistance > Fat Deposition > Cardio Metabolic Syndrome.

Modern plagues: Cardiometabolic Syndrome

It seems we have eradicated infectious diseases that were rife in the 19th Century, such as smallpox, measles and polio; but in their place modern plagues have risen from the wastelands of our increasingly toxic microbiomes.

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You may know children, family or friends who suffer from asthma, hay fever, diabetes, nut allergies and eczema. Allergies affect around half the population in developed countries. I can’t be the only one who thinks this is not normal…

Innocuous and harmless substances such as pollen, dust, pet hair, milk, eggs and nuts are being treated by the body as harmful pathogens, so the immune system dutifully attacks what is perceived as germs that need to be removed from the body. And when the body’s immune system goes really rogue, it attacks the body’s own cells.

Type 1 Diabetes

In 1898 hospital records from Massachusetts General Hospital which were kept over 75 years for 500,000 patients indicated that there were only 21 cases of childhood type 1 Diabetes. By the time official records were created just before the Second World War the prevalence of type 1 diabetes could be tracked. Around 1 or 2 children in every 5,000 were affected in the US, UK and Scandinavia.

By 1973 type 1 diabetes was occurring 6 to 7 times more frequently than it had in the Thirties. In the Eighties the rise leveled off to 1 in 250 children. The rise in diabetes has been matched by an equivalent rise in obesity and autoimmune diseases.

Should we accept the increase in illness as a fact of life in the 21st century, when we have more knowledge and scientific advancement at our fingertips?

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Could it be that we have overlooked the fundamental role our colonies of bacteria and basic nutrition play in our well-being? Over the past decade emerging research and cutting-edge science into the human microbiome is answering that question with a resounding YES.

The Human Genome Project (HGP):

Scientists have turned to our genes, the blueprint of life, for answers to 21st century illnesses. The Human Genome Project unearthed genes that when mutated result in disease. But to blame our DNA entirely for the modern epidemic is unwise. The gene variant that might make someone more likely to become obese is not likely to become dramatically more common in the population as a whole inside a single century.

Evolution does not progress that quickly! Gene variants only grow more common though natural selection if they are beneficial to the species, or their detrimental effects are mitigated.

Science is left with two areas that are common to modern diseases: the immune system and the gut.

microbiome-hgp

When the Human Genome was decoded and mapped fully in 2003 and we could sequence our DNA, scientists were shocked to learn that human body has just shy of 21,000 genes, less than the water flea with 31,000 and half the number of the rice plant. Humans have a similar amount of genes as that of The Worm.  Holy cow, how could something as complex as a human being only have the same number of genes as a worm?!

The language of how God created life and the supposed key to our humanity did not live up to its hoped for power to heal diseases as President Clinton declared it would at the time.

The Human Microbiome Project (HMP)

The DNA sequencing technology invented during the HGP enabled another major genome-sequencing programme: The Human Microbiome Project.

The micro-organisms living in and on the human body contain a staggering 4.4 million genes.

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Now molecular biology has the tools to investigate how and why the microbiome is so fundamental to our well-being.

We have evolved over millennia by outsourcing our digestion to vast communities of bacteria. Our own 21,000 genes together with the 4.4 million genes of our collective microbiota collaborate in a mutually beneficially arrangement to run our bodies.

The HMP has revealed far more about what it means to be human than our own genome ever has.

Microbes matter

Another discovery was that the human appendix is far from a defunct organ as originally thought by Charles Darwin in his Descent of Man, (the follow up to The Origin of Species). For the hundred years that followed it earned a reputation as something of useless organ, exacerbated by its tendency to sometimes cause life threatening eruptions. By the 1950’s removal of the appendix was one of the most commonly performed operations in the developed world.

microbiome-joke

But natural selection did not eliminate the appendix, and scientists now know that the appendix serves as a safe haven for life sustaining microbes; a microbial stockpile that comes in handy when food poisoning or gastrointestinal infection strikes, enabling the gut to be repopulated with its friendly inhabitants that were lurking in the appendix.

Public sanitation systems in the developed world are relatively recent inventions in the history of our species. To some degree they have masked the fact that we utterly depend on our microbiota for health and happiness.

Antibiotics – the nemesis of our gut-flora

Doctors are only just waking up to the damage that widespread over prescribing broad spectrum antibiotics is doing, not just solely because pathogens are developing resistance to them, but more so now in how they wage chemical warfare on our colonies of friendly bacteria, adversely altering our microbiome and body chemistry.

It’s devastating when a wild fire rips through forests and woodlands, destroying all plant life. This is what happens to the diverse, friendly bacteria when you take a 7 day course of antibiotics. Scientists have found that just one round of antibiotics can disrupt your gut flora for up to two years. Multiple rounds of antibiotics are wreaking havoc on the very microbes we depend on for our health in new generations.

Studies have shown that only 6% of American children have the microbe H. Pylori in their microbiome by the time they reach age fifteen. H. Pylori communicate directly with the brain about Ghrelin levels. Grhelin tells your brain you are hungry. If Ghrelin is unregulated you never feel full.

microbiome-images

After reading about the microbiome and the relevant scientific evidence I almost started to view myself not so much as an individual, as more a vessel for my microbiota!

But as Alanna Collen, author of 10% Human puts it:

“I see us – myself and my microbes as a team. But, as in any relationship I will only get what I give. I am their provider and protector, and in return they sustain and nourish me. I find myself thinking about my meal choices in terms of what my microbes would be grateful or, and my mental and physical health as markers of my worthiness as a host to them. They are my own personal colony, and their preservation is worth as much to me as the well-being of the cells of my own body.”

I’ll be getting inside our guts in more detail in future posts, covering the link between the gut and the brain, why we get cravings, the microbiome in infancy, the nutrients and diet we need to heal, and a detoxification, cleansing and re-balancing solution.

Tackling the root cause of illness means focusing on the microbiome and the gut. Fix the gut and you fix the problem!

But for now, just remember: whatever you eat also feeds your microbiota, both the good and bad – you never dine alone!

Heart Matters: The Amazing Benefits of The ‘Miracle Molecule’

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” ~ Hippocrates

Welcome to the third and final installment of my ‘Heart Matters’ posts. I’d like to start by asking you two questions:

Is it a priority for you to protect yourself from age and lifestyle related disease?

Would you like to age slowly and be able to keep fit and healthy, with plenty of energy and optimal vitality to live your life to the full, regardless of how old you are?

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If the answer is yes, then it’s crucial to pay attention to your cardio vascular system. Your cardiovascular system delivers vital oxygen and nutrients via your blood throughout sixty thousand miles of blood vessel network to nearly 100 trillion cells that make up the human body.

In my second post on Heart Matters I covered some sobering statistics about cardio vascular disease. To summarize: the WHO cite cardio vascular disease as the leading cause of mortality, responsible for more than 50% of deaths in the western world – killing more people than cancer, diabetes and prescription drugs combined.

1998 Nobel Prize for Medicine

Dr. Louis Ignarro, distinguished Professor of Pharmacology at UCLA School of Medicine is a co-recipient of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Medicine. He spent over two decades researching cardio vascular health, which lead to the discovery that Nitric Oxide (NO) is the master signalling molecule of the cardio vascular system.

The wide-ranging health benefits of Nitric Oxide was such a ground-breaking and important discovery that scientists dubbed it THE MIRACLE MOLECULE.

It is the human body that is the real miracle however, and when it has enough of the right potent nutrition it can begin to regain balance and achieve optimum health.

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Nitric Oxide

Nitric Oxide is a gas that is produced naturally by the body, in the single cell that lines the entire inside of our blood vessels, known as the ENDOTHELIUM. It is also produced in the thyroid. Up until our twenties our bodies produce 100% of Nitric Oxide (NO), but every decade thereafter this production slows significantly, causing a hardening and thickening of the arteries and build-up of fatty material – plaque.

health-nitricoxide-infographic-en

Left unchecked this can lead to heart-attack, stroke, vascular dementia and other illness. Smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise and a genetic predisposition can accelerate the degeneration of cardio vascular health. In fact, low levels of Nitric Oxide can cause every disease known to man.

Despite our advancements in medicine, modern healthcare and availability of drugs, the world is sicker than it’s ever been. This would indicate that big pharma and drugs are not the answer.

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So how do you bring your body back into balance if it’s not operating like a well-oiled machine?

Ancient wisdom holds the answer!

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The answer lies in our daily habits and in preventative measures. I’m going to share with you some of Dr. Louis Ignarro’s findings from his book, NO More Heart Disease – How Nitric Oxide Can Prevent – Even Reverse – Heart Disease and Strokes.

Essentially Nitric Oxide relaxes and enlarges blood vessels (vasodilation), heals the endothelium, normalises blood pressure, prevents blood clots that trigger strokes and heart attacks and protects against the accumulation of vascular plaque.

The 1998 Nobel Prize discovery also led to the first practical application of his research, the development of Viagra. Since then further science-led innovation has produced natural, plant based supplements that have a positive impact on the entire body.

NO to the Rescue

Specifically, here is why sufficient levels of NO are so important in preventing arteriosclerosis. If the endothelial cells on the inner surface of your blood vessels are damaged in any way, other types of cells in the blood, monocytes and leukocytes, can storm through the vessel wall, accumulate, and imbed themselves in the smooth layer muscle. The invasion complete, these cells release chemicals called inflammatory mediators that trigger inflammation in the smooth muscle, setting the atherosclerotic process of plaque formation into motion and resulting in blocked blood flow.

Once plaque forms in the arteries, it is much more difficult to undo the damage than to prevent it in the first place.  

~ Dr. Louis J. Ignarro

Why should you care about your Nitric Oxide levels?

  • Nitric Oxide (NO) is the body’s own wonder drug.
  • NO is one of the most significant molecules in the body.
  • NO influences the functioning of virtually every human organ, from the heart to the lungs to the stomach.
  • Adequate levels of NO may play a role in preventing and supporting conditions such as diabetes, alzheimer’s disease, erectile dysfunction (ED), rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, high cholesterol, menopause symptoms, obesity, kidney disease, migraine headaches, infections, inflammatory disease such as Crohn’s Disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis and ulcers.

In my humble opinion this discovery by Dr. Louis Ignarro and his colleagues should go down in history as one of the greatest discoveries ever made in the field of medicine.

You may be wondering, how do I increase my intake of NO?

Dietary Supplementation with L-Arginine and L-Citrulline

When taken in enough quantities the amino acids L-Arginine and L-Citrulline form long-lasting levels of NO in the body. These can of course be found in different types of food: fish such as salmon and oysters, watermelon, almonds, dark chocolate, peanuts, soy and red meat (in moderation). Due to over farming and the use of chemicals our soils have been depleted of nutrients so it’s tough to get enough NO from diet alone.

Other types of food that contribute to a healthy heart and cardio vascular system are phytonutrients, foods rich in antioxidants, foods rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, heart-healthy fats and 400 to 800 mcgs per day of folic acid.

In his book Dr. Ignarro also shares case studies highlighting the importance of regular exercise for the cardio vascular system and indeed, overall health.

Dr. Louis Ignarro talks about his research into Nitric Oxide and disease prevention:

A short pdf document about Nitric Oxideno_manual_en

I strongly recommend you get his book on Amazon if you want more in depth information on this subject as I am not a doctor. However, I am passionate about well-being and helping others achieve Elite Health.

According to Dr. Ignarro we each need between 5-20 grams per day of NO depending on the state of our health. Because L-Arginine and L-Citrulline can be taken in large quantities with no side effects or toxicity, this means that supplementation is safe.

A completely natural, plant based solution: ProArgi-9+

I’d like to share my personal story with you.  I’ve been supplementing for just a few months with high quality, targeted nutraceuticals, (one of which is ProArgi-9+), and my health has reached a level I never thought possible in my late forties.

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In the first few weeks I experienced some detoxification symptoms, I could feel something was happening. I was thirsty and began to drink more water during this period. I found my usually healthy appetite was diminished and my energy levels began to soar.

After about three weeks the brain fog I didn’t know I had cleared (like a morning mist), and was replaced with a feeling of mental clarity. At the time I started taking the supplements I was suffering with mild depression – I was exhausted all the time (it’s tough working full-time with three children at home as well as all the domestic chores and extra-curricular activities that entails), but since then my mood has been massively elevated, even on bad days. I frequently work 12-18 hour days, something I haven’t been able to do since my twenties. The quality of my sleep (even though I don’t get enough), is much better also. With so many projects on the go and energetic children to take care of this has been a god send.

I also noticed the soreness in my knees reduced and has now completely gone, and the quality of my hair has been transformed. It’s fuller and more vibrant, hair loss has been dramatically reduced and even the number of grey hairs has reduced with new, darker re-growth. My skin improved, my eyesight improved and my muscle tone improved.

I lost almost a stone in weight and other health issues I had no longer bother me.

I can now complete my Zumba classes without feeling like I’m going to have a heart attack and keep up with women half my age. The chronic muscle stiffness that would plague me for days afterwards as I walked around like a plank has virtually disappeared.

Never in my wildest dreams did I expect these kinds of results when I first started taking ProArgi-9+ and the V3 system.

What a gift!

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To think it’s one that I could have passed over sends shivers down my spine. My mother has an even more inspiring story. It has reduced her life-threateningly high blood pressure into the normal range so that she has been able to discontinue her medications. It has enabled her to continue flying and teaching people how to fly gliders, one of her passions in life.

If you have high blood pressure:

I’m eternally grateful to my business partner, Kim Bradley for introducing me to this scientifically validated product and Synergy Worldwide, the ethical, Forbes 100 nutritional company that produces it.  Synergy is the only nutritional company to be classified by Forbes as one of America’s most trustworthy companies.

I love working with Kim and she was recently recognised with a well deserved award for her caring and competent leadership by Synergy at their European Summit last week in Vienna.

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No other natural supplement except for ProArgi-9+  appears in the Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR) in the USA, where it is listed as the ‘highest quality L-Arginine supplement in the world’.

Clinical studies also prove that ProArgi-9+ reduces LDL oxidised cholesteral which is a precursor to heart disease. pa9_synergyadvantage2

It has had a profound effect on my life – giving me back my zest for life, my high energy levels, my self-confidence and renewed passion for all the things that I want to do and achieve with my life.

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I’m on a mission to educate everyone I care about, so they can experience similar health benefits in their own lives.

By the end of November I will have my new website linked to my blog under the heading Elite Health.

Well-being is an ever evolving continuum between disease and optimal health. Most people are somewhere in the middle of the scale, but if you’d like to move further towards the health end it means taking control of factors like diet, lifestyle and efficacious supplementation.

It’s probably fair to say that many of us spend more money on maintaining our cars, on entertainment, alcohol and posh cups of coffee than we do investing in our long term health.

Even professional athletes can see the value in improved sporting performance with quicker recovery times. And unlike the unfortunate and misguided Maria Sharapova, who took the banned substance Meldonium and was subsequently suspended from playing tennis, these nutraceuticals are all food based and approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

I’m happy to offer that same gift to you – and give you more information about the science behind these nutraceuticals and how they can change your life for the better. I can communicate with you by email, Skype, over the phone, or via Gotomeeting.

If you’d like to know more, do get in touch with me via Twitter (@Ginsterbabe) or on my blog contact page and we can start a potentially life-changing conversation!

“As a nation we spend close to a 100 billion dollars a year fighting heart disease. As baby boomers reach retirement age that figure is going to double in the next 20 years. Yet we spend less than 2 billion dollars a year in preventing heart disease. Simple nutritional supplements and lifestyle modifications would be the most cost effective way of preventing heart disease. Focusing our attention on lifestyle changes we believe is the best way to prevent heart disease not only in the adult population but especially among our children.”

~ Dr. Siva Arunasalam (Internal Medicine, Invasive and Non-Invasive Cardiology) Director High Desert Heart Institute, USA.

What Can a Good Cup of Herbal Tea do for You?

After a full-on festive season of preparations, carol singing, wrapping, unwrapping, eating, drinking, more eating and drinking, tidying up and blustery walks to shift the seasonal excess…or the odd yule time overindulgence; it’s time for tea…

Specifically: healthy, tasty, freshly made herbal tea, created by the wonderfully gifted and passionate herbalist, Alice Nugent, founder of the Hippopot!

Alice Nugent, founder of the Hippopot

Alice Nugent, founder of the Hippopot

I had the pleasure of meeting Alice a few weeks before Christmas at various Athena and training events, but it was great to get to know her better and learn about her many skills, when I visited her quaint and well stocked ‘tea house’ in Marlow recently.

Alice has a warm, welcoming African smile; her enthusiasm for life is totally infectious. On that particular morning I was pumped with adrenaline, I had a list of things to do a mile long before the end of the day as Christmas was fast approaching, and she must have sensed my excess of nervous and physical energy.

A few minutes later Alice had prepared me a wonderful brew she calls Serenity, a mixture of chamomile flowers, lemon verbena, oatstraw, passiflora leaves, spearmint, violet leaves, skullcap leaves, hibiscus blossoms, rosehip peel, apple pieces, elderberries, blackberries, strawberry and raspberry.

Hippopot - Serenity tea

A Hippopot special brew – the Serenity Tea

Alice grows many of the flowers and herbs in her back garden as well as sourcing them from specialist suppliers, making a large variety of different teas and also teas for the four seasons of the year.

Her life story is fascinating…

Alice’s love for natural, healing herbs and plants stemmed from her early childhood experiences. She spent her formative years roaming the land near her remote home in Francungo in the Tete Province of Mozambique, where she lived on a farm with her mum and dad, two older brothers and three sisters. They reared chickens, goats and pigs as well as growing beans, vegetables and rice. She still has a cousin who’s a chief in the border lands of Kanyemba!

Her eyes glass over as she remembers wandering in the bush and picking indigenous plants. Their nearest neighbours were two miles away.

At the age of six Alice was sent to live with her aunt in Harare, Zimbabwe, where she benefited from a full-time education. She returned home for a visit to her parents every six months.

Alice first trained as a secretary in Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Zimbabwe Medical School. Working for the lecturers there reignited her interest in herbs. She then went on to study beauty therapy at polytechnic and worked in a salon. Meanwhile, her interest in health hadn’t waned, and she began to learn about aromatherapy.

In 1993 Alice and family moved to Lagos, Nigeria, in connection with her husband’s work. Four years later they decided to move to the UK.

Alice turned her attention to learning reflexology at Ellesmere College, and when her husband got a posting in London she worked at a spa in a posh Hilton hotel. During this time she studied herbal medicine at Westminster University for four years, and is now a qualified Medical Herbalist BSc (Hons), as well as a member of the National Institute of Medical herbalists (NIMH), and the College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy (CCP). Every year Alice does a CPD course to ensure that she is up-to-date with the latest research and methods in her profession.

The Hippopot clinic – Alice calls it the pool, (as in hippo pool, in reference to her African roots), has been established in her special cabin for two years (and a year in Marlow High Street before that) and is going from strength to strength.

The shelves are lined with immaculately labelled bottles and boxes and it’s the perfect ambience to sit quietly with a cup of cha to have a chat.

All the herbs used in Hippopot teas are categorised by their Latin names.

All the herbs used in Hippopot teas are categorised by their Latin names.

I discovered that viscum album is actually mistletoe!

So in addition to a vast range of pre-made teas, Alice offers free consultations for local residents where she can assess the individual’s health and make a bespoke tea/tincture infusion tailored to their needs.

As Alice points out to me, herbs work together in nature…

She also makes special herbal tinctures and creams. The tinctures are alcohol based and the herbs are infused over a month. Alice is fully covered under the Medicine Act for her services. She can only sell the tinctures after a consultation, but her delicious and healthy teas can be purchased from the Hippopot website and sent around the world…

The Hippopot Tea Shop.

Alice doesn’t use anything from the ‘tea’ plant itself; therefore all her teas are free of green, black tea and caffeine, preservatives and additives. They contain purely natural herbs. The Hippopot also sells accessories for tea lovers, such as pots, strainers and cups which are sourced from the German tea company DNB.

So I urge you to purge your body of its Christmas induced ‘toxins’ and try some of her delicious and effective teas. They aid in bringing balance back to the body.

If that isn’t enough, Alice runs courses for those interested in learning about herbal medicine, and her next session will be on Saturday 6th February from 10 am to 4 pm at the Hippo Pool in Marlow. The cost of the training is £85.00 and the focus will be on Winter health and herbs. It goes without saying Alice will provide top quality refreshments!

On top of being a mum and a medical herbalist, Alice is also raising much needed funds for Malawi orphans.

A short, fun video about the history of herbal medicine:

Needless to say, by the end of our meeting my whole body had relaxed and an aura of calm had descended over me. Serenity certainly did its job!

“Food is our medicine” ~ Alice Nugent

I’d like to finish by thanking everyone who has followed my blog this year and taken the time to read some of my posts; I wish you the best of health and abundance for 2016.

Happy New Year!

10 Reasons Why Coconut Oil is sooooo Good for You!

In Sanskrit, coconuts are called ‘Kalpa Vriksha’, which means ‘the tree that gives all that is necessary for living.’

Coconut_Tree_in_Tamilnadu

I’ve been consuming coconut oil on a regular basis for about five months now, and I love it. Where I previously used extra virgin olive oil I mostly use coconut oil. It’s fabulous for cooking with, but as well as ingesting it you can use it topically for skin and hair. Coconut oil is such an all-rounder. Those tropical fuzzy brown balls really are the complete superfood…

I use Lucy Bee’s extra virgin organic coconut oil for cooking and Biona virgin organic coconut oil for skin and hair. Just before bed I usually slather it on my face and body, and it soaks in quite quickly, leaving your skin soft and smooth with a subtle tropical scent.

Biona coconut oil

No wonder people who live in Asia and the Pacific Islands generally live so long and look so young; they are using nature’s nectar!

Coconut oil has been used for food and medicinal purposes for thousands of years, indigenous people learned it had enormous health benefits. It could well be the healthiest oil on earth.

The Saturated Fat Myth

You’ve probably heard or read that saturated fats are bad for you. In Western society the message has come over loud and clear: they clog your arteries, raise cholesterol, cause heart-attacks and more; but that’s just plain wrong! Not all fats are bad.

keep-calm-coconut-quote

The devil of fats is actually man-made trans fats (from hydrogenated oils), the sort you find in most commercial oils and which are used to prolong shelf-life in many processed foods . Any time any oil is artificially hydrogenated it creates a molecular distortion of its fatty acids, converting them into trans-fats. The more unprocessed and raw foods you can include in your diet the better.

Unrefined coconut oil is a natural saturated fat as opposed to a man-made saturated fat. The saturated fats in organic virgin coconut oil are ESSENTIAL to good health (in moderate dosage), as part of a healthy diet. There are no harsh toxic chemicals being put into your body or onto your skin.

Dr. Bruce Fife (author of The Coconut Oil Miracle), talks about the benefits of coconut oil:

10 Reasons to use pure, organic, unrefined virgin Coconut oil:

  1. Skin care. It’s brilliant for many types of skin problems such as acne, dry and cracked skin, dermatitis, eczema, itchy skin (e.g. yeast infections such as candida albicans), oily skin, pathogens, psoriasis, infections, wound healing and for anti-ageing in prevention of wrinkles. Mixed with certain essential oils it can even be used as a bug repellent cream. The properties in coconut oil make it antibiotic, antifungal and antimicrobial. It’s completely natural and can be blended with other ingredients to make scrubs, facials and emollient treatments. Coconut oil works well as a carrier oil in conjunction with essential oils that are used in aromatherapy.
  2. coconut oil on harHair Care. As with skin, coconut oil can work wonders on dry, brittle, over heated and over treated tresses! Most over the counter treatments are a cocktail of toxic chemicals unless you know the brands that are completely free of parabens and sulfates. The Journal of Cosmetic Science published a study in 2003 where researchers found that coconut oil reduces protein loss in both healthy and damaged hair when used both before and after washing hair. It is an effective pre-wash treatment for damaged hair as the oil coats and protects the hair from water damage. The fatty acids enter the hair shaft and lock in the proteins, and it’s also a great de-tangler!
  3. Coconut oil contains MCTsMedium-chain triglycerides. Why should you care about that? MCTs comprise about two thirds of the total composition of coconut oil. Other vegetable oils are made up of LCTs – Long-chain triglycerides, which are more complex than MCTs and are harder for the body to digest and break down into energy. MCTs enhance your body’s ability to convert fat to energy and are a healthy source of energy as they’re sent straight to the liver. MCTs as part of a healthy diet are not typically stored as fat.
  4. Coconut-and-Coconut-OilLauric Acid (found in abundance in breast milk) forms around fifty percent of the MCTs in coconut oil. Your body converts lauric acid into Monolaurin, which has antifungal, antiviral and antimicrobial properties. Hence coconut oil is a natural remedy for bacterial infections, yeast infections and athlete’s foot among other conditions.  You don’t need to worry about bacteria building up resistance to coconut oil as you would with antibiotics prescribed by a GP because your body doesn’t recognise it as an ‘invader’ and won’t start to build up immunities against it. That’s one powerful natural antibiotic! Coconut oil contains roughly 6 to 8 grams of lauric acid per tablespoon. The secondary fatty acids are caprylic acid, capric acid and myristic acid.
  5. Aids your body with Vitamin E absorption. Whilst coconut oil does not have high levels of Vitamin E it has been shown to assist your body to absorb it in your diet. Vitamin E is a bit of a miracle worker. It helps with muscle growth, blocks polyunsaturated fats from oxidizing, helps to regenerate and repair damaged tissue and wounds, it’s an anti-oxidant that protects your cells from free radicals which are unstable molecules that can wreak havoc in the body, and it also promotes neurological health.
  6. Instant energy boost & weight loss. Because your body can easily digest coconut oil and utilises the MCTs much more quickly than other types of fatty acids it gives you an instant energy boost, and because it’s not stored as fat in the body you can keep your weight at healthy levels in conjunction with exercise and a healthy diet. Obesity is usually quite rare in cultures that consume coconut oil.
  7. Controls cholesterol. Coconut oil promotes healthy HDL cholesterol levels and lowers the bad LDL cholesterol.
  8. A balanced metabolism. Current research is pointing to coconut oil being able to correct thyroid malfunction. The Alternative Daily Special Report: Coconut Oil Exposed.
  9. Coconut oil is stable at high temperatures. It’s great for cooking with and can be used for frying, roasting and baking. Coconut oil can also be used raw and unheated in soups, smoothies, or combined with vinegar, honey and olive oil to make a scrumptious salad dressing, for flavouring coffee, melted and drizzled over roasted vegetables, drizzled over rice, on baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, used to scramble and fry eggs, or spread on toast. There are a myriad of different recipies online and in books.
  10. Supports the immune system. The antiviral properties of coconut oil can help to fight off and lessen the severity of colds and flu. It can be taken as a supplement in warm tea to help alleviate sinus congestion, and externally when mixed with a little eucalyptus oil it can be rubbed on your chest as a natural decongestant.

Storage

To prolong the life of your coconut oil, keep it in a cool, dark environment away from heat, light and oxygen. Coconut oil is slow to oxidise and turn rancid when kept this way.

There isn’t a recommended daily intake amount for coconut oil but some health experts advise taking 2 to 3 tablespoons per day.

coconut trees

No wonder diseases such as cancer and diabetes are on the rise. In our increasingly polluted environment our bodies are continually assaulted by the elements, man-made chemicals and from processed and genetically modified food, so it makes sense to protect them with nature’s nectar!

It may not be an instant magical elixir that will cure all your ailments or help you to lose weight overnight, but I do know what it has done for me, and I can wholeheartedly recommend it.

“He who plants a coconut tree plants food and drink, vessels and clothing, a home for himself and a heritage for his children” ~ South Seas saying