Archive for the ‘Digestion’ Category

Boosting energy with high energy foods

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Summer is here, the days are longer and the nights are shorter and you want to feel as energetic as possible to make the best of them. In the last few issues of Natural News we’ve looked at a number of ways to boost your energy naturally. Last month we looked at herbal energy boosting helpers. This month and next we’ll take a look at natural ways to boost your energy through simple dietary changes.

Discover the zest

There’s a reason nutritionists tend to recommend lemon juice as the first drink of the morning. If you’ve ever been to a health farm or to India for that matter, you’ll know that lemon juice is typically drunk immediately on waking. The reason is that lemon juice is a wonderful digestive aid. If your digestive system isn’t functioning optimally it doesn’t matter how many so-called ‘super foods’ you eat, you won’t be getting the ‘good-for-you’ nutrients your body needs to produce energy.


Lemon juice, being a digestion-boosting power-house with an energising tangy flavour, is therefore exactly the right drink to kick start both your metabolism and your energy levels first thing. So as soon as you wake up – before getting dressed or having breakfast – drink a glass of lemon juice.

To make energy-boosting lemonade you will need:


           2 tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice (approx. ½ to 1 organic or unwaxed lemon)

           300-500ml water

           1 tsp organic Grade B maple syrup (optional)

           pinch cayenne pepper


Use fresh lemons only, and mix your lemonade fresh just before drinking. Adding a pinch of cayenne pepper adds extra zing to the flavour as well as a stimulatory heating effect that speeds cleansing and elimination. Grade B maple syrup (Grade A is over-processed and refined) adds a sweet taste for those who find the drink too bitter.


Dynamic breakfasts

A mobile phone needs recharging regularly so that its battery doesn’t run down, and it’s the same with your body. When you wake up in the morning your body has been without food for many hours and it needs refuelling.


The old cliché about breakfast being the most important meal is true. Brains need a regular supply of glucose to function, and in the morning there isn’t much glucose up there, so never skip breakfast. If you do you’re likely to hit an energy wall at around 10am. Eating breakfast will boost your energy first thing and help stop your blood sugar from dipping during the morning. In other words, it will give your body and mind the energy they need to function optimally, setting you up for the day ahead.


Eating breakfast also kick starts your metabolism (fat-burning), so if you have weight to lose, skipping breakfast is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. You need to get your metabolism up and running as soon as possible so that it isn’t on hold during the day and clinging onto the fat reserves you don’t need.


You may not feel like eating 2 minutes after you jump out of bed, so give yourself a little time to wake up before eating. And don’t just grab any food for breakfast; you need to make sure that what you are eating is optimum fuel for your body and brain. Avoid coffee/tea, white bread and muffins and sugary cereals made from refined grains because these will only give you a short lift and then your blood sugar can come crashing down. Make long lasting energy-boosting choices instead.


Dynamic breakfast choices include:

• A bowl of organic cereal that is low in fat, sugar and salt with milk (organic cow’s, organic soya or rick milk) with a herb tea.

            • A boiled egg and wholemeal or rye toast with fruit smoothie.

• Porridge topped with berries and ground nuts or seeds and a herb tea.

• For rushed mornings, a fruit or protein smoothie can be made the night before. In the morning just shake it up and drink as you get ready to start your day.


Freedom from trans fats

Banned in Denmark, and linked to cardiovascular disease and weight gain – trans fatty acids must go. If you ditch the transfats you will eat less of the junk that clogs your system and leaves you feeling sluggish, tired and bloated. In the long term you can also stave off high cholesterol. One study showed that by increasing consumption of trans fats by just 2% it can increase the risk of heart disease by a massive 30%.


Many manufactured foods have trans fats in them, including margarine, cakes, pies, biscuits, some vegetable oils and ready meals, as well as cheap chocolate, confectionary and ice cream. Instead of margarine it is better to go for a small amount of organic butter. Look on the label in the ingredient list for the words ‘hydrogenated fats’ as this is how the trans fats will appear. 


Avoid the rush

The typical way many of us find ourselves eating is a small or non-existent breakfast followed by a light snack during the day and a big meal at night. Sometimes people don’t eat anything at all until their evening meal which can be as late as 8.30pm. Stacking your calories like this isn’t a good idea and will almost certainly lead to fatigue and energy-draining weight gain.


In the fasted state your body will reduce your metabolism (fat-burning) and then – when you do eat before you go to bed – your body has little opportunity to produce energy and burn any of the calories that have been consumed. The result: poor digestion, weight gain and fatigue.


For sustained energy release you should start the day with a healthy breakfast, have a mid-morning snack, then lunch, a mid-afternoon snack and then supper. Eating every few hours will avoid a rush of blood sugar followed by a low, keeping your blood sugar levels and your energy levels as stable as possible. A snack doesn’t have to be anything more than a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts and seeds. The important thing is to avoid going for long hours on nothing more than a cup of coffee and a chocolate bar.

For steady energy release, try to make the basis of your daily meal pattern a healthy proportion of unrefined carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes) and protein (fish, eggs, nuts, beans, quinoa and seeds) to keep your blood sugars balanced. It’s an excellent idea to avoid sources of saturated fat from red meat, fried and fatty fast foods, cakes, pastries and crisps, and to concentrate on obtaining omega-3 and omega-6 essential fats from oily fish, nuts, seeds, extra-virgin olive oil and sunflower oil.


Raw potential

Eat something raw at the start of every meal. By eating foods in their natural state you can access their valuable energy-boosting nutrients more easily. So, without going overboard, begin each meal with something raw – for example an apple at breakfast, a stick of celery or some chopped cucumber with lemon juice and olive oil at lunch or supper.


Always remember that fresh food becomes unhealthy if it’s cooked unhealthily, for example if it’s deep fried or boiled for too long. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cook at all. Certain foods, such as eggs, meat and fish, can be dangerous to eat raw and need to be cooked thoroughly. Try to balance cooked food with more raw food, perhaps 50:50, and cook gently at a lower heat and for longer if necessary. Steaming is the best way to cook veggies, stir-frying is good for fish, and poaching is useful for eggs and fish. Interestingly, some nutrients like lycopene in tomatoes are found at higher concentrations when the food is cooked rather than when the tomatoes are raw. So variety is the key. 


The big chew

Most people think that digestion begins in the stomach, but it actually begins in the mouth. The process of chewing is a vital part of good digestion, and therefore of good health and steady energy levels.


Avoid eating on the run. You need to chew your food thoroughly if you are to digest it properly and get the maximum benefit from what you eat. So don’t eat at your desk while working and try to avoid grabbing a bite to eat as you run from one appointment to another. Make time to ensure that you eat a proper meal rather than just the fuel you need as quickly as possible.


The next time you have a meal or snack, concentrate on noticing every morsel: what it looks, smells and tastes like. Count to five between each bite, or put your knife and fork down between mouthfuls. It doesn’t really take much time or effort to chew your food, and what you get in return is better digestion, better health, more energy and a greater enjoyment and appreciation of food.


(Next month: Boosting energy with more high energy foods)

Natural indigestion cures

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Indigestion or an upset stomach – which is not surprisingly very common over the Christmas period with so much rich food on offer – happens when your body struggles to break down food and digest it properly. Although it is described by medical experts as dyspepsia it is important to understand that it is not a disease or medical condition rather a collection of symptoms that differ from person to person. It generally describes discomfort or a burning feeling in the stomach, often accompanied by nausea, bloating, flatulence, cramps, constipation and diarrhoea. Indigestion may also cause heartburn due to stomach acid reflux, which can leave a bitter taste in the mouth and irritate the oesophagus (food pipe). These symptoms may come and go or they may be constant lasting for a few days or more. In most cases indigestion is not a serious health disorder, although it is a warning sign that your diet and lifestyle are not as healthy as it could and positive changes need to be made.


Indigestion does have a number of causes but most digestive upsets can be traced to the type of food you have eaten and the way you have eaten it. Listed below are the most common causes of indigestion:


·    Eating too fast

·    Eating too much

·    Drinking lots of fizzy drinks

·    Drinking too much alcohol

·    Drinking too much coffee or tea

·    Eating spicy and high fat foods, like chocolate

·    Drinking lots of liquids with meals, which dilutes the digestive fluids and makes it harder for food to be digested

·    Smoking

·    Eating when you are under stress

·    Anxiety and pent up feelings

·    Excess weight, which puts pressure on your stomach and can cause indigestion and stomach acid reflex

·    Medications that can irritate the stomach lining, such as aspirin, ibuprofen and antibiotics


Persistent indigestion should never be ignored because it could be a sign of a more serious digestive disorder such as peptic ulcers, gastritis, gallstones and stomach cancer. Heartburn occurs when stomach acid backs up into the oesophagus, known as acid reflux and it is often accompanied by a burning sensation in the upper abdomen, nausea and bad breath. Peptic ulcers are open sores on the lining of the stomach that can cause a great deal of pain. They can be caused by bacteria but are also caused by smoking, regular use of aspirins and too much caffeine, alcohol and stress. Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach linking which can cause a burning pain in the stomach and it too can be aggravated by regular use of aspirin and other painkillers as well as too much alcohol. Gallstones are solid deposits of calcium or cholesterol salts which form in the gallbladder and symptoms include fever, nausea and vomiting. Stomach cancer often begins with a severe stomach ache but as it becomes more advanced it can cause weight loss and vomiting as well.


If alongside indigestion you experience any of the following symptoms for more than 10 days it is important to consult your doctor urgently to rule out a serious problem. 


·    Severe stomach pain in the upper right abdomen

·    Vomiting

·    Blood in vomit or stools

·    Black, tarry stools

·    Shortness of breath, sweating or pain in the jaw, neck and arms

·    Discomfort unrelated to eating


Fortunately, most cases of indigestion don’t involve the serious health problems above and typically resolve themselves but as mentioned above, they are a warning sign that your diet and lifestyle isn’t as healthy as it could and should be. You can get over the counter antacids for the symptoms of indigestion but I strongly advise against this. Antacids contain calcium carbonate, which neutralises the acid in the stomach and helps to stop the stomach contents flowing back to the oesophagus. They also contain ingredients that form a protective coating over the lining of the stomach. One of the reasons I don’t advise antacids is that ironically side effects include diarrhoea and constipation but the main reason I don’t advise them is that they treat the symptom of the problem not the cause. The cause is unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits and these can be remedied by taking note of the following natural indigestion beating tips:


Drink plenty of fluids but not with your meals as this will dilute the digestive juices and stop them working properly.

Chew your food slowly and thoroughly to give your body time to digest it properly.

Avoid too much alcohol and caffeine, which are known to trigger indigestion. No more than one drink a day and one or two cups of tea or coffee a day – herbal teas are of course fine.

Avoid high fat foods like chips and crisps.

– If foods that are spicy, like curry, set off your symptoms avoid them.

– Take a daily walk or practice some regular gentle exercise on an empty stomach.

– If you feel full after a meal a twenty minute brisk walk after your meal will ease feelings of fullness.

Relax more! Stress is a trigger for digestive upsets so try some gentle yoga postures, meditation or deep breathing all of which have been shown to help relieve stress related digestive problems.

Avoid taking aspirin and ibuprofen and if you must take them take them on a full stomach.

Sleep in a more upright position, propped up on a pillow, to ease digestion pain at night and to lessen the pressure on the stomach and prevent its contents coming back to remind you of what you ate during the day.

Try a cup of peppermint tea after eating to help settle your stomach. Peppermint reduces inflammation in the digestive tract, relieving flatulence, heartburn and indigestion. (You can also get peppermint oil in capsules, see the Resources Page).

Camomile tea also has antispasmodic, anti inflammatory, gas relieving properties. Enjoy a cup when your stomach feels sore.

Fennel is another herbal tea with antispasmodic and diuretic properties and it is often used to ease indigestion.

Sprinkle some cinnamon on your yogurt or add a cinnamon stick to a cup of herbal tea. Cinnamon can act as a relaxant, reducing anxiety and stress and it is known to stimulate the digestive system, easing nausea and poor digestion.

Ginger is another herb that can naturally ease nausea and boost your digestion at the same time.

– I also use a supplement in the clinic called Bio-carbonate which is taken after eating to help prevent indigestion while you are working on getting the dietary side right (see Resources the Page).

Case Study: constipation and bloating

Monday, December 1st, 2008

This month’s case study is 30 year old ‘Amy’ who came to the Clinic to help with constipation and bloating


For as long as I can remember I had had ‘sluggish’ bowels but always thought this was normal for me. I was talking to a friend about it and she was horrified to hear that I only opened my bowels once or twice a week (if I was lucky)! She asked if I felt unwell with it – bloated and tired and I admitted that I felt incredibly bloated but again just thought that was me and my body. I did find this quite unpleasant if I wanted to go out for the evening and wear something quite ‘figure hugging’ because I looked 6 months pregnant and felt very self-conscious. During the day I usually disguised this with baggy tops! I decided to visit my doctor to see if there was anything I could do. She suggested that I eat plenty of roughage in my diet including lots of bran and wholemeal bread. She also prescribed me a laxative.


I went away and put this into place and it sounded strange but my bowels seemed to be even more blocked and I was experiencing a lot more bloating and lower abdominal pain. All of the roughage just felt like it was swelling and ‘bunging me up’. I took the laxative which did get things moving, but left me feeling quite ‘raw’ inside. I told my friend about this and she suggested I should see a nutritionist who would know more specifically the foods to eat or cut out. She had been to see a nutritionist at The Dr Glenville Clinic for general health and highly recommended I go. I phoned the number straight away and explained to one of the practitioners what my symptoms were and she said they could help.


Before my first consultation I was sent a comprehensive questionnaire to complete and return for the nutritionist to review before meeting me. I was very excited by this and set about filling it in. It really made me think about how I was feeling and symptoms like lack of energy, bloating and excessive wind came up.


I met with the nutritionist 2 weeks later and she went through my questionnaire with me, asking me lots of questions and then summarising what she thought was happening and then giving me recommendations to help. The nutritionist explained that stress can be a major contributing factor to constipation.  The stress response in humans is designed to allow you to flee or fight a foe or enemy.  These occasions make extra demands on our energy and you would not be eating at that time.  Energy is therefore naturally diverted away from the digestive tract at times of stress.  The natural movement of the bowel stops (causing constipation) and the natural secretion of enzymes that help us to digest our food is reduced. She said that I should never ‘eat on the run’ and always set time aside for eating. I admitted that I was guilty of rushing my lunch at work and sometimes missing out altogether because I rarely felt hungry. She said this was commonly associated with constipation because if the bowel is not emptied the digestive system can feel like it is permanently full. 


The nutritionist was alarmed at how much wheat and bran I was consuming and I explained that my doctor had recommended this to ‘get things moving.’ She said that ironically, although high bran based diets have always been recommended, we now know that too much wheat can create more of a ‘binding’ effect and actually slow down gut function and make bloating a lot worse. She explained that more and more people are becoming intolerant to wheat because we simply overload our systems with it, plus the way that modern day wheat is grown and indeed loaves of bread are made is very different to 30 years ago. Modern day wheat has a higher gluten (protein) content making it ‘sticker’ and more indigestible.


I didn’t realise just how dangerous it could be not to have a daily bowel movement. She basically said that the toxins generated from our liver (from foods we eat, fumes we inhale and our own hormones) simply get reabsorbed back into the bloodstream, rather than being excreted through the bowel. In the longer term this can lead to malabsorption of vital nutrients, feeling lethargic, hormone imbalance and even an increased risk of colon cancer.


She asked me to avoid all wheat (including bread, pasta, cereals, biscuits and cakes) for the next month and use alternatives like brown rice, rye crispbreads and oats. I thought this would be really hard but so many places now offer wheat free options. The nutritionist also asked me to incorporate golden linseeds on a daily basis as these act as a natural ‘bulking agent’, thereby promoting a healthier motion, plus more effective and natural than the laxative my doctor had prescribed. She had asked me to increase my intake of water which was something I struggled with. She said that warm water with a little squeeze of fresh lemon makes it easier to drink.


The nutritionist recommended that I also perform a stool analysis to check my levels of good and bad bacteria as an imbalance of these can worsen the constipation. Of course, I had to start the programme first in order to get my bowels regulated before I could provide my samples!


Within 2 days my bowels were working! I could not believe the difference in my stomach. I had no bloating, I felt so much lighter and felt more energised. I managed to perform the stool analysis and sent my samples off to the lab as requested. It was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be! I was really enjoying my new way of eating and didn’t feel I was missing out at all. Even going out for dinner with friends there was always a wheat free option. I found that I was generally eating better and getting more fresh foods because where I would have eaten a sandwich for lunch I was having fish, hummus, eggs and salad.


We arranged my follow up consultation to allow time for the results of my stool analysis to be back. Before looking at the results, the nutritionist asked me how I had been getting on and I told her that I didn’t know myself! I had gone from having one or two bowel movements a week to going every day! The results of the stool test showed I had very low levels of the good bacteria, particularly bifidobacterium. She explained that having low levels of the good bacteria makes us more bloated and the bowels become more sluggish. She recommended that I take a supplement containing this good strain of bacteria to help ‘recolonise’ my colon.


The nutritionist was very pleased with my progress and recommended that I return in another 12 weeks to review me. She said that I may not need to avoid wheat altogether in the longer term, but to certainly keep it to the minimum and not go back to how I was when I first came to the clinic! I knew that I would never to that! All I can say is thank you so much to The Dr Marilyn Glenville Clinic for all their help and support and I just wish I had found out about them sooner.


This Christmas I’ll be wearing my party dress without worrying how bloated I look and I certainly won’t be tempted to eat all the bread rolls on the table!


Marilyn’s Comment


Constipation is such a common ‘condition’ in our modern day lives – we have less time to actually go to the toilet and our diets contain so much more wheat and processed foods and less fresh food. Unfortunately there is still a lot of confusion surrounding constipation and it is still widely recommended (particularly by the medical profession) that a high wheat-fibre and bran diet is consumed. However, this is just one case where in fact too much can make digestion worse. Providing good, wholesome substitutes are eaten in its place like brown rice and oats, there are no implications to cutting wheat (or certainly reducing it) out of the diet.


Amy’s story is a good example of just how important it is to listen to your body and not just ‘put up’ or ‘get used’ to a symptom. The digestive system is one of the most important systems in the body because if this isn’t functioning optimally it can have a wide ranging impact on our entire body.


If you would like to find out more about our clinics and the test mentioned, then please see the resources page.