Monday, 1 July 2013

Help Your Bones Heal Faster with the Bone Healing Diet

Do you not only want to speed up the healing time of your broken bone but also build it stronger and healthier?

I thought I'd share this post with you after devising a diet for my dear little sister, who managed to sustain a badly broken wrist in a horse related incident. See her story here.

Freshly plastered, swollen arm

She called me desperately wanting to know what would help her recover from a serious break which the Doctor described as looking like 'cornflakes and rice crispies'.....

So to rebuild bone, it is helpful to first understand which nutrients are needed to build strong, healthy bones.

Vitamin D. We all know the best form of vitamin D comes from the sun. Unfortunately, due to scaremongering in the media, we have been led to believe the sun is dangerous and consequently slather on sun lotion on the rare occasion that the sun decides to make an appearance in good old Blighty. What many people do not realise, is that using sunscreen blocks the ability of the body to make vitamin D, which coincidentally is now proving to be one of the biggest nutritional deficiencies in northern Europe. So my advice?  Sit in the sun for at least 20 mins whenever possible but be careful not to burn; that is bad for your health. It is also helpful to up food sources of vitamin D such as oily fish (mackerel, sardines) and egg yolks.

Vitamin K2. This largely ignored vitamin appears to actually hold the key to laying down  healthy calcium deposits, such as in the bones and teeth, rather than in soft tissues. Read Dr Mercola's great article on vitamins D and K here. Cheese, eggs, butter (grass fed), meat and poultry (especially chicken breast and ground beef) and natto are rich sources of this vitamin.

Calcium. No, cow's milk is NOT the best source of calcium. In fact, according to Vivian Goldschmidt MA,  consuming pasteurised cow's milk actually results in a net loss of calcium. How does that work? The acidic nature of milk causes calcium to be leached from your bones, as it tries to restore a more alkaline environment. Instead, opt for full fat yoghurt which is much easier to digest, or sheep's/ goat's cheese. Dark green leafy greens such as spinach and kale, sesame seeds, almonds, sardines and beans are a great source of easily absorbed calcium. Think twice about supplementing; studies show calcium supplementation can increase myocardial infarctions by 30%....

Magnesium. This essential mineral is needed to convert vitamin D into the active form in the body so that it can turn on calcium absorption. It also stimulates production of the hormone calcitonin, which helps circulating calcium in the blood or in soft tissues to be taken to the bones. And the best sources of magnesium? Almonds, spinach, pumpkin seeds, avocados, bananas, figs and dark chocolate.

Boron. This little known mineral supports the function of other bone friendly minerals such as calcium, magnesium and vitamin D. Founds in almonds, apples (organic, red apples appear to contain higher amounts), dried apricots, avocados and hazelnuts.

Phosphorous. One of the most abundant minerals in the body, this plays an important role in bone health. Fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts and legumes and meat, including poultry, are all good sources.

Vitamin C. Important for building the bone matrix due to its role in stimulating osteoblasts (bone building cells). So increase vitamin C rich foods such as citrus fruits, bell peppers, dark leafy greens, broccoli, kiwi fruits, strawberries.

Silicon. A highly underrated mineral which encourages absorption of calcium and increases bone strength. Richest in cucumber (with the peel!), lettuce, celery, apricots, strawberries, carrots, oats, millet and brown rice.

The thing to remember, is that even though your cast may come off after 6 weeks, it takes months for the actual bone re modelling to finish, so you need to think about extra dietary support for a good 6 months. So, in summary, you will need to:

  • Avoid anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen as bone healing is an inflammatory process.
  • Avoid calcium inhibitors such as coffee, soft drinks, refined sugar, alcohol and cigarettes
  • Increase protein to help collagen formation. Try making broths and stews from bones
  • St John's wort can be helpful to prevent nerve damage- 20 ml/ week (1:2 tincture. This should be used under guidance from your healthcare practitioner as it is contraindicated with certain drugs).
  • Nettle leaf (Urtica dioica), horsetail (Equisetum arvense), dandelion leaf (taraxicum officinalis) and alfalfa (Medicago sativa) tea will provide excellent bone building nutrients. Drink 3-4 cups daily
  • Increase dark leafy green veg, fresh fruits, almonds, avocados, celery, cucumbers and pumpkin seeds.
  • Avoid as much as possible, refined white flour, sugar and processed foods.
  • Cut back on phytate rich whole grains which inhibit mineral absorption (unless properly prepared by soaking)
  • Try Symphytum officinale homeopathic remedy to speed up bone repair and Arnica for any bruising. 
  • Keep well hydrated. Aim for 2 litres of water per day
  • Himalayan crystal salt contains all 84 elements found in your body, providing you with much needed nutrients. Sprinkle over food or add a small pinch to your water.
  • Add generous amounts of good quality olive oil to your diet. The polyphenols have been shown to increase osteoblast production, speeding up bone recovery.

Paul Pitchford, in his fantastic book 'Healing with Whole Foods' suggests the following mineral rich tea formula  for "improving teeth, bones, arteries and all connective tissue and for strengthening calcium metabolism in the body:

1 part  Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
1 part Oatstraw (Avena sativa)
1 part Kombu seaweed or Kelp powder
1/3 part Lobelia (Lobelia inflata)

Simmer each 1 ounce of formula in 1 pint water for 25 minutes and drink 1/2 cup two or three times a day. At the end of every three weeks, stop using the formula for one week." Note that Lobelia can only be prescribed by a Medical Herbalist, otherwise, it can be omitted from the formula, still with very favourable results.

So, providing my sister is compliant, she should hopefully increase her chances of rebuilding her bone quicker and stronger than following her usual diet....

Any more ideas? Who's had some bone-building success through dietary measures?


Friday, 28 June 2013

How to Keep Your Cat Healthy- The Raw Fed Cat

Baraka's Story

OK, so I'll admit, I wanted to find an excuse to include a post on the love of my life, my beautiful Baraka. After an unfortunate start in life (being found on a rubbish dump at only a few weeks of age, alongside her dead brothers), I wanted to do everything possible to give her the best life possible and make sure she had the healthiest diet I could provide.

Precious little Baraka

I took her from my neighbour at around 2 months of age (the vet's guess based on her tooth development), although she looked quite a bit younger. She had been fed jarred baby food and had far from perfect digestion. After extensive research on the internet, it seemed a raw food diet was the only way to go. If you're curious as to why I absolutely refuse to feed my cat tinned cat food, just do a little google search on how these are made and I'm pretty sure you will come to the same conclusion. Dried cat biscuits are also detrimental to a cat's health due to the extremely low water content. Cats have a very poor thirst drive, due to their desert roots, so in the wild would get most of their water through fresh prey. Cats will never drink enough to compensate for the lack of water in the biscuits, which is why so many cats are now experiencing increased kidney problems.

There is only one diet a cat should follow. A raw meat diet. Cats are obligate carnivores- no vegetables required. Just look at what they naturally eat in the wild.  I wish it was so simple for humans. With so many different foods and contradicting advice, deciding what we should eat has become a potential minefield and moral dilemma.

Devouring a raw quail

So what do I feed my cat? Her staple is quail and she usually gets through one a day. And yes, she eats the whole thing, bones included. I also feed her liver, heart, kidneys, stomach, rabbit, chicken, clams and a little bit of beef. She gets the odd bit of cooked meat from my dinner plate, but the majority is raw. She also loves butter and fresh, organic eggs. Now, I know you'll think I'm biased as she's my cat, but trust me when I say she has the most beautiful soft, silky fur and big, sparkling eyes. She has absolutely no smell to her, including her breath and the most fascinating thing? Her litter box doesn't smell either! Her poops are hard, and odour free and will apparently degrade after 5 or so days in the sun. She goes every day and wees maybe 5 times per day, as fresh meat contains about 70% water.

The strange thing is, people are usually astonished when I tell them what I feed my cat. Yes, it is more expensive than tinned food, as I only provide her with the best quality, freshest meats I can find, but I'm careful what I eat, so why should my cat be any different? I made the decision to care for her, so I feel it is my duty to provide her with the best life I can. Some say she's spoiled to eat this kind of a diet while others are horrified that she's eating raw meat and actually feel sorry for her! All I can say is, she never suffers any kind of digestive upset and is an extremely happy, energetic cat.

If you are interested in feeding your cats the best possible diet, please check this site for a comprehensive explanation of the benefits and how to's of a raw food diet. Please don't start feeding raw without understanding the importance of keeping meat fresh and bacteria free and the nutritional requirements of a cat. Careful dietary planning is required, but you can learn all about that in the aforementioned site.

What you can expect:

  • Better dental health including elimination of bad breath
  • Healthy, pink gums and plaque free teeth due to cleaning action of bones. 
  • Improved digestion with virtually odourless poops
  • Shinier, silkier fur with less shedding
  • Peace of mind that your cat is getting a diet as close as nature intended (unless of course your cat has access to a safe hunting area where he can catch his own food)
  • A happier cat!

Creating mischief on the Christmas Tree

Has anyone else had success on the raw food diet? Any health improvements? Has anyone managed to transition their cat from tinned to raw? I'd love to hear your stories!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Alkaline Diet- cucumber juice anyone....?

Green, alkaline juice

Why alkalise your body?

You must have heard this buzzword on the lips of anyone serious about their health or even those wanting to join the 'latest' diet. Alkalise, alkalise, alkalise. But why? What are the benefits of an alkaline diet?

Your body strives to maintain a healthy urine pH ranging from 6.5 - 8, although optimal pH values throughout the body do vary. Our blood for example, must maintain a slightly alkaline pH of around 7.35 to 7.45- a small fluctuation can result in death. An acidic body is the ideal environment for bacteria and disease to flourish, resulting in a sluggish, poorly functioning body. In this acidic state, the ability of the body to absorb minerals, detoxify heavy metals and repair cells is severely compromised.  Symptoms of an acidic body include:

  • Fungal infections such as candida and discolored, yellow toenails.
  • Irritability
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of mental focus
  • Frequent infections
  • Weight gain
  • Skin conditions
  • Premature ageing

Conversely, an alkaline body creates an environment in which most diseases cannot survive, which to put it very simply, means you don't get ill. Consequence of an alkaline body include:
  • Increased energy
  • Better sleep
  • Improved mood
  • Improved skin 
  • Better digestion
  • Regulation of blood sugar levels thereby helping to reduce cravings
just to name a few. What's not to love?!

Sounds great, but how do I achieve this 'alkaline body'?

With a little careful attention to your diet. Basically, you need to limit acid forming foods such as meat, dairy, refined sugars and flours and processed 'dead' food and increase the alkaline ones such as green leafy veg, root vegetables and lemons. It is important to understand however, that not all acid forming foods are bad for you! You just need to make them a smaller part of your diet. For example, a good quality, grass fed, organic beef steak can be eaten with a HUGE serving of salad/ green veggies to minimise the acidifying effect of the meat. 

Foods high in potassium such as bananas, avocados and lemons will help the body buffer acids without drawing these precious minerals from your bones, so make sure you increase these types of food in your diet. Magnesium rich foods such as almonds, pumpkin seeds, spinach and swiss chard act in the same way.  Many of us are found to be deficient in these minerals which have been linked to poor quality sleep, raised blood pressure, anxiety, muscle cramps and fatigue to name a few symptoms, so making a conscious effort to increase these foods in our diet will likely have a beneficial effect in at least a couple of areas of your health.

Probably one of the worst contenders when it comes to acidic foods are fizzy drinks. If you can only do one thing to safeguard your health, cut these out. They have a pH range of about 3 which is around 10,000 times more acidic than pure water... Drinking a fizzy drink with your spinach salad is going to outweigh any alkaline properties gained from the salad.....

Highly alkaline forming foods:

Alfalfa sprouts


Highly acid forming foods:

Artificial sweeteners
Fizzy drinks
Ice cream
Most beans
Refined Salt

White flour products

White sugar

A great way to start your day is with a squeeze of good old lemon in warm water, followed by a green smoothie. "But aren't lemons acidic?" I hear you ask. No, not once they are metabolised by the body, they are actually one of the most alkalising things we can consume. So here's my green smoothie recipe which will result in better digestion, clearer more radiant skin and a much more energised, 'lighter' feeling:

Green Smoothie

1 banana
1 tbsp ground sesame seeds 
1 tbsp ground flax seeds
Generous handful of spinach
1 celery stick
Handful of flat leaf parsley
1 spoonful of virgin coconut oil
A splash of water

Whizz it all together and voila`, a nutrient rich, alkalising breakfast to start the day. I find the banana adds a smooth, rich, thick texture which I love, so I eat this with a spoon rather than drinking it. If you prefer a more liquid consistency, just add more water.

If you have a juicer, this is a great tasting alkaline drink:

Green Juice


Throughout the day, I drink only water or green/white tea, plus 3 times per day I add some raw, organic apple cider vinegar (ACV)to my water. This for me is a 'desert island' item (along with coconut oil and turmeric). The benefits of ACV are numerous, so I won't list them all here but in short, it alkalises the body and is antibacterial and antifungal and a powerhouse of trace minerals and vitamins. If you don't already take this, get ready for a whole new boost to your health........ 

And how long is it going to take before I see any results?

It all depends how toxic your body already is. Beware, starting any new healthy regime can cause you to feel unwell initially. Symptoms can range from headaches to irritability to altered bowel movements. Start gently by adding more vegetables and slowly taking away the processed 'foods' and then add the green smoothie and lemon juice.

Ok, so there you have it. If you eat clean, add plenty of green veg and limit processed foods, you'll be well on your way to a more alkaline body. Aim for 70% alkaline 30% acid forming foods and you should notice some very positive benefits. If you are really interested in knowing how alkaline your body is, why not purchase some inexpensive urine testing strips at your local chemist? Note, you will always get a more acidic reading first thing in the morning. But for many of you, just feeling the difference is more than enough to keep you on track with a healthier diet.

Who's going to take the 2 week alkaline challenge? Try it and let me know how it goes, which benefits you receive and how easy you find it. For fantastic alkaline recipes, check out Honestly Healthy by Natash Corrett and Vicki Edgson- full of inspiring ideas, including desserts.... Get ready for increased vitality!