Part 4 – Microbiome and antibiotics


Antibiotics originated as one life form producing something against another life form. For example, penicillin is a substance produced by fungi which stops the growth of bacteria. Modern antibiotics are synthetically made and have been in widespread use to fight bacterial infections. They have saved many lives and speeded the recovery from infection for most of us, but remember, they cause collateral damage to the beneficial microbes and diversity of your microbiome.

When we take antibiotics, our resident beneficial microbes are also killed. The more we take, the more are killed. In time and given opportunity, our microbes do repopulate our gut, but they don’t necessarily grow back the same, or as plentifully, as they were before.

Taking too many antibiotics can leave us more susceptible to antibiotic resistant bacterial strains, like clostridium difficile, gonorrhoea and MRSA. Resistant bacteria can cleverly pass on their antibiotic resistance, thus out-competing other species.

Prescription antibiotics aside, massive quantities of antibiotics are fed to animals each year to combat infections and speed up growth. Overusing antibiotics in animals can also lead to antibiotic resistant bacterial strains becoming a problem. These resistant bacteria can then pass into our food chain if we don’t handle and cook meat properly.

Another route of contamination is from eating food crops that have been sprayed with animal manure fertilizer, which is infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria. Resistant bacteria in supermarket foods can be surprisingly common. You’ve probably heard of food recalls due to infection with Salmonella, Campylobacterand E.coli.

The message is simple. Avoid antibiotics as much as you safely and responsibly can. Only take them if your doctor insists they are essential.

If you do have to take a course of antibiotics it is advisable to try to restore your beneficial microbes as best you can, with probiotic foods and probiotic supplements. The probiotics will try to out-compete the harmful species by colonising the layer of protective mucus covering the gut lining.

Generally speaking, you want to take your probiotics away from taking the antibiotics and keep taking them after you finish taking the antibiotics. For example, if you take the antibiotics morning and evening, then take the probiotics at midday. We will look at probiotic options in Part 8; where to source them, which brands to choose, how many to take and for how long.

I hope you are enjoying this blog series so far. If you are interested in having a chat about your microbiome, your diet and lifestyle, and your gut health, head on over to my site and make an appointment with me for a free, no-obligation, 20-minute chat. No hard sell, just a chance for you to ask any questions.

Look out for Part 5 tomorrow, all about the fascinating connections between gut health and brain health. The complex and intricate connections between our gut and our brain were largely unknown until recent times, but new research is emerging all the time now, and our knowledge is increasing every year. Find out more tomorrow! See you then.

Part 3 – Microbiome and your immune system

About 70% of our immune cells are housed in the lining of our gastrointestinal system, or gut. Our gut is the biggest immune organ of the body. Likewise, it’s also where the majority of our microorganisms reside. This is not a coincidence. It makes complete sense. The food we eat is the largest exposure of foreign material that we bring into our body, so it makes sense for our immune system to reside in our gut. The outside world is literally experienced through the filter of the gut microbiome (and of course through our lungs), defending us against unwanted microbes and toxins.


It’s like an internal ecosystem – a biological community of interacting organisms in their physical environment (our gut). The more diverse the number of beneficial microbial species our gut hosts, the better our immune system will work and the healthier we will be.

A delicate interaction occurs between us and our microbes. The gut immune system is constantly working hard to distinguish between beneficial bacteria and potential pathogens (unwanted invaders). When we lose our microbial diversity (all those different species of microbes) we lose “tolerance”. When our immune system goes wrong, it’s basically losing tolerance. It fails to adequately deal with all that is presented to it, and often reacts to things that it shouldn’t react to. Thus, digestive inadequacies, allergies, food intolerances and autoimmune conditions are mostly the result of an immune system losing tolerance.

Three factors determine if we will lose tolerance:

  1. Our genetic predisposition
  2. Our exposure to a bad environmental event or trigger, like an infection
  3. How permeable our intestinal lining cells are

For most people, improving the integrity of the intestinal barrier is the most practical way to improve immune tolerance.

Increased intestinal permeability, commonly referred to as “leaky gut”, can be thought of as micro-tear’s in the gut lining cells. This is the start of the trouble. Many things in our modern lifestyles can damage this delicate lining. Stress, toxins, undigested food particles, gluten, antibiotics, acid-blockers, processed foods, low fibre diets, pathogens, drugs, alcohol and infections are the main ones. These can lead to unwanted substances (microbes, particles of food, pathogens) getting directly into our blood stream and triggering long-term inflammation.

leaky gut


Be on the lookout for Part 4 tomorrow, we’ll take a look at your microbiome and antibiotics, and what happens to your microbiome when you are prescribed a course of antibiotics, and what you can do afterwards to help yourself restore good order.

Part 2- Functions of the gut microbiome

microbiome700Our microbes:

Help us digest our food.

Protect our gut lining cells from pathogens and toxins.

Help teach and mature our immune system to function properly.

Make B vitamins, Vitamin K and amino acids (proteins).

Break down, by fermentation, non-digestible dietary fibre that we eat.

Regulate our metabolism (how much energy we get from food) and help to regulate our weight and how much body fat we store.

Make waste products called short chain fatty acids (SCFA’s) that provide food for our gut lining cells. These are important communication molecules.

Influence sleep, mood and brain function.

Regulate the repair and growth of our body’s cells.

Are key to our health and disease.

Coming up tomorrow in Part 3, we’ll take a look at your microbiome and how it forms a crucial, and major, part of your immune system. Few people realise how important our gut is when it comes to immune system, tomorrow I will explain more.

See you then!

The Human Microbiome


For many months now, I’ve been researching and listening to lectures about the human microbiome. My short, easy to digest (ha, ha, pun intended!) blog series is about how our gut microorganisms significantly influence all aspects of our health (and disease) and how to turn this knowledge into healthy new habits. I hope you find it helpful and I welcome any comments or questions.


This post is Part 1 of a 10-part series. Here is the outline of the series:

Part 1 – In the beginning

Part 2 – Functions of the microbiome

Part 3 – Microbiome and your immune system

Part 4 – Microbiome and antibiotics

Part 5 – Gut-brain communications

Part 6 – Microbiome and disease

Part 7 – New Tests and treatments

Part 8 – Probiotics and Prebiotics

Part 9 – Optimising your microbiome

Part 10 – Fermented food recipes

Part 1 – In the beginning

The microbiome is a community of microbes living in, and on, your body. Microbes are bacteria, fungi, yeasts and parasites. They are found in every part of your body, particularly your gut, but also your eyes, skin, sinuses, mucus membranes such as your mouth, lungs and vagina and in your blood. In the gut the microbes live in a healthy, thick, protective layer of mucus lining the gut walls.

A baby’s first exposure to microbes is through the vaginal canal. As the baby moves down through the birth canal, it gets covered in its mother’s microbial secretions and also swallows some of the microbe-rich vaginal mucus. Also, breast milk is full of healthy bacteria, prebiotics (food for the microorganisms) and of course colostrum, a nutrient dense, antibody-rich, immune-supportive first milk.

Our mother’s genetics, the food she ate, her lifestyle (e.g. smoking or alcohol consumption), her medication use, antibiotic use and any infections she had, all contribute to the microorganisms passed onto her baby.

Our microbiome is established within the first 6 months of life. After the second year of life, the resident microbial species becomes relatively stable.

Early exposure to bacteria in our environment helps our immune systems to develop. The microbiome literally shows and teaches the developing immune system what it has to face and deal with. A healthy, microbiome is crucial for the maturation of a baby’s developing immune system.

Less exposure through sterile wipes, hand sanitizers and harsh cleaning chemicals reduces our exposure to germs. Long term, this can leave us more exposed to infection or allergies because we lose that early exposure which we need while our immune systems are developing.

As adults, we host 100 trillion microbes in our gut, between 3-6lbs in weight! We have ten times the number of bacterial cells compared to our own cells and 100 times the number of microbial genes than our own genes.

The microbiome houses 40,000 different species of bacteria; 5 million species of fungi and 30,000 species of parasites – some of them are beneficial, some are not. Generally speaking, the greater the number of different species we host (called microbial diversity) the healthier we are.

Most microbes in the gut belong to one of four groups or species: FirmicutesBacteroidetesActinobacteria or Proteobacteria.

As we age, our immunity gets progressively less effective (for several reasons) – so it’s important to focus on helping it work as efficiently as we can. When we nurture and look after our microbiome, it will in return, look after us.

Who’s in control?

Screen Shot 2016-11-23 at 11.37.18

You probably know that we are born with 23,000 of our own genes, but by adulthood we will have acquired an additional 3.3 million bacterial genes. So that means, bacterial genes out-number human genes, by over 100:1!

I was originally taught that our genes control everything. But now I learn that’s not true. It’s not true for two reasons. Firstly because the number of bacterial genes far outweighs the number of human genes, but secondly because we now know that our diet and lifestyle can hugely influence how those genes behave. We may have been dealt a pack of genetic cards, but we have control over how we play them. This is called Epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of how genes behave or “express” themselves because of what they are exposed to in their cellular environment.

We can take control. We can help our genes to work healthily. What we eat, how we move, how we relax, how we sleep, our resilience to stress, our thoughts, feelings and social connections, all regulate our gene expression. We can turn on genes that create health or disease – the choice is ours.

So now think of this, not just in terms of our 23,000 human genes, but all the bacterial genes as well, because they all work collectively together. Bacterial cells and human cells literally talk to each other, especially in the gut, where 80% of our protective immune system is found.

Your gut houses 500 species and three pounds of bacteria. Getting your gut bacteria healthy is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy.  Surprise, surprise, our bacterial colonies don’t like antibiotics, medications, artificial hormones, toxic pesticides & chemicals, alcohol, man-made foods and stress. Rather, they thrive on fiber-rich vegetables, low-sugar fruits, non-gluten grains, legumes, fermented foods, healthy unprocessed fats and a good daily dose of exercise and relaxation!

Why not start there, with those simple changes? Give yourself and your genes a helping hand and enjoy how those cards play out into your old age.



Diet & exercise genetic testing

You may have read in the papers today that gene testing is set to revolutionise cancer care. It is hoped that cancer patients are offered DNA tests to provide information that can guide highly personalised treatment, in terms of which drugs to use and how to administer them. For example, genes can predict if a woman with breast cancer might respond to certain drugs, or whether radiotherapy is likely to shrink a tutor.

However, you may not know that nutritional genetic testing is already available, on a private basis. I use genetic testing to guide my diet and lifestyle recommendations for clients. Each of us has our own unique genetic variations. The instructions that our genes give to our cells is influenced by the food that we eat and lifestyle that we live. This explains why different people can eat the same diet yet experience very different effects from that diet. Therefore, understanding your genetic variations is a key success factor in determining the best diet and exercise strategy for you.

If you would like to know more, please visit my website,, or call me 07484 151419 to discuss.



Balancing Cholesterol


“What should I do about my high cholesterol?” I was asked. I shall try to present an unbiased, evidence-based answer. I outline the main research, with linked references to look at, if you have time. I summarise what you need to know about cholesterol and its involvement in atherosclerosis, but please bear in mind that it’s not the whole story to cardiovascular disease management. I offer some private testing choices and non-pharmaceutical approaches to optimising healthy levels. If time is tight, just scan through the sub-titles to find the section you are most interested in.

The debate

You are probably aware of the mainstream medical view, the lipid hypothesis. It says that raised cholesterol is a primary cause of atherosclerosis (plaque deposits blocking the arteries) and cardiovascular disease. This originated from research by Ancel Keys and The Framingham Heart Study. A review of the history can be found here. Subsequently, there has been lot of published evidence affirming the relationship between low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and cardiovascular disease. This is why doctors prescribe statins, which reduce LDL-C production by the liver.

However, some have challenged this perhaps over-simplistic view. In 2016 a meta-analysis was published in the British Medical Journal. It concluded that although there was an association (note – an “association” cannot say that it “causes” something) between total cholesterol and cardiovascular death, the risk actually decreased with age and became minimal after the age of 80. This finding is inconsistent with the lipid hypothesis (i.e. that LDL-C causes atherosclerosis).

Another turn around was in 2015, when the US dietary guidelines advisory committee reviewed all the research over the past 40 years and concluded that we should not be concerned about dietary cholesterol, arguing that it “is not a nutrient of concern”. They simultaneously lifted any previous recommendation to limit dietary cholesterol in our diets.

So, yes… the highly nutritious egg, once vilified, is now considered safe to consume.

What is cholesterol? Why do we need it?

Cholesterol is a fat molecule that’s found in every cell of the body. It is an essential part of our cell membranes, where it controls the movement of molecules into and out of the cell. It forms the chemical backbone of our adrenal hormones; sex hormones and vitamin D. Bile salts, made in the liver are also made of cholesterol. Bile salts help us emulsify (break down) fats into smaller absorbable molecules. It is said that we make approximately 75% of our own cholesterol in the liver and intestines. If dietary intake is low, our body makes more and dietary intake is high, the body makes less.

What are LDL-C and HDL-C?

Cholesterol molecules come in different shapes and sizes. They are carried in our bloodstreams by carrier proteins, because being a fat-soluble substance; cholesterol can’t mix with water in the bloodstream. The cholesterol molecules, together with their carrier proteins are called lipoproteins (meaning molecules of fat and protein). You will have heard of two (of 5) kinds of lipoproteins: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). I am not going to call them “good” or “bad”, because scientists no longer think it’s that simple.

Cholesterol molecules can also be classified by their size, small and dense or large and fluffy. Some scientists believe that the small, dense LDL-C molecules are more damaging to our artery walls because they are small enough to squeeze through the artery walls and get lodged there. However, contrary to this, other doctors, like Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, argue that the LDL-C molecules are present as part of the arterial repair process, and they are not the actual cause at all. HDL cholesterol has gained interest as a more cardio protective molecule, but more research is still needed, as much is still under debate. Also, measuring molecule size has not been widely accepted in clinical practice yet.

Triglycerides and phospholipids are again molecules of fat in the bloodstream, which can either be burned for energy or stored as fat. They are often measured alongside cholesterol.

Cholesterol’s role in damaging the artery

Dr. John Campbell, cardiologist, describes the mainstream view of the cellular mechanisms of atherosclerosis in this Youtube video (48 mins).

It is believed that the body uses cholesterol like a “protective plaster” to the everyday normal chemical and physical damage that happens in the inner lining of our arteries as millions of blood cells, proteins and other molecules rush along. The body tries to repair this damage by laying down a protective layer of fat (cholesterol). This would seem like a good solution, but over time, the cholesterol can become oxidised, and this is where the trouble starts. One study reported that oxidized cholesterol was the strongest predictor of coronary artery events, compared to a conventional lipid panel test.

So, oxidised cholesterol is perceived by the body to be a foreign molecule, which needs to be removed. In response, the immune system brings in white blood cells called macrophages, to engulf or consume the oxidised cholesterol. In so doing, the macrophages become swollen cholesterol-laden “foam cells”. At this stage, we can see the fatty streaks under the microscope. Once full, the foam cells send out chemical SOS messages (cytokines) and the inflammatory response is initiated. The cytokine-mediated inflammation in the artery wall then triggers smooth muscle cells in the inner artery wall to produce collagen to help sure up the damage. This plaque gets ever bigger until it eventually ruptures, leading to the formation of a blood clot (thrombus), which can later block an artery and cause a heart attack. The diagram below illustrates this.


Formation of atherosclerosis



What determines the levels of cholesterol in our bloodstream?

The regulation of cholesterol in our body is a complex – believe me! Cell membrane receptors, enzyme feedback mechanisms and genetic factors all play a part. This heavyweight paper in 2002 states that there are over “30 genes dedicated to the synthesis and uptake of cholesterol, fatty acids, triglycerides and phospholipids”. More research is needed into how and why some of these control mechanisms may go awry.


Testing options

High cholesterol has no symptoms. Taking a cholesterol test is therefore a logical place to start. A standard lipid panel includes total cholesterol, LDL-C, HDL-C and triglycerides. From these, you can calculate your lipid ratios, which also helps to assess your risk. Please be aware that reference ranges for optimum levels vary between different published sources. Heart UK – the cholesterol charity, gives the following ranges:

  • Total Cholesterol (TC) – Ideally, 5 mmol/L or less (this is currently disputed)
  • LDL-Cholesterol (LDL-C) – ideally, 3 mmol/L or less
  • HDL-Cholesterol (HDL-C) – ideally, over 1mmol/L (men), over 1.2mmol/L (women).
  • TC:HDL ratio – TC divided by HDL-C. > 6 is considered high risk – the lower the better.
  • Triglyceride (TG) – Ideally, below 2.0 mmol/L (others say 1.7) on a fasting sample.

A straightforward home test (same as your GP would do) can now be performed with a finger prick test, Thriva’s Lifestyle test, which is £39. Alternatively, you can buy your own home self-testing kit for regular monitoring.

At the top end of the private testing market you will find Genova Diagnostics CV Health test. You might consider this test if you have a family history of heart disease, know that you have abnormal blood lipids, have obesity and/or diabetes, smoke and are physically inactive. Using state of the art technology, this comprehensive test measures a range of cardiovascular health markers (not just cholesterol). It measures the size and density of the cholesterol molecules, other important lipoproteins and inflammatory markers, homocysteine, fibrinogen and an insulin resistance score. This costs £240 and requires a full blood sample to be taken. Please don’t expect to get this on the NHS.

In addition, and particularly if you are overweight, have diabetes or metabolic syndrome you would be wise to ask your GP to test your fasting insulin level and fasting blood glucose level (normal is 4.0-5.9mmol/L), because both are indicators for heart disease.

Dietary recommendations

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines state that improving diet and lifestyle should be considered for primary prevention, before statin treatment commences. They also acknowledge that people may well need help in making those changes. Ask me, your Nutritional Therapist or Mother Nature’s Diet. Here are some researched suggestions:

Foods to avoid and why

  1. Avoid hydrogenated and trans fats found in most processed foods, margarine, baked goods, fried foods, sauces and salad dressings. Read here and here for more information.
  1. Avoid refined plant oils – high in omega 6 fats. I know, against all the advice we were told two decades ago. So don’t use refined vegetable oil, sunflower oil, corn oil and rapeseed oil. Omega 6 fats are linked to an increased risk of death among patients with heart disease, according to a 2013 British Medical Journal study.
  1. Avoid oxidized cholesterol. Cholesterol can be oxidized outside and inside our bodies. So it makes sense, at least, to avoid oxidized cholesterol in food. This hamster study demonstrated that oxidized cholesterol was more atherogenic than non-oxidized cholesterol. Avoid factors known to oxidise cholesterol (make it go rancid) such as commercially cooked and refrigerated meats (this means processed meats, such as smoked sausages and formed luncheon meats), deep fried foods, charring or frying at high temperatures, sunlight, microwave radiation. Keep animal foods in the dark, sealed from the air and in the fridge. Cook them gently and slowly. Don’t brown them or burn them – like they’ve been advising in the news recently.
  1. Avoid highly refined carbohydrate foods, such as biscuits, cakes, pastry, sweets, crisps etc. which raise blood sugar (hyperglycemia). When blood sugar is high, insulin will rise and in turn this causes a rise in triglycerides. The same applies to large amounts of fructose (from fruit juices) and high-fructose corn syrup in processed foods – both increase your body’s triglyceride levels, lower HDL-C and raise LDL-C. We do now know that low-carbohydrate diets (compared with low-fat diets) improve insulin resistance, HDL-C, LDL-C, particle size and particle number. Equally importantly, low-carbohydrate diets reduce inflammation.

Foods to eat and why

  1. Eat plenty of polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties. These food help to reduce cholesterol oxidation that takes place in our bodies. Some of the richest sources are cloves, dried peppermint, star anise, cocoa powder, dried oregano, celery seeds, dark chocolate (yay!), flaxseeds, elderberries, blackcurrants, chestnuts, black olives.
  1. Use coconut oil, grass-fed butter or olive oil for frying & roasting because they are high in monosaturated or saturated fats and therefore more stable at higher temperatures and less likely to oxidize.
  1. Eat mixed nuts (one handful every day) and extra virgin olive oil drizzled over salads and vegetables. Both foods help to reduce plaque formation and dilate blood vessels.
  1. Eat foods high in soluble fibre because it helps reduce cholesterol absorption from the intestine. Try oats, psyllium (a fibre supplement), flaxseeds, vegetables, apples & pears, beans & lentils, nuts & seeds. Soluble fibre also decreases systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Aim for 25-40g/day.
  1. Eat foods high in natural plant sterols (2g/day). They are found in fruit and vegetables, e.g. whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Sterols have a chemical structure similar to cholesterol and therefore compete with cholesterol for intestinal absorption. Studies show their effectiveness.
  1. Eat soya based foods, containing Isoflavones, which help to reduce LDL-C. Choose traditional soya products like tempeh, miso and soy sauce or tamari. Avoid GMO soy. Choose organic, non-GMO or fermented soy. Beware, too much soy foods may not be beneficial if you have thyroid problems.
  1. Eat more Omega 3 fats Eating oily fish at least once a week can result in a 15% reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and a 36% reduction in CVD mortality. Try wild-caught salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and anchovies. The NHS recognises the benefit of oily fish (around two oily–fish based meals a week can be beneficial for lowering triglycerides.

The Portfolio diet was designed by David Jenkins. Michael Moseley, of BBC fame, investigated the claims of the Portfolio diet to reduce cholesterol. The diet is a low-fat, mainly vegan (low dairy & egg) dietary approach combined with cholesterol-lowering plant foods. The results of his investigation were intriguingly mixed. In Dr Mosley’s trial, significant reductions in LDL-C were be obtained by simple dietary changes. The summary is written up nicely here. More details of the Portfolio diet can be found here. Another study supports the portfolio diet for reducing small LDL-C particle number and therefore supporting cardiovascular health.

Lifestyle recommendations

  1. Limit alcohol to one unit a day for women and two units for men, advises the current European guidelines for cardiovascular disease.
  1. Exercise regularlyStudies show consistent, regular exercise can optimise cholesterol and triglyceride levels, lower blood glucose and help maintain a healthy weight.
  2. 3. Focus on quality sleep – Quality sleep stabilises high blood sugar, which we already know lowers cholesterol. Avoid night-time snacking which raises LDL-C and our risk of obesity.


We know that there is no one single cause for high cholesterol and we know that high LDL-C isn’t the whole answer to atherosclerosis. Otherwise we would be able to explain why many people have raised blood cholesterol but don’t develop heart disease, and vice versa, why many people with coronary artery disease don’t have high blood cholesterol.

Meanwhile, what should we do if we have high cholesterol? I suggest, follow the guidelines – first start with diet and lifestyle modifications, as outlined above. Consider your genetics. Consider your diet, smoking, alcohol, exercise and sleep habits. Remember, cholesterol is only part of the story. Please also consider your blood pressure, glycemic control, weight management and fitness to reduce cardiovascular risk.

Natural dietary alternatives to help osteoarthritis

National Arthritis Week – 12-19th Oct 2016

In support of helping those with arthritis, I offer this brief review of natural alternatives to painkillers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS).

 It might surprise you to know that in 2015, the prestigious British Medical Journal (BMJ), published a systematic review and meta-analysis (that means using the most objective research methods possible) stating that Paracetamol was ineffective in the treatment of low back pain and provides minimal short term benefit for people with osteoarthritis1. Not only that, but the more we consume, the greater our risk of stomach, cardiovascular and kidney damage2.

 In September this year, another study, also published in the BMJ, looked at 10 million Europeans who took NSAIDs, such as diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen. They found that use of these NSAIDs was found to be associated with a 19% increase of risk of hospital admission for heart failure3.

So, what alternative options do we have?

First and foremost, I would recommend moving towards a whole food, unprocessed diet, packed with a rainbow of colourful fruits and vegetables at every meal. Add good quality proteins from oily fish (wild salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel, anchovies) or grass-fed meat or organically raised poultry. Add healthy fats from olives, extra virgin olive oil, coconuts, avocado, ghee (homemade from organic butter), nuts and seeds. Choose smaller portions of carbohydrates from wholegrain varieties, like quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice or sweet potatoes. Simply removing the processed foods, foods high in trans and damaged fats and refined sugary carbohydrates will go a long way to lowering the overall inflammation in your body.

 Beyond that, here are two of the best-studied supplemental options.

Curcumin (turmeric)

The spice turmeric contains Curcumin, which is a bright orange-yellow, bioactive phytochemical with beneficial anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It works by blocking inflammatory enzymes in our body’s metabolism. Numerous clinical studies have repeatedly proven the effectiveness of curcumin. A good example is a 2014 study, which showed curcumin to be as effective as NSAIDs at reducing key markers of inflammation, in patients with arthritis, yet without unwanted side effects4. Again, a 2016 meta-analysis (study of studies) of 8 well-designed randomly controlled trials (RCT’s) showed that curcumin dampened-down a known metabolic marker for inflammation5.

Whilst you can increase your intake of curcurmin by adding fresh and dried turmeric to your food, it’s very difficult to get enough for it to be therapeutically worthwhile.  Supplementation is recommended using micronized powder and in particular the liquid micellar formulation of curcurmin significantly improved our ability to absorb it6.

Omega-3 Fish Oil

There is no disputing that Omega-3 fish oils have been shown in numerous studies to have a positive impact on pain, the joints, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions7. Omega-3 fish oils generally need to be taken for 3 months to build up levels and to experience health benefits.



You can read any of these references, simply by copying and pasting the study title into your Google search bar.

  1. Machado GC, Maher CG, Ferreira PH, Pinheiro MB, Lin CWC, Day RO, McLachlan AJ, Ferreira ML (2015). Efficacy and safety of paracetamol for spinal pain and osteoarthritis: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised placebo controlled trials. British Medical Journal, 350:1225.
  1. Roberts E, Nunes VD, Buckner S, Latchem S, Constanti M, Miller P, Doherty M, Zhang W, Birrell F, Porcheret M, Dziedzic K (2016). Paracetamol: not as safe as we thought? A systematic literature review of observational studies. Annals of the rheumatic diseases, 75:552-559.
  1. Arfè A, Scotti L, Varas-Lorenzo C, Nicotra F, Zambon A, Kollhorst B, Schink T, Garbe E, Herings R, Straatman H, Schade R (2016). Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and risk of heart failure in four European countries: nested case-control study. British Medical Journal, 354:4857.
  1. Nakagawa Y, Mukai S, Yamada S, Matsuoka M, Tarumi E, Hashimoto T, Tamura C, Imaizumi A, Nishihira J, Nakamura T (2014). Short-term effects of highly-bioavailable curcumin for treating knee osteoarthritis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled prospective study. Journal of Orthopaedic Science, 19:933-939.
  1. Sahebkar A, Cicero AF, Simental-Mendía LE, Aggarwal BB, Gupta SC (2016). Curcumin down regulates human tumor necrosis factor-α levels: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Pharmacological research, 107:234-242.
  1. Schiborr C, Kocher A, Behnam D, Jandasek J, Toelstede S, Frank J (2014). The oral bioavailability of curcumin from micronized powder and liquid micelles is significantly increased in healthy humans and differs between sexes. Molecular nutrition & food research, 58:516-527.
  1. Goldberg RJ, Katz J (2007). A meta-analysis of the analgesic effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for inflammatory joint pain. Pain, 129:210-223.

Are you carbohydrate intolerant or resistant?

This post follows on the first of Mark Hyman’s tips on optimum health. Point number one… “eat to balance your blood sugar”. If you don’t understand this, but want to, please find 15 minutes to watch this video from Professor Tim Noakes. He is a South African professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Cape Town.

His video is entertaining and massively informative. Look out for the part where he says that “Nutrition is a critical determinant of health and he believes 80% of chronic diseases are nutrition dependent”.

Carbohydrate intolerance is about the body’s inability to store carbohydrates in muscle tissue, ready to burn off, instead it stores them in fat tissue. This initiates a “hibernation response” in the body’s processes whereby we store more fat, take less exercise and eat more. Diabetes and metabolic syndrome are the ultimate consequences of this.

Listen out for the list of common symptoms he completed cured himself of. It’s very encouraging.

What are you studying now, Dawn?

As I keep being asked this question, I thought I might say a little about what I am studying.

Officially, I’m studying for my third degree. This time around it’s in “Nutritional Therapy”, which to most of us means “Nutrition”. I will (if I can keep going) get a diploma in 3 years and a degree in 4 years from now. However, despite it’s name, our course is thoroughly founded on the principles of Functional Medicine (FM), which is what I want to explain.

The Institute of Functional Medicine was founded in America where a growing group of doctors are practising a “new” paradigm of medicine. It began way back in 1949 by a double nobel prize winning physician called Linus Pauling. The new paradigm is the belief that it isn’t our genes themselves that cause our health or otherwise, but how those genes are “expressed”. “Gene expression” means how our genes interact with our environment to cause or suppress disease. Dr Pauling firmly believed that one day, we would be able to manipulate or modify the expression of our genes to prevent disease.

Today, functional medicine is a system of medicine which seeks to prevent chronic diseases, those diseases we are so familiar with like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. FM seeks to find the cause of our symptoms because it is believed that  symptoms are the body’s attempt at correcting itself… they should not necessarily be suppressed without understanding what purpose they serve. FM practitioners don’t necessarily group all the symptoms together, give it a name or diagnosis and then prescribe drugs to suppress the symptoms.  Rather, they search for the causes of the symptoms, i.e. which body systems are suffering and how your genes are being affected by your environment. What are you doing to your body that is causing it not to work properly?  Once those processes have been identified, the treatment is to provide the body with what it needs to correct itself and remove any factors that are stopping the body from recovering. Each person is a new case and different to the last, even though the conventional medical diagnosis may be the same. The reason for this is that each person has his or her own unique biochemical makeup which must be treated individually.

FM is about giving the patient treatment choices to help themselves to achieve better health. FM practitioners believe that the body’s systems are a web of connections and to uncover the real causes, one must understand these complicated connections that span across gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, immunological and neurological systems. FM practitioners are therefore not specialists in cardiology, urology, neurology, focusing on just one body part or system as in conventional medicine.

FM works particularly well for preventing and treating chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, ulcerative colitis, arthritis, rather than treating sudden illness or trauma where conventional medicine excels. Disease is not seen as a separate entity which exists alone. Instead, health and disease are seen as points on a continuum between optimal wellness and ill-health. I particularly like this because it has always perplexed and frustrated me that conventional medicine says that you either have arteriosclerosis or you don’t…but surely, the build up of plaques on the inside of your artery walls is a gradual process, occurring slowly and often imperceptibly over decades, eventually reaching a point which requires treatment…either drugs or life saving surgery to open the blockage. Surely, it is better to catch small problems early rather then wait for them to be big problems later on?

I believe that prevention is better then cure and I very much hope that my efforts, in due course, will afford me the privilege of helping people help themselves, sooner rather than later!

If only we were as concerned with how our “insides” look as much as our “outsides”!


Have you ever considered how long we all spend “grooming” our hair, shaving our faces or bodies, washing & showering, applying creams, make-up & hair products? How long? Half an hour both morning and night, may be more? How much time do we spend buying clothes and dressing ourselves carefully? What’s the total time per day? Our society places massive emphasis on looking good. It’s part of human nature that we want to feel good about ourselves, feel confident in how we look. There is nothing wrong with that. I’m not criticising it!

However, my next question is this. How much time do we spend thinking of how to make our insides look and feel good? How much time per day do we think about what we put in our mouths and the effect it has on our bodies?

I think the reason why the amounts of times are so mis-matched is very simple. We see the outsides all the time but we never get to see the insides (unless we are gastro-enterologists). If we could see our insides, I bet we would give it a lot more thought and consideration.

So I want to share my learnings. It’s time people were privy to seeing what our insides look like. We want to know that our face creams are making us look younger. Don’t we similarly want to see that the foods we are consuming are contributing to our longevity, not auto-immune diseases, cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression, diabetes and the like.

For me, seeing is believing. Knowing isn’t knowing until you have experiences something.

Over the next few weeks, I would like explain how our foods cause this damage to our bodies, how they cause irritation to the delicate lining of our stomachs and intestines which in turn progresses to inflammation. Unresolved inflammation eventually causes the chronic (and preventable) diseases, now so prevalent in our western societies.


My “Red Juice”

This is my “energy giving juice,” as it comes from a selection of root vegetables and an apple. There are about 350 calories in it. Drink a small glass of it whenever you need a boost or crave something sweet.

My sweet treat!

My sweet treat!

I call it my red juice, for obvious reasons, but without the beetroot, it would be orange in colour. What I’m trying to do is consume as many of the colours of the rainbow each and every day, combining the vegetables as I like. This is a nice and easy guarantee of getting the range of nutrients we all need.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is your best bet for preventing every chronic disease. The evidence in support of this recommendation is so strong it has been endorsed by U.S. and U.K government health agencies and by virtually every major medical organisation, including the American Cancer Society. So don’t just take my word for it!

Here is a link to a TED lecture presented by an American physician who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She deteoriated to the point of living in a wheelchair, but later recovered her health by eating, as recommended, as rainbow of coloured whole foods and a paleo diet. Just click on it when you have 20 minutes.


The substances which protect us against our diseases found in these fruits and vegetables, are phytochemicals. They include pigments such as carotenes, chlorophyll and flavonoids, also dietary fibre, enzymes and vitamin-like compounds. If you can consume these foods raw, you will preserve the enzymes (so helpful for easy digestion and maximum absorption), that’s why people have taken to juicing.

Carotenes act as anti-oxidants and enhance our immune systems. Flanonoids act as anti-oxidants, have anti-tumor effects and also enhance our immune systems. Limonoids enhance detoxification and block carcinogens. Chlorophyll may stimulate haemoglobin and red blood cell production.

Here are a few examples of foods in each colour category:

Red – Beetroot, tomatoes, red pepper, strawberries, raspberries, red currents, cherries, red grapefruit, watermelon.

Yellow – Yellow pepper, lemons, banana, pears, melons, apples, yellow grapefruit.

Orange – Papaya, mango, orange pepper, carrots, Sharon Fruit, pumpkin, squash, oranges, apricots, sweet potato, yams,

Green – All green veggies & leaves, kiwi, avocado, limes…the list is endless.

Blue/Black – Blackberries, blue berries, purple cabbage, plums, aubergines, red cabbage.

Anyway, back to the method. Wash thoroughly and juice 2 carrots, 1 beetroot, half a sweet potato, a lemon or a lime, a chunk of ginger (size to your liking) and an apple if you want extra sweetness. That’s it. Drink in small amounts as you need to.

I did look to do a mineral analysis on this juice, but the mineral content didn’t look that impressive. The vitamin values, however, were more significant. For example, this juice will provide you with well over the Vitamin A you need for a day. Also, least 50 % of Vit. C, 70% of B6, 50% of folate, 50% of B5, 25% of manganese we need each day.

Beetroots are an excellent source of folic acid, fibre, manganese and potassium. They significantly help the liver in it’s detoxification functions. The pigment betacyanin gives it it’s vibrant colour and is a powerful anti-cancer fighting agent. Beetroot fibre (not found in the juice of course) has a good effect on bowel function and cholesterol levels. It raises the levels of anti-oxidants enzymes, specifically, gluthathione peroxidase and glutathione S-transferase, as well as increasing the number of white blood cells responsible for detecting and eliminating abnormal cells. In a study of patients with stomach cancer, beet juice was found to be a potent inhibitor of the formation of nitrosamines (cancer-causing compounds ingested as nitrates when we eat smoked or cured meats (look on the labels of processed meats, they all have nitrates and nitrites added as preservatives). Beetroot also inhibit cell mutations caused by theses nitrates.

Carrots provide the highest source of pro-vitamin A carotenes. Two carrots provide roughly four times the RDA of Vitamin A. They also provide excellent levels of Vitamin K, biotin, Vitamin C, B6, B1 and potassium. They are high in anti-oxidants. They contain beta-carotene which we all know helps our night vision and similarly provide protection against macular degeneration and the development of senile cataracts.

Sweet potato’s contain a unique storage protein with very high anti-oxidant properties. Generally, the darker the flesh, the more caroteines they contain. The help to stabilise blood sugars and improve the body’s response to insulin and and are hence called “anti-diabetic”. They are high in Vitamin C, Vit A, B6 manganese, copper. biotin, B5, B2 and fibre.