ATTACK YOUR MIGRAINE HEAD ON BY TACKLING THE ROOT CAUSE

ATTACK YOUR MIGRAINE HEAD ON BY TACKLING THE ROOT CAUSE

 Migraines affect lives

Migraines are a debilitating condition with 190,000 migraine attacks occurring every day in the UK.1 Migraines affect 1 in 7 people and is more widespread than those suffering with diabetes, epilepsy and asthma.1

A migraine is a condition which is characterised by severe episodic headaches which are commonly incapacitating. Migraines decrease quality of life by reducing productivity, missing events, having prolonged periods off work and causing chronic pain which is not relievable effectively with the painkillers available on the market.2

Chronic migraine is almost 3 times more common in woman than in men, and for women chronic migraine usually peaks between 18–29 years old and again at 40-49 years old.3  Patients report feelings of intense headache, nausea, light-headedness and light sensitivity.4  Although the exact cause of migraines is still not fully understood, recent studies have demonstrated that diet and lifestyle changes can lessen the severity of a migraine attack helping those who suffer to be able to lead a normal life.

Here we consider the potential causes of migraines and the possible treatment strategies targeting the underlying cause of migraine rather than just the presenting symptoms.  This will give more options to sufferers to find release from the shackles of migraines in everyday life.

So, what causes the symptoms of a migraine?

There are currently two theories in respect of the cause of a migraine. One (older) theory suggests that migraines are caused by vascular (i.e. blood vessel) contractions and dilations. The other hypothesis is that migraines are caused by neuronal (i.e. nervous system) events. Present understanding is that migraines are caused by both components, however, more recent research seemingly supports that neurological stimulus of the condition is the most significant attribute to its painful presentations.5

There is good evidence to support that the initial phase of a migraine “with aura” (with sensory disturbances) is started with ‘cortisol spreading depression’. This refers to an event in the brain where there is a wave of biochemical and electrical disruption which encapsulates the brain, putting it in a fragile state which is easily unbalanced.6 This concept is consistent with the experiences of those patients who suffer from migraine who describe the initial onset as specks of light in their central vision which gradually widens to their peripheral vision before the full impact of the migraine is felt.

The energy building blocks in the body’s cells, mitochondria, which produce all the body’s energy to function properly, seem to play a key part in the cause of a migraine. If the mitochondria are not working efficiently, especially those that are located in the cells in the brain, then it could be hypothesised that the other systems in the brain which rely on that energy source will be weakened and a cascade of events will then follow which may lead to a migraine attack.7

Mitochondria also play an important role in the homeostasis (i.e. biological balance) of calcium in the cell as well as moderating the concentration of “reactive oxygen species” which are extremely volatile compounds that can cause mutations in DNA as well as impacting central systems in the body.5 These are thought to play a role in the cause of migraines.

The tumbling effect of increased intracellular calcium then causes dysfunction of astrocytes, which are vital glial cells located in the central nervous system which require optimal energy to perform properly.8

Inflammation worsens the symptoms of a migraine as elevated calcium levels trigger inflammatory processes which promote further inflammation to those areas in the brain causing increased pain and unhinging of the body’s processes, such as perception of balance and light tolerance.

An excitatory neurotransmitter called glutamate has also been shown to indorse the symptoms of migraines, as it stimulates neurons by binding to a receptor known as NMDAr (N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor). The NMDAr is stimulated in normal bodily functions ordinarily, but too much stimulation by glutamate and other substances which bind to the receptor cause over stimulation of the nerves causing pain, depression and, in some cases, neurodegeneration.5

Glutamate can be beneficial if converted into a substance called inhibitory GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid), which causes a calming effect on nerves and the brain, but this is dependent on adequate amounts of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine).9 As such, deficiencies in this nutrient could contribute to the start of migraines.

The precipitating factors which trigger migraines is still under debate, but it is widely believed that food allergies may contribute to a migraine’s commencement, such as foods containing tyramine and other amines which are found in aged cheese, chocolate, citrus fruits and red wine and beer.10 It is hypothesised that this reaction is due to a person’s inability to breakdown tyramine which, if not metabolised properly, can stimulate the release of neurotransmitters such as noradrenaline which can kindle migraine symptoms.10

The integrated effects of inflammation, impaired energy processing and over stimulation of nerves in the brain, caused in part by nutrient deficiencies, stimulating (allergenic) foods and increased absorption of calcium in the cells, are all factors which have been demonstrated to play a part in the onset of migraine. These should be considered when developing a treatment strategy to manage the illness, rather than developing medicines which only treat the peripheral pain temporarily.

Can we eat to beat the pain?

Due to the increased understanding of the mechanisms underpinning the cause of migraines, there are now various dietary supplements which can be taken to ease the condition. Here we discuss a number of nutrients which may help to alleviate migraine symptoms:

o   Moderating migraine with Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency can contribute to migraines in numerous ways.  Magnesium is involved in the prevention of excessive nerve stimulation – it facilitates the energy production cycle in the mitochondria and also increases vasodilation – so in short supply it promotes all the factors associated with migraine onset.5 Magnesium supplementation is therefore normally recommended for migraine sufferers as it is safe and effective, unless there are specific issues with the patient that might be worsened by increased magnesium such as kidney disease.11

o   Qualifying Coenzyme Q10

As discussed above, the health of mitochondria is significant in migraine sufferers.  Defects in a patient’s energy generating processes is one of the potential causes of migraine, so ensuring that energy supply is sufficient is essential in migraine treatment. Coenzyme Q10 is suggested for sufferers as it helps to moderate the dysfunctional energy processes in the cells, thereby optimising energy production and circumventing the cascading destructive events which lead to migraine onset. Coenzyme Q10 is also thought to control the immune system so can prevent the over-stimulation of inflammatory cells and can ease the pain in the brain.12

o   Reroute to calmness with Vitamin B6

Studies have demonstrated the effects of vitamin B6 on the conversion of damaging glutamate to comforting GABA, so in patients suffering with migraines supplementation of this vitamin should be considered. It is worth noting that as vitamin B6’s effects are reliant on the presence of magnesium, vitamin B6 should be supplemented in conjunction with magnesium to obtain the best results.5

o   Freeing Feverfew

Feverfew is one of the most studied plants for the treatment of migraine symptoms which may be due to a component in it called parthenolide.  It has anti-inflammatory properties, inhibitory effects on serotonin release from platelets (which may alleviate excitatory effects on nerves in the brain) and the ability to relax and dilate vessels. Although the results in human studies vary, it is believed to have beneficial properties for migraine relief, as long as the feverfew is from a good quality source and the quantities of supplementation are optimal.13

Peace-making lifestyle adaptations

o   Cut out the cause

As discussed above, there are various types of food associated with provoking migraines, so a well-documented approach to treating migraines is to embark on an ‘elimination diet’.10 This method is formulated to remove all allergenic foods from the diet to ensure any inflammatory triggers of migraine are minimised, however, there is no conclusive evidence to support this technique.  A better solution would be to keep a ‘food and migraine journal’ to see if there is any connection between attacks and certain foods and try removing these foods from the diet rather than a complete elimination of a variety of different foods which may have beneficial nutritional properties as well.

o   Heal with movement

Certain ‘myofascial trigger points’ (i.e. muscular tension) for migraines have been identified in some people in the upper back and are well treated with exercises and stretches around this area. If, when this area is palpated (examined with touch), there is pain in the person’s head or face then this might be the underlying cause of the migraine. 5 In this situation, a movement approach is most suitable for migraine management and healing.

Mitigate the migraine and live again

Research has shown that common antimigraine analgesic (i.e. painkiller) and anti-inflammatory drugs may relieve migraine pain momentarily, but they can actually make migraines worse in the long run – leading to a cycle of pain and respite.14 A better resolution for migraine sufferers is to tackle their migraines from the bottom up and avert the triggers and dysfunctional biochemistry that lead to pain by lifestyle changes – for example, diet and supplementation interventions which supports optimal brain function and modulation of the immune system. This may take some trial and error to find the root cause, but it does mean that once the problem is recognised a more targeted treatment plan can be adopted.  This means that a sufferer can prevent migraine attacks for the long term, rather than experiencing temporary lapses of liberation and living the rest of the time in distress!

Stand up to migraines head on by addressing their fundamental root cause and live a fulfilling and enlivening life free of hindering headaches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

  1. The Migraine Trust (2018). Available at: www.migrainetrust.org/ (Accessed: 9 April 2018)
  2. May, A. & Schulte, L.H. (2016) Chronic migraine: risk factors, mechanisms and treatment. “Nature Reviews Neurology12, 455–464 doi:10.1038/nrneurol.2016.93
  3. Ibekwe, A., Perras, C., and Mierzwinski-Urban, M. (2018) ‘Monoclonal antibodies to prevent migraine headaches.’ CADTH issues in emerging health technologies, 167.
  4. Gaul C, Diener H-C, Danesch U, on behalf of the Migravent® Study Group. (2015) ‘Improvement of migraine symptoms with a proprietary supplement containing riboflavin, magnesium and Q10: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicenter trial.’ The Journal of Headache and Pain. 16:32. doi:10.1186/s10194-015-0516-6.
  5. Vasquez, A. (4th Edition) Brain Inflammation in chronic pain, migraine and fibromyalgia: the paradigm-shifting guide for doctors and patients dealing with chronic pain. ICHNFM.ORG, Available at InflammationMastery.com/pain
  6. Cui Y, Kataoka Y, Watanabe Y. (2014) ‘Role of cortical spreading depression in the pathophysiology of migraine.’ Neuroscience Bulletin. 30(5):812-822. doi:10.1007/s12264-014-1471-y.
  7. Yorrns, W.R & Hardison, H.H (2013) ‘Mitochondrial dysfunction in migraine.’ Semin Pediatr Neurol. 20(3):188-93. doi: 10.1016/j.spen.2013.09.002
  8. Capuani, C. Marcello Melone, M., Tottene, A.,  Bragina, L., Crivellaro, G., Santello, M., Casari, G., Conti, F., and Pietrobon, D. (2016) ‘Defective glutamate and K+ clearance by cortical astrocytes in familial hemiplegic migraine type 2.’ EMBO Molecular Medicine. 8(8):967-986. doi:10.15252/emmm.201505944.
  9. Ciranna L. (2006) ‘Serotonin as a Modulator of Glutamate- and GABA-Mediated Neurotransmission: Implications in Physiological Functions and in Pathology.’ Current Neuropharmacology. 4(2):101-114.
  10. Arora, H. and Kaur, R. (2008) ‘The Role of Diet in Migraine Headaches.’ DELHI PSYCHIATRY JOURNAL 11.1
  11. Sun-Edelstein, C. & Mauskop A. (2009) ‘Role of magnesium in the pathogenesis and treatment of migraine’ Expert Rev Neurother. Mar;9(3):369-79. doi: 10.1586/14737175.9.3.369.
  12. Rozen, T.D., Oshinsky, M.L., Gebeline, C.A., Bradley, K.C., Young, W.B., Shechter, A.L., Silberstei, S.D. (2002) ‘Open Label Trial of Coenzyme Q10 as A Migraine Preventive.’ SAGE Journals. 22:2:137-141
  13. Angèle Guilbot, A., Bangratz, M., Abdellah, S.A. and Lucas, C. (2017) ‘A combination of coenzyme Q10, feverfew and magnesium for migraine prophylaxis: a prospective observational study’ BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 17:433 doi.org/10.1186/s12906-017-1933-7
  14. Diener H. C., Holle D., Solbach K., and Gaul C (2016) ‘Medication-overuse headache: risk factors, pathophysiology and management.’ Nat Rev Neurol. 12(10):575-83. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2016.124.

Fixing Autoimmune Disease – how close really are we?

Autoimmune disease is starting to get the recognition that it deserves – it has long been thought of as an umbrella of various illnesses which attack ‘self-tissue’ with different presenting symptoms but as the research has developed we are now understanding more about the mechanisms underlying these diseases which all have a common cause.

I attended a seminar with Tom O’Bryan last weekend on Autoimmunity who discussed this matter in detail, and the current findings imply that the best way to treat autoimmunity is to ‘fix’ the underlying causes rather than to aid the presenting symptoms. This functional medicine approach to the treatment of autoimmune disease usually comes with much speculation but it is a method I strongly support, and I can make most sense of.

So, what goes wrong in autoimmune disease?

It seems that the one of the most important factors in autoimmune disease is ‘molecular mimicry’ which to put simply, is where our body’s immune system attacks a foreign particle in our blood stream to protect us, for example, a virus, which happens to look very similar to say one of our own thyroid cells, and it gets confused which one is which.  The immune system then starts attacking our thyroid cells (to protect us!) and we end up with an autoimmune disease such as Hashimotos Thyroiditis. These so called ‘autoantibodies’ which attack our thyroid gland (‘self’) need to be desensitised and the ‘trigger’ for their action removed from the body to cure ourselves of these diseases.

It is now hypothesised that a number of these autoantibodies are triggered by food particles which can cross from our digestive system, such as the stomach and intestines, into our blood stream due to an increasing incidence of compromised gut function known as ‘intestinal permeability’. This often means that the wall of the digestive system has larger openings than it should have, which lets undigested food particles into the blood.

Other important components of autoimmunity are;

  • having a family history of autoimmune disease,
  • the health and tolerance of the person’s immune system and,
  • toxic chemical exposure.

How to fix yourself

Tom O’Bryan’s presentation proposed a dietary and supplementation strategy for fixing autoimmune disease as follows:

Prebiotics

Apple pectin

Bone broth

Fermented foods

Probiotics

Vitamin D

Zinc Carnosine

Glutamine

EPA/DHA

Curcumin

Colostrum

These suggestions are all areas that I intend to study further to determine what the best approach is on a case by case basis, as it might not be suitable in this form for everybody. For example, colostrum would not be appropriate for someone with a dairy allergy but is there an alternative? And glutamine feeds yeast, so it would not be beneficial for someone who suffers from candida overgrowth, it may even be detrimental, so you need to treat the yeast infection first before further interventions.

As with most things in life, an individualised course of action is always the most successful, but a framework to start from is useful and I will be using Tom’s advice to research these areas further to decide on my own opinion for the best approach to treat autoimmune disease.

In the meantime, start decreasing daily toxicity which can infest our cells and cause our bodies to start attacking these cells (again, to protect us!), potentially causing harm to our organs and body system.

Some of the main toxic offenders are:

  • xenoestrogens found in plastics, and household ad cosmetic products in the form of phthalates, parabens and BPA.
  • metals such as aluminium and mercury, found in foil wrapping, cookware and fish.
  • moulds and pollutants in the air we breathe, from water damaged buildings, diesel engines and even wood-burning stove.

This is an extensive area which justifies a separate focus, but if you wish to make a few easy adaptations to your lifestyle it would be valuable to invest in some glass containers for water, hot drinks and food, rather than using plastic or metal ones.  Also, if you are at risk of mould toxicity, use an air filter in your bedroom like I have, to help you sleep easy on a night.  A lot of old properties in the UK do have toxic mould so unless you are prepared to invest heavily to remove the mould from the property (and the issue causing the mould) then I would suggest getting a filter as the second-best option.

Tom O’Bryan’s presentation was an inspiration and a motivation, it has given me the tools and a fresh insight into autoimmune diseases to start my own exploration into the subject.  Small steps taken together, get us one step closer to finding a cure for these intricate illnesses – we may still have a long journey ahead of us, but we are certainly getting to closer to understanding the cause of these diseases and potential ways to fix them.

Living Life Feeling Alive

We are all striving for something in life; whether we like to set goals for ourselves and thrive as we reach these or if we simply have dreams that we aspire to ‘one day’.

Or maybe it’s the small things in life that kindle excitement, like an invigorating morning shower, a flowing yoga class or the smell of freshly made coffee which arouses our senses.

These different perspectives, experiences and ambitions are the things that make us feel ‘alive’.

ALIVENESS

It’s hard to explain that sensation of feeling ‘alive’ – is it being right there in that moment? Is it just feeling present, content or courageous? If you could bottle it, you would have a treasure richer than gold. It is achievable every day for all of us, we just need to provide our bodies with the resources to be able to do so.

There are three key ingredients for living a life feeling alive: energy, calmness and recovery.

Here we will explore ways you can enrich yourself with these vital pieces of the life jigsaw, so you feel unstoppable in your life no matter what the challenge:

ENERGY

Energy is a seemingly unrelenting force, and as humans, we should be using this to our advantage. As with most things in life, quality trumps quantity when it comes to energy, and we know highly refined sugary foods which are over-stimulating to the body should be avoided when you are hoping for sustained energy.

The better energy sources include healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and proteins, as well as some key micronutrients such as B vitamins and essential fatty acids (EFAs). Salmon, avocados, oats and eggs are all foods fit for energy.

CALMNESS

Clarity and calmness can be hard to find in our day when we are under continuing pressure. Even though as humans our bodies crave this harmonic state, we are often not able to channel into this side of the body when we are stressed. Studies have demonstrated that even 15 minutes a day of ‘me time’ can make a big difference to our overall wellbeing. Whether that’s taking a walk outside, setting time aside in a morning to meditate, taking a Pilates class or just having 15 minutes alone on your sofa (without the TV on!) clearing the mind. We all need to recoup. Augment the experience with a cup of green tea which acts as a natural stress reliever.

RECOVERY

Life encompasses both the day and night, and rest and sleep are part of living. As a society we are encouraged to ‘work hard, play hard’ to get the best out of life.  However, why live life in a hazy daydream, when you can really live in the moment? To get the best out of your waking day, you need to be sleeping well on a night and for a sufficient amount of time. In Matthew Walker’s defining book Why We Sleep, he states that “two-thirds of adults throughout all developed nations fail to obtain the recommended eight hours of nightly sleep”. Deep immersing sleep allows our body to restore, reboot, and reinvigorate to burst into life the next day.

COMING BACK TO LIFE

Bouncing back to life may take time but when you get there it is exhilarating. Treating our bodies with respect, elevating ourselves with the optimal diet and changing our lifestyles for the better are all movements towards a life of ‘aliveness’.

Start discovering who you are again by living a life feeling ALIVE.

                                                                                                                                               

3 ENERGY enrichers: here are some additions to the diet which will increase energy and liveliness, to make the most of everyday:

–          B vitamins: helps the body to access energy from food so a great supplement to increase vitality.

–          Coenzyme Q10: required for energy at the cellular level, especially for organs with high energy demands like the liver and the brain.

–          EFAs: salmon, mackerel and sardines provide an ample source of EFAs, which have been shown to be particularly important for regulating energy supply to the brain enhancing its function.

3 CALMNESS enrichers: nutrients and certain foods help to ignite our inner calm:

–          Magnesium: may restrict the release of stress hormones which cause anxiety, depression and brain fog, helping to maintain systemic balance.

–          Holy Basil: has been shown to counter the effects of psychological stress through its anti-depressant properties.

–          Baobab: in African cultures, the Baobab tree is often referred to as the “Tree of Life” due to its wondrous effects on wellbeing and general health.

3 RECOVERY enrichers: nutrients and foods may boost recovery and restorative sleep:

–          Vitamin D: this sunshine-necessitating vitamin is important for quality sleep. The sun on our skin is the best source, but it is also found in eggs yolks and oily fish.

–          Lucuma: due to its effects on stabilising blood sugar, it’s the perfect night cap before bed to ensure there are no waking sugar dips during the night.

–          Tart cherry: its anti-inflammatory properties may improve recovery from training and enhance performance.

Stop thinking cure and start thinking prevention!

As a civilisation, our usual approach is suppressing our symptoms with painkillers. Modern medicine is overwhelmingly reactive and less proactive. But, if you look back to ancient ways of medicine the focus was on prevention rather than cure.

For centuries, different cultures around the world have used natural herbs, spices and various techniques to ensure the body is protected from harmful toxins, so that the requirement for conventional drugs as a cure is not relied upon.

Here’s a few preventative health measures taken by different societies across the globe and some natural remedies that you could consider to help boost your immune system this winter:

Pre-tipple Turmeric
There has been a lot of excitement about this naturally golden spice recently, and it isn’t without cause. Turmeric is native to southern India and has been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedamedicines to help with healing. In Japan, it’s widely taken as a precursor before consuming alcohol as it aids the liver to process the alcohol whilst you are eating and drinking. It is also restorative while you sleep, as it helps to detoxify the body.

Try a turmeric latte, a curry or a good quality organic supplement of turmeric or curcumin; the compound in turmeric which is known for its anti-inflammatory properties which can help negate the effects of the irritation and swelling caused by allergenic foods and alcohol. Or try mixing turmeric into mulled wine with other spices, as an evening tonic.

Fat-based Starter
In the Mediterranean culture, it is common to have a teaspoon of olive oil before consuming alcohol. Fats decrease the absorption of ethanol in the digestive system, lessening its effects on your body. Try drinking a fat-based concoction before you go out, drink either milk, coconut cream or butter, or nibble on a few olives as you wait to be served your aperitif.

In Japan, turmeric is taken before consuming alcohol, as it helps the liver to process the alcohol whilst you are eating and drinking

Keep it Simple
In India, they take a very simple approach to help the body recover from excess – drinking lemon infused water or ginger tea before going to bed and the same when getting up in a morning. This will leave you feeling refreshed, as the antioxidants in the lemon and ginger help your liver to detoxify the body as you sleep. Then you can rise with a smile!

Safeguard with Magnesium

It is believed that the tiredness and tenderness experienced after exposure to alcohol and toxins is due to magnesium depletion which is essential for nerve and muscle function. In Russian tradition, it is customary to consume a fermented beverage called Kvass to help relieve the body of hangover symptoms, which is made from rye bread and is rich in magnesium. Try stocking up with magnesium rich foods such as kefir, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, spinach, almonds and cashew nuts.

Wallow in Willow Bark
Willow bark has been used for centuries to treat pain and inflammation and dates back to ancient Egyptian, Roman, Greek and Indian civilisations. It has been referred to as a ‘natural aspirin’ and works wonders for those crippling headaches that we have all experienced the day after the night before. Take as a tonic the next day mixed in water or find a white willow bark supplement at your preferred health store.

Empower with Prevention
Prevention does take a little planning but investing time upfront can be transformational to the way we feel and live our lives. We should all be entitled to guilt free fun and we should also respect ourselves enough to give our bodies the protection that they need to ensure that we can still work optimally, be productive and most importantly be healthy in body and mind. Deck your body with preventative measures this winter, you’ll thank yourself for it later on.

Article by Victoria Hamilton. As featured in the Winter 2017 edition of Thrive Magazine: https://thrive-magazine.co.uk/stop-thinking-cure-and-start-thinking-prevention/

 

Purify your plate: Simple ways to eat a more natural diet

As featured in the luxurylifestylemag.com

https://www.luxurylifestylemag.co.uk/food-and-drink/purify-your-plate-simple-ways-to-eat-a-more-natural-diet/

Over the years the food market has developed from one of simplicity and pureness which suited the lifestyle of the time, to one of convenient processed foods which support our ever increasingly active and fulfilling lives.

A large part of the growth in convenient foods has been in the health food market, where you are now able to buy a plethora of ‘free from’ foods, especially gluten-free and vegan products, protein enriched snack bars to refuel after exercise, and salted kale chips as appose to crisps. These foods taste great and they can be a trusted supply of energy if you have a busy schedule to attend to, but they often contain a high amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates, as well as damaged fats which can be harmful to the body.

So what simple real foods should you turn to rather than the processed varieties which are so readily available to us, to help you purify your plate and eat a more natural diet:

Go Nuts

Nuts are usually a key component of some of the processed foods on offer, so it is better to eat these straight from source. Almonds, cashew nuts and walnuts are a great option to carry in your bag when you need to restock. Soaking nuts over night and then heated on a low temperature helps to enhance the nutrient value of these savoury snacks, and with a sprinkle of Himalayan pink salt and a drizzle of extra virgin oil, they taste even better than their refined counterparts.

A Pinch of Spice (is quite nice)

Spices not only help bring flavour and excitement to our foods, but they also include some wondrous health properties, including protecting our bodies from free radical damage caused by pollutants and toxins, helping to decrease inflammation in the body and supporting our detoxification pathways. These super spices can easily be added to many types of food and drinks including curries, salads, and toppings on meat and fish. They have even become a popular addition to matcha and coffee lattes. Some of my favourite spices include ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and paprika which have been shown to help alleviate symptoms of chronic inflammatory illnesses and improve general wellbeing.

Healthy Fats

‘Good’ undamaged fats in the diet provide an assortment of health benefits including supple beautiful skin, aiding the body to absorb some key vitamins and minerals, as well as providing you with a robust energy supply. Convenient foods often contain vegetable oils which may be damaged in the refining process and can cause havoc in the body, so it is better to eat real wholefoods which have a high healthy fat content including avocado, olives, oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, eggs (boiled eggs are a great option for a snack) and extra virgin olive oil. Our body operates like a complex mechanical system and we know a well-oiled machine works much more effectively and stays strong, so we should apply the same values to our health.

Green in Nature

The colour green is the perfect representation of health and nature, which is created from the remarkable green pigment of a plant called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll has been shown to optimise circulation, detoxify the body and it is even thought to delay the aging process. So rather than reaching for a snack bar after lunch, it is better to accompany every meal with either a green salad or vegetable side or if you are feeling adventurous, the vibrant sea vegetable is an opulent source of this emerald treasure. This not only ensures that you are easily able to eat the 10 portions of fruits and vegetables that you are recommended to consume every day, but it also means that you are more likely to stay fuller for longer, so the mid-afternoon nibbling will become a thing of the past.

The Smell Test

The principle of eating a natural diet is that if you can’t identify the food you are eating, don’t eat it.  Live by eating real food where you can identify the original source of the produce. This is the best way to truly purify your plate, and live a life feeling enlivened and bright.

3 Easy Ways to Purify Your Plate

  1. Only consume wholefoods: if you need to snack, a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts and seeds, or some seafood or meat is much better than a processed option.
  2. Experiment with your cooking: cooking doesn’t have to be difficult, and just familiarising yourself with a few key herbs or spices allows you to make a raft of interesting meals without the need of processed jarred sauce or prepacked convenient food.
  3. Avoid plastic packaging: although it is getting better, so much of our food is still sold in plastic packaging, so try where possible to buy products sold in paper or store these products in glass containers or transfer to paper wrapping.

The Vitamin B12 Link

LET’S TALK ABOUT VITAMIN B12

Vitamin B12 has always been a nutrient which I hold in high esteem. It is involved in some of the most essential bodily functions, including making DNA, nerves and red blood cells as well as powering our #immune cells and ensuring our brains stay #healthy and #energised!

A vitamin B12 deficiency can present itself in a number of ways and cause various symptoms but here are a few to look out for:

  • fatigue, but not just general tiredness, the type that stops you from getting out of bed in a morning or when you need match sticks to keep yours eyes open in the afternoon!
  • brittle nails with ridges in them, and brittle and/or thinning hair.
  • heart palpitations and shortness of breath.
  • nerve problems like tingling or numbness and muscle weakness.
  • enlarged red blood cells (which show up on a blood test – MCV result), potentially with anaemia.

I know a lot of people who have been tested for vitamin B12 deficiencies and in some cases their blood serum level is normally very good so they don’t investigate it further. However, if your red blood cells are large, I would suggest getting further tests such as the methylmalonic acid test or the homocysteine test as these will show whether you have a vitamin B12 deficiency at a functional (cell) level which is where vitamin B12 is most required.

Possible reasons for having a vitamin B12 deficiency could be:

  • Diet: vegans and vegetarians are far more at risk of a deficiency as vitamin B12 is most commonly found in animal products.
  • Digestion: an issue digesting vitamin B12 in the stomach due to low stomach acid potentially caused by a zinc deficiency or due to taking antacids.
  • Pernicious anaemia: this is an autoimmune disease which causes a lack of the protein called intrinsic factor which is needed to absorb vitamin B12 from food (you can get tested for this at your Drs).

Dependent on why you have a vitamin B12 deficiency there are various ways to treat it, but the best way is to include more vitamin B12 rich foods in your diet like eggs, fish, meat  and poultry. I especially like to include some organ meat in my diet which is one of the most nutrient rich sources of food that there is.

Supplementing is also an option, but if your deficiency is linked to digestion issues then you might want to think about vitamin B12 lozenges (which you absorbs through your tongue) or vitamin B12 injections.

If you are just not getting enough vitamin B12 in your diet or are genetically susceptible to a B12 deficiency (you may need extra vitamin B12 if you have certain SNPs on genes related to methylation) then try a good vitamin B12 supplement.  Always look for the active forms which are methylcobalamin or adenosylcobalamin rather than cyanocobalamin. I like liquidmethylfolguard by biocare which includes methylfolate as it is important to have a good ratio of vitamin B12 and folate in the body.  Nutricology do a good supplementation for adenosylcobalamin which I would recommend if you have a high MMA blood test result.

I am still unscrambling vitamin B12 and I expect more information on this powerful nutrient will arise over time but I know for myself how essential this vitamin is to live a long, fulfilling, happy and active life!!

Have you been affected by a vitamin B12 deficiency?

The Mysterious Diagnosis

I found out my brother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis after he had lost movement in his arm over Christmas.  As far as I can remember, I was never particularly concerned that he couldn’t move his arm, but I was young and although I knew a considerable amount about Autoimmunity from the Immunology degree I had studied, I never imaged it could be anything like that. So when I found out the diagnosis, I was at first shocked, then sad, then felt completely out of control.  What was this disease and how would it affect my brother?  What was the cause – was it lifestyle, genetics, pathogenic? How would it affect our family long term? And most importantly, was there a cure?

It has now been ten years since that day in late January 2007, the day before my brother’s son was born, and although I have a deeper understanding of the illness and as a family we have all taken steps to look after our health much more than before, there are still a lot of unanswered questions of this mysterious disease.  I have suffered myself from a multitude of autoimmune disorders, so I walk this journey with my brother with a hope that one day we will find a cure to this horrible disease and discover the underlying issues of all autoimmune disease.

I have started this blog to capture all the research I have performed which includes exploring various health, wellbeing and fitness programs and products I have tried, as well as providing some useful health tips, food suggestions, fitness ideas and most importantly, inspiration to those who are suffering with autoimmune disease.