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Pre-Menstrual Syndrome or Tension (PMS or PMT)

PMS is the term used to describe a cluster of symptoms commonly experienced by women in the week leading up to menstruation.

Not every woman suffers from PMS but for those who do there seems to be no escape from its cyclical regularity. I’m talking about physical symptoms such as bloating, tiredness, swollen and tender breasts and headaches, lower back pain, abdominal cramps, water retention. These range from uncomfortable to extremely unpleasant.

For others, however, there are also emotional symptoms such as irritability, mood swings, anxiety, anger or violent outbursts, depression and even thoughts of suicide that the sufferer is unable to control, making her withdrawn and antisocial.

PMS questionnaire :

– Are your periods irregular?

– Do you crave chocolate before a period?

– Are you irritable, intolerant, or anxious prior to menstruation?

– Do you suffer from weight gain or water retention each month?

– Do you experience premenstrual cramps?

There are three main causes :

Glucose intolerance marked by a craving for sweet food and stimulants.

Oestrogen dominance and relative progesterone deficiency. These hormones control the monthly cycle and their changing levels affects women in as many ways as there are various symptoms.

Deficiency in essential fatty acids and vitamin B6, zinc and magnesium, which together create prostaglandins, which help to balance hormone levels.

Vitamin B6 is essential for all protein utilisation and it has been proved helpful in many conditions from PMS to carpal tunnel syndrome (strain condition affecting nerves in the wrist) and cardiovascular disease.

Magnesium is essential for many enzymes in the body. It works together with Vitamins B1 and B6, being involved in protein synthesis and therefore essential in the production of some hormones including prostaglandin of which higher level has beneficial effects on PMS.

Essential fatty acids are converted into prostaglandins with the help of Vitamins B3, B6, C and Biotin and minerals Magnesium and Zinc. So deficiency in any of these nutrients can also create the equivalent of hormonal imbalances.

Oestrogen dominance can be due to excess exposure to oestrogen substances, or lack of progesterone or a combination of both. But to help make sure it is not the earlier, it may be wise to eat less or avoid red meat and dairy products. Also, many pesticides, soft plastics used for wrapping and most birth control pill and HRT contain oestrogen and can participate in building up your oestrogen level and therefore making your PMS worse.

PMS symptoms can be eased by making changes to your diet and studies suggest that a diet high in carbohydrates and low in fat is helpful. Eat little and often before menstruation, snaking on fruit but avoiding sugary treats and stimulants (coffee, tea, chocolate). Ensure that your daily diet includes 1 tablespoon of cold press vegetable oil rich in both Omega3 and Omega6 fatty acids (or supplement with cod liver oil capsules).

Good eating habits coupled with supplements can often relieve symptoms of PMS all together. So to help keep your hormones in balance :

  • keep animal fats very low in your diet.
  • choose organic vegetables and meat wherever possible to reduce pesticide and hormone exposure.
  • Don’t eat fatty foods wrapped in non-PVC cling film.
  • Reduce the use of stimulants such as coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar and cigarette. If you are addicted to any of these you will need to break the habit.
  • Do not let stress become a habit in your life. Make changes to your lifestyle to limit stress and the way you react to it.
  • Make sure you are getting enough essential fats from seeds, their oils or supplements of primrose or borage oil (omega 6) or flax oil (omega 3).
  • make sure your supplement programme includes optimal levels of vitamins B3 and B6, biotin, magnesium and zinc.

Helpful foods :

Spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables for magnesium and vitamin B6

Wholemeal bread and whole grains (brown rice, oat) for complex carbohydrates, vitamins B3 and B6, calcium, zinc and magnesium

Eggs, avocado, nuts and cold press virgin olive oil for vitamin E.

Fish (salmon, sardine, mackerel, herring, tuna) for Vitamin B6, magnesium, calcium and essential fatty acids (omega 3, 6)

If you have PMS or menopausal symptoms, consider using herbs such as lemon balm, sage, vervain, black cohosh, or St John’s Wort. These can relieve tension in various parts of the body by relieving liver tension and improving blood circulation and cardiovascular tone. Many women like to drink lemon balm tea because it is good for menstrual problems and cramps. It can also be added to food for flavouring.

Do not use herbs without checking first with a professional as it could interfere with any other treatment you may be taking.

Tropical smoothie

I recently discovered this smoothie recipe. Only had to try it once and I was hooked; all my taste buds are having a party and my body feels good for the nutrients, vitamins and minerals in the mix and I can relax and enjoy this treat. No stress and easy to prepare.

You will need:

250ml of milk (I use soya milk but coconut or even goat milk is ok)

2 organic free range raw eggs (optional)

1-2 tablespoons of raw (unheated) honey

2-3 slices of fresh or frozen pineapple (medium thick)

1/2 mango fresh or frozen

2 medium size bananas (fresh or frozen)

That’s it. Put it all in the blender and it should serve about 4 large glasses.

ENJOY. It is particularly good if you are recovering from illness and trying rebuild your strength and energy levels.

Overcome over-active thyroid

I have been working as a nutritionist-herbalist at the Haven Heath Clinic since last November.

Although I can help and treat various conditions and illnesses, I specialise in the treatments of gall and kidney stones, weak immune system and my big favourite, the treatment of over-active thyroid.

It is my favourite because, like many people, I suffered the consequences of an over-active thyroid. If you are in this situation, you may be familiar with symptoms of itchy skin, weight loss, tremors and palpitations, feeling unusually hot and extreme fatigue. Your thyroid guides the speed of your body’s metabolism. When it becomes over-active, it produces more hormones, telling the rest of the body to go faster and therefore making you feel as if you are running marathons back to back every day.

From these symptoms, doctors will organise a blood test to check thyroid levels (TSH, T3, T4). Be encouraged to ask for a complete test of your blood levels as often the liver function will be struggling too (and ask for a copy of your results to take home).

But based on thyroid results alone, the suggested treatments will be : beta-blockers which block the effects of the excess thyroid hormones; anti-thyroid drugs (methymazole, propylthiouracil (PTU)) which actually interfere with the thyroid gland’s ability to make its hormones. The later are usually very effective at controlling hyperthyroidism within a few weeks but, apart from side effects, hyperthyroidism will come back as soon as treatment is discontinued. So it is often a life time treatment with radioactive iodine treatment being offered as an alternative. And of course, if that doesn’t work there is the last resort to surgery where the thyroid gland is removed, and hormone replacement will have to be taken (thyroxine) for the rest of your life.

Has anything positive been achieved? I am convinced it has not and for that reason, I refused all conventional treatment and went all out for nutrition and herbal treatment.

Once you start your natural treatment, you will start feeling better within a few weeks as thyroid hormones levels go down. But this treatment aims at resetting your thyroid in the way it should function and so it could tale at least 6 months to bring the hormones levels back to normal for a lasting effect. That means they will stay normal even when you stop the herbal treatment and even when you go back to eating a normal healthy diet.

I did it on my own and it is certainly worth doing. You can be well again and drug free. You will need dedication and firm determination but you can do it.

If you decide to commit to this, I will be happy to come along side you to help and encourage you.

God bless you all.

Homemade yoghurt

I use to watch “River Cottage” on TV and it made me realise that if you buy a fresh live yoghurt to use as a starter culture to make your own, you can split it into ice cube trays and keep it in the freezer.
Until now I was using 1 table spoon of the starter yoghurt and eating the rest so it wouldn’t waste. But I should be able to make it go much further with this little tip.

I have now tried this and it works really well. It makes your starter yoghurt last a lot longer and therefore making yoghurt is even cheaper.

And if you take it one step further to making cheese, don’t throw the whey (resulting liquid after the milk turns to curd and then cheese). Its unique mineral balance makes it very beneficial. It provides naturally occurring sodium and potassium in the correct ratio for cellular health and healthy bowel function, calcium, live probiotics to support the intestinal flora, B vitamins and other key nutrients to support elimination via the liver, kidneys, and colon, and a high percentage of water to hydrate the body throughout. All together possibly the best food to support cleansing and detoxification on a daily basis.

The real side effects of antibiotics

We all know how antibiotics help us fight infectious diseases, save lives and reduce suffering. Although they will continue to do that, they are also over prescribed and particularly on young children up to 6 years old. When they are used repeatedly, they can create problems such as :

  • Antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These bacteria have changed to become stronger and more virulent causing diseases which may persist with chronic symptoms of illness.
  • Destruction of friendly bacteria. The multitude of friendly bacteria (many in our gut flora such as Lactobacillus) in our body helps us fight against unfriendly bacteria. Antibiotics are not selective and they destroy all bacteria unfriendly or not. So after a treatment using antibiotics it is a good idea to reintroduce friendly bacteria to the digestive system with an acidophilus supplement or simply with live yoghurt.
  • Yeast growth. One problem leads on to another. In the absence of strong friendly bacteria to control the population of unfriendly bacteria and yeast, these may overgrow and bloc the proper functioning of the immune system. There appears a higher risk of becoming ill.
  • Immune suppression. The repeated use of antibiotics can undermine our own immune system and increase the likelihood of a repeat infection. Ideally, the use of antibiotics should be reduced but in any case it would be good to support our immune system with vitamins, minerals and herbs.
  • Nutrient loss. The use of antibiotics creates a new environment in the digestive tract and it may not be as functional as it should (showing signs of digestive irritation, diarrhoea, or dysfunctional intestinal flora). The loss of vital nutrient needed by the immune system may then contribute to the making of a vicious circle whereas the weak undermined immune system is not getting enough nutrients and becomes even weaker.
  • Food allergies. These can be due to genetic predisposition or to immune system disorder but it can also be caused by malabsorption, poor digestion, repeated food exposure and poor integrity of the intestinal wall. Our immune system is normally capable of recognising what is our own from any intruders it may need to fight back. But it has been shown that partially digested food protein can travel across the intestinal wall and into the body where it will be confronted as an intruder. Now, many factors can cause the intestinal wall to be damaged and these include abnormal gut flora and decrease in normal gut flora. Both, as discussed earlier can be linked to repeated use of antibiotics.

    Food allergies can be treated. First by identifying the problem food and eliminating it from the diet to decrease inflammation. Secondly, an appropriate treatment can be decided to boost the immune system, heal and strengthen the mucous membranes including intestinal walls.

These issues tend to develop from an early age but if left unattended, adults may still suffer with it. Here are some symptoms associated with food allergies : gas, diarrhoea, colic, constipation, irritable bowel or irregular stool pattern, chronic bladder infection, chronic earache, runny nose, sinusitis, wheezing, chronic bronchitis, chronic repeated infections, acne, eczema, itchy skin, painful joints, backache, cramps or headache, migraines, depression or anxiety, hyperactivity, poor concentration or insomnia.

As usual, if you feel you or someone you know are struggling with any of these symptoms, think positive. It can be treated with food, supplements and herbs. Just get in touch for more informations as treatment needs to be tailor specially for you. And if any of you have seen Food Hospital on TV, then surely you will feel inspired to use your food as your medicine.

Run down as winter ends?

I always enjoy the transition as winter ends and spring shows up in brighter colours. But every where you meet people complaining; tired, full of cold, down, no energy left.

Some animals hibernate through the winter season and the ones which don’t slow down, winter life is quieter.

But what do we do? Come on we are human, why should this apply to us?

Well, yes we are human but the demands on the body over winter are high when the seasonal foods are less varied and the sun exposure is reduced.

Less sun exposure means we are more likely to have low levels of vitamin D making our calcium absorption less efficient.
Few people pay attention to seasonal food very much these days because the large choice of foods offered by supermarket is available all year round. But it is a fact that food in season is richer in vitamins and minerals, in the same way that local food is richer and fresher for being picked when ripe.

So we carry on working flat out all winter, with poorer sun light and with sub-quality food. By the time spring comes, we are run down and easily falling sick.

What can we do about it?
– Slow down a little if we can.
– Eat seasonal food that hasn’t travelled to far (cabbage, chard, swede, celeriac, parsnip, carrot).
– Eat food that stores (potatoes, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds, herbs)
– Supplement with
fish oil for essential fatty acids and vitamin D
vitamin C and B complex
multivitamin and mineral
zinc, iron and magnesium
– Drink sufficient water, at least 1 litre even though it is colder and we don’t feel thirsty. Herbal tea made with nettle will help increase iron levels.
– Enjoy every bit of sunshine but it will only help increase vitamin D levels if it touches the unprotected skin. Difficult when we have to keep warm.

This can be done now if you feel you need a boost. And it is certainly worse keeping in mind through the year to start next autumn.
Look after your food and your food will look after you.

Cocoa versus Cacao

Did you know that although they look the same, they are actually different? It is not that we have adopted a another name for the same thing.

The base product is cocoa beans. By cold pressing these beans, the fat known as cocoa butter is extracted, giving a new product; raw cacao powder which is rich in live enzymes and is really good for you.

A further process is roasting the raw cacao powder to get cocoa powder. This high temperature phase means the live enzymes are now dead, making the cocoa powder tasty but not as beneficial to your body.

As in many cases, the more processing involved in the making of a product, the more likely it is to be damaging the raw, live, beneficial nature of the food. So keep looking for food that is as natural as possible it will be better for you.

How we think about illness and health.

I read a book by Dr Agus called The end of illness. I feel very strongly that our medical system is letting us down. It is the biggest profitable business failing. And I think like Dr Agus that we have got so use to it, we are now thinking about illness and heath in a way that fits the system even if it isn’t helping.
So like Dr Agus, I want to ask “Has the time come for us to stop thinking about illness as something the body ‘gets’ or ‘has’ but rather to think of it as something the body does?”

Our body is a very sophisticated creation, slightly different for each of us, but it does not come with any instruction or maintenance manual.
We have to learn to know for ourselves, how our own body works. That means stop thinking we can feed it just about anything without consequences.

What we eat, drink and do with our time is what makes our lifestyle. Our body is sensitive to it and reacts by giving symptoms more or less strong depending on how our body feels.
Now we can choose to be in tune with our body and listen to the complaints and think back to find what caused it. Or we can choose to ignore it and simply take a pill to shut it up.
How many signs and symptoms can we ignore and take drugs for before some really serious illness makes us stop. Our body is making us feel really ill because it has been abused so much it can’t take it any longer. So what makes us think that giving it more drugs will solve the accumulated problems (signs) our body has been trying to communicate to us?

I think it is worth thinking about how much we would give to be healthy, fit, feeling good, full of energy and happy with our body as a whole.
It is possible you know! And sometimes it only takes a few changes in what we eat, in how we organise our time to avoid high stress level, or in our lifestyle.
Let me know what you think. As a nutritionist-herbalist, I can help but ultimately, it is your body and who can know it better than yourself; you have to first make the decision to be the one doing (making the changes) with my help.

I look forward to hearing from you and/or reading your comments.

Vegetable fry and mash

Just thought of sharing this recipe with you all. Tried it for diner last night and really enjoyed it. It’s also quite simple to prepare. The quantities below serve 3-4 persons.

Vegetable fry and mash:
PeelĀ  one sweet potato and 4 medium size potatoes to make a mixed mash (half and half). Flavour with a little garlic.
In another pan lightly fry in a bit of olive oil and water (the water will stop the oil from burning) one chopped red pepper, 8 Brussels sprouts (halfed), half a broccoli (cut in small trees and halfed vertically so it cooks quicker), one chopped leek. Only start heat when all the vegies are ready and in the pan.
It takes about 30 minutes to cook on medium heat and cover.

Have fun cooking with love.