I can’t stand it anymore. I must share what I’ve learned about health in the past couple of decades or bust. This blog post is emerging as a response to the unbelievable amount of ignorance and misinformation in the world of health and nutrition. Simply put, people either don’t know anything about health, or don’t care. I don’t blame them; so much crap disguised as knowledge has been flying around the health community for years that to say we are confused about our health today is an understatement. So I’m going to keep this simple, concise and honest. Ready? Let’s go:
Discovery Number 1 – Digestion is optimal in the company of other people.
A few years ago, I was experiencing some pretty bad digestive issues. I couldn’t even eat potatoes without abdominal pain. But I noticed the pain would disappear whenever I ate in the company of others. It brought to mind that line from the movie ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’: “It’s unhealthy to eat alone”. The Italians sure know their stuff. I’m not sure why, but my innards are always better behaved when dining with mates. While it’s not always possible to eat in company, it’s nice to know even guts have table manners.
Discovery Number 2 – Adequate sleep cures PCOS.
I know, I know. No doctor will ever tell you this, so spare me the long lecture. The truth is, we’ve been fed lies about this elusive condition for many years and the drug industry has a lot to answer for. But coming from someone who experienced screwed up hormones for years and looked into every possible cause, from fluoridated water to humble carbohydrates, I can honestly say I’ve found the true culprit (with the help of painstakingly-kept diary entries spanning a good decade or more). And, my good fellows, it is sleep. You see, the real problem is not that the solution is difficult; it is that the solution is so darn simple. How can something as simple as sleep be the cause of so many problems? Well, my dear Cysters of the world, let me ask you this: When was the last time you experienced a month of sleeping adequately every single night? One whole, uninterrupted month of sleeping a good 8 hours every single night? (I know for me, it was about this time last year, just for the record). But observation alone didn’t convince me; I went digging and came up with scientific studies that have found the same results. These results point to sleep deprivation as being a contributing factor to hormonal disturbance and infertility (PCOS in women). Along with low levels of vitamin D (which contribute to insomnia), bad sleep is the reason why insulin doesn’t work well in the body leading to overweight, irregular menses, abnormal hair growth patterns, abnormal fat distribution patterns (losing fat off hips and thighs, and gaining it around the waist), abnormally high testosterone levels (more about this in the next point), acne and hair loss.
Discovery Number 3 – High testosterone levels are not evil; they are a defence mechanism.
So you’ve got PCOS and your testosterone levels are high. Before you go running to the nearest chemist with your prescription for metformin or Diane or some other pill or Pill that will screw up your hormones even more, hear me out: Testosterone is the Male Hormone. I actually call it the Grunt Hormone. It puts lead in your pencil, if you’ll excuse my crudeness. Why? Simple. When your body’s insulin levels are too high (because of insulin resistance), your body experiences a net movement of glucose out of your bloodstream and into storage, as insulin is the storage hormone. (Think of him as being like the Liberal Party; always wanting to accumulate a surplus of energy, in case of hard times in the future). So insulin Abbott and Costello (with robust little Hockey in tow) with their clipboards do the rounds of your bloodstream, grabbing up whatever energy they can find and stockpiling it in your liver, muscle and fat cells. This makes your blood sugar levels drop. This makes you go a bit postal. So you reach for the nearest trunk of chocolate. Meanwhile, your ovaries start spurting out testosterone. The testosterone is like a little biker version of Donald Trump (with better hair) and he goes screaming around your body on his big, bad Harley, raising hell in all your cells. When he reaches your brain, some crazy shit goes down. You start arguing with people. You decide to drive your car a little bit faster. You hear a cool song on the radio and dance like a drunken monkey in your pyjamas…to the amusement of everyone in your office. It feels as if there is a fire inside you that you cannot control. You wonder: Do I ignore it and stuff down some more food, so I can appear mature and in control? Or do I go with it and just let out all this pent-up frustration that’s driving me crazy?
And here is the problem. Most women choose the first option. A big no-no. You see, your body is producing testosterone in an effort to get you to get off your ass and do something, anything, that will stimulate the production of adrenaline. Come on, say that word with me: …Adrenaline… Sounds sexy, doesn’t it? And why shouldn’t it? Adrenaline is the sexiest hormone there is. It puts a spark in your eyes and roses in your cheeks. It makes your heart pound with excitement and your stomach twist in knots. It’s the Jedi of your body, the Knight Rider in his hot, black little Kit car, the rebel without a cause. And this rebel is the only guy running around your system who has the cojones to stand up to the mean bullies with the clipboards, that is, insulin. That’s right. Adrenaline puts insulin back in his place and tells him to stay there. And with Abbott and Costello and Hockey safely tucked away in their counting chambers, your humble little cells timidly open their front doors again and begin releasing glucose back into your world, making it a happy place once again.
If only real political life were that simple, eh?
So ladies, the next time you get a diagnosis of ‘high testosterone/possible PCOS/insulin resistance’, stop what you’re doing, put down that Yasmin prescription (and that Cadbury chocolate block) and get yourself to a martial arts class. (Or if you’ve a head for heights, a sky-diving centre). Your body is crying out for Bad Boy Adrenaline but only you can give Mr Testosterone Trump the keys to let him out of Goliath (for those of you who didn’t grow up in the 80s, that’s the big, mean truck Knight Rider’s car, Kit, would emerge from – ah, happy days). In order to get insulin back in check, you need to listen to your high testosterone levels, which are telling you to shake it, baby, shake it, work it, jump it, crash it, or smash it.
Or you could just take a cold shower. That works just as well.
Discovery Number 4 – Soluble fibre is the poor man’s liposuction.
Soluble fibre is fibre that dissolves in water to form a gel. It is indigestible but is beneficial for digestion. It is abundant in oats, legumes, fruits and vegetables, spices like cinnamon, and Chia seeds (that trendy new chick on the block who’s giving Taylor Swift a run for her money in the popularity stakes). Soluble fibre binds bile in the gastro-intestinal tract and escorts it out of the body like an efficient, no-nonsense bouncer. Usually, once bile has done his job, he is recycled. That is, he gets to go back to the liver, freshens up, puts on some nice cologne, has his shoes polished and comes out the next night to party again with the curvy ladies we know as fats. Bile-Man is the King of Breaking Down. I mean, no-one breaks it down like him. He just turns those ladies to jelly with a mere look. No matter how self-assured that Ms Thing is, she ain’t going nowhere with that attitude. (Translation: No matter how chunky that fat gob of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream is, bile will break it down into small enough pieces that it can be absorbed by your small intestine). Yeah, Bile likes ’em chunky. And luckily, with our diets today, he gets plenty of action. Lots of fat ladies to choose from, thanks to our burgers and chips and cakes and chocolates. We smash in so much fat these days that Bile-Man has had to employ a full-time masseur, so achy is he after every day’s breaking down.
But I hear you itching for me to get to the point. So okay. Bile is good, but it’s not supposed to be re-used a lot. Masseurs are expensive and Liver Man can’t afford it, you know what I’m saying? Enter soluble fibre. You remember: The Bouncer. (Bom-bom-BOOOM!) “I’m sorry Mr. Bile but you’re gon’ have to come with us now. Your services are no longer required at this establishment.” So away they whisk the dude of the moment, down and out through your guts to that place of weird splashing noises. What a sad end to a flashy career. Oh well.
Meanwhile, the ladies are waiting for another handsome dude to escort them onto the dance floor. Poor Margo has made herself up especially for this night, and she’s looking really hot in that size 24 dress. The call goes out to the dudes at Liver (the plush, cushy centre of nightclub operations). They just so happen to be in the process of recruiting someone new. A nice guy, very swish, ready to head out now, as a matter of fact…but – he needs wheels. That’s right. The new bile that is made by your liver needs cholesterol to be complete. Like any player on a mission, without his hotted-up, waxed-up car, he is not whole and can’t do his job. So your body rustles up some cholesterol (black Maserati; nice), sends it to management and they hand the keys over to Mr. I’ll Take Care of Things Now Bile-Man no. 2. As he’s about to roar out of the parking lot, he checks again that it’s okay he takes this awesome car (yes, cholesterol is like an expensive car – it is expensive for your body to make, requiring about 30 different enzymatic steps and several inputs of energy). But the guys wave him away with a snobby sneer, calling, “Don’t worry; there’re plenty more where that came from!” before turning to each other and joking about how many poor ghetto kids are being recruited these days.
So your body loses some of its cholesterol. When cholesterol leaves a fat cell, the fat cell must export some fat with it. It’s just a rule, I didn’t make it, so don’t question it. There must always be the same ratio of fat to cholesterol in your fat cells. If there wasn’t, your fat cells would either be too hard or too soft. Your body is like the world’s best chef; he can make mashed potato or home-style bread of perfect consistency every single time. So, basically, when you lose cholesterol from your fat cells, you lose fat as well; that’s the take-home message. This means your fat cells get smaller, i.e. you lose weight.
Bile is always being secreted into your duodenum, or small intestine. Over time, if you eat a diet high in soluble fibre, you will lose fat. In addition to the reason I’ve given above, soluble fibre also fills you up and makes you less likely to eat lots of fat (or anything, if I’m honest). It also passes slowly through your gut and makes it absorb sugar from carbs a lot more slowly. (Bouncers eh? They have to check everyone’s ID before they let them through, and the queues can be long). Slower absorption of carbs means your insulin doesn’t spike dramatically which enables your body to keep burning carbs and fat (because our clipboard friends are out to lunch with the lovely Julie Bishop at that new Spanish eatery on the corner).
What happens if you have very little cholesterol left? Even if that unlikely scenario were to take place, your body can make more cholesterol from fat. Or carbs. It’s an essential substance so you pretty much have to be able to make it out of anything. As long as there is vitamin C present, your body can break down fatty tissue and make as much cholesterol as it needs. And the more this happens, the more fat you lose off your body. All because you’ve been packing in the soluble fibre. Soluble fibre literally sucks fat out of your body. It is the poor man’s liposuction. Only far gentler, healthier and – I’ve got to say it – wiser.
Discovery Number 5 – Some foods you just can’t do without.
There are some foods I’ve discovered I don’t want to go a day without eating. I list them below:
Along with keeping my mouth clean and my breath fresh, I’ve found apples have an amazing cleansing effect on my stomach. No matter what I’ve eaten, they are the best antidote. Sometimes, after a greasy feed, my stomach becomes irritated. I feel the acid rising up and it stays, even after the food has long gone. The walls of my stomach are coated in a slimy, irritating grease. Eating an apple cleans this stuff away like magic. It’s like a mop and bucket for your stomach lining and it re-sets your digestion, ready for another busy day.
If apples are a mop and bucket for the stomach, popcorn is like a brush and sponge. It has an incredible absorbent capacity, soaking up any liquids that remain after eating or that mix together incompatibly (such as tomato and banana). I call it the perfect buffer because it is such a good liquid binding agent. In addition, unlike white bread or white rice, popcorn is a whole food, which means it has not been processed, only dried. That means you’re eating the whole thing, as it was meant to be eaten, which means you’re not unbalancing your body’s chemistry. To top it off, it is excellent for elimination. A bag of popcorn a day will keep your haemorrhoids at bay, I say. Okay. Enough of the rhyming… today.
Since falling in love with garlic a little over a year ago, my life has taken a dramatic upturn into new realms of health and well-being. I have not been sick (although exercise may also have something to do with this), I have not suffered any Candida attacks (which I used to get quite often, along with gassy episodes) and my breath is better than ever (ha ha … just kidding). The main reason I eat it is because I like it. But it gives me a great feeling to know about its health benefits as well. For example, garlic has even more potent antibacterial and antifungal activity than prescription medicines like penicillin. Except, where antibiotics will kill off all your good bacteria along with the bad, garlic won’t. It doesn’t seem to want to hurt the good guys; they’re just too small to bother about. Garlic is a true badass; he likes the challenge of bringing down the big bullies. Bullies like Candida, who runs screaming whenever he so much as smells him coming. (Interesting to note, this scenario would actually take place in ancient times, when the Romans would eat garlic to scare off their enemies. It worked too). If you’re someone who’s into sprouting, sourcing wild mushrooms or not overdoing it on hygiene, it would be a good idea to include garlic as part of your diet in order to take care of any harmful bacteria that might cause a problem if allowed to run free in your system.
4. Pumpkin seeds
I’ve always loved eating pumpkin seeds because of the fun of getting them out of the shells. But lately, I’ve been buying the already shelled ones. I did this in the hope of stemming my considerable hair loss, which was distressing me and making showering a real pain. I’d heard pumpkin seeds contain high amounts of zinc and that zinc helps hair growth. So I began eating them every single day. I was not expecting to see any results but I did. My hair loss went from handfuls every day to not even a wisp of a hair on the shower drain after my weekly shampoo. I am astounded to say the least. Now I make a point of eating these cute little green guys every day. And my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes have never looked better. I actually feel as if I’ve lost 5 years off my age, if not more.
I’ve always known spinach was good for you but until this month, I never realised how much. I had begun making green smoothies out of baby spinach and fruit, and drinking them every morning before work. One night while preparing dinner, I cut my finger. It wasn’t a very deep cut but it began to bleed so I put a band-aid on it. After work, I got in the shower, still with the band-aid on. I planned to change it after I got out. In the past, with such a cut, I would usually have to wear something on it for a couple of days, if not more. So I get out of the shower (having taken the band-aid off while lathering) and only a few hours later do I remember I forgot to put a new band-aid on my finger. I look at it to see how bad it is and I can’t find it. So I assume it was the finger on my other hand and check that. Nothing. I look and I look but nary a cut can I find. It has completely healed up, without leaving a mark. I press all over my finger and feel no pain or tenderness or anything. This has never happened before in my life, such rapid healing! But then, never in my life have I consumed so much raw spinach on a daily basis.
Spinach contains many vitamins and minerals, but especially vitamin K, which helps the blood to clot and promotes healing of capillaries and tissues. We may not realise this, but every minute, capillaries – teeny tiny blood vessels – are being damaged in our bodies. They are splitting, bursting and spilling their contents into the surrounding tissue. It’s not much of a spill, as the capillaries are so minuscule, but it’s still a mess the body has to clean up. White blood cells are brought in, swimming in their fluid environment, and the result is low levels of inflammation all over your body. Blotchy, uneven skin tone is a marker of this sort of inflammation going on.
But with vitamin K – the beauty vitamin – on the scene, things are a lot different. Capillaries are stronger, smoother, more ‘together’, with their hair in place and stilettos gleaming…and they don’t spill their drinks all over the dance floor but hold onto them with grace and aplomb. The result? A clean, gleaming dance floor that attracts more hot dancers (translate that to mean a cleaner, younger complexion that gets you more attention and compliments for your ‘glow’).
The only other thing I’ve found that works better than spinach for cleaning up the skin and giving you that youthful glow is spinach plus other leafy greens.
I could list another hundred foods here that I wouldn’t want to do without. I have special places in my heart for alfalfa and other sprouts, oranges, lemons, Greek mountain tea (another great stomach cleanser) and my favourite herb of all: fennel (which cured my chronic H. pylori infection and fibroids) but then I’d be stuck on this computer for the rest of my life instead of getting back to enjoying these wonderful foods and the excellent health benefits they provide.
“Let food be thy medicine.” Amen.
So those are some of the health discoveries I’ve made in the past year or two. I’m sure there will be others, so perhaps this is only Part 1 of a series of blog entries I will be making about this topic. All I will say in closing is that everything I’ve stated here is the absolute truth and not intended in any way to promote any product, substance or lifestyle. I’ve just put the facts as I have discovered them, in the hope that somebody out there who’s also suffered any of the maladies I have and is at their wit’s end as I was can find some hope in the cures I’ve outlined above.
Reader, whoever you are, may you be blessed with good health and a happy life.