What cravings reveal about your health

Is it all in your head or is your body trying to tell you something? Some might dismiss a ‘wisdom of the body’ theory as quackery.  However, if you think about the biological processes happening within your body and the factors affecting these, the argument to substantiate a link becomes more compelling. Here’s why.

Food is so much more than just calories.  It’s information.  The body is a wonderful machine, constantly sending you signs and signals about the information (or nutrients) it needs to function at its best.  The trouble is, when you fall into unhealthy patterns, you unwittingly train your brain and body to think and crave certain foods.  Often these foods give you a quick fix. You feel great for 30 minutes, yet an hour later your energy levels are on the floor and you need another hit to keep you going. Sound familiar?

This concept applies to everyone, not just women in pregnancy who are typically associated with an appetite for unusual or inedible substances such as clay, coal or dirt (this type of craving is referred to as ‘pica’ by the way).


One of the most common and documented cravings is, of course, sugar.  In recent years, articles in the press have suggested sugar is as addictive as class A drugs.  How true is that really? Or, have you been simply making excuses for your lack of willpower? You’ll be glad to know there is more to it than meets the eye.

The brain needs glucose to function – sugar, which comes from carbohydrates. When you’ve got a steady release of glucose into the blood stream throughout the day, this process works as it should. You’re productive, sharp, and full of energy.  However, too much of the wrong kinds of sugar can throw things off kileter.  Eating something high sugar and high in fat (like donuts, chocolate, cake, biscuits and sweets) triggers the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of reward and satisfaction.  By falling into this trap, you train your brain to think, ‘you need to eat this to help you feel better’.  You might use these foods to regulate your mood and lower your stress.  But in the long run, this sends you on a rollercoaster – with your energy, your mood, stress levels and sleep.   Over time, this rollercoaster can result in the development of chronic health conditions like diabetes, obesity, inflammation, immune suppression or chronic fatigue.

So, what causes you to crave sugar in the first place? You’re more inclined to eat these kinds of foods when you’re stressed or tired, because your brain is looking for more fuel than it would be when you are relaxed and well nourished.

Sugar also stimulates the release of tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin, which in turn produces melatonin helping you get a good night’s sleep.  Similarly, woman can be more susceptible to sugar cravings around the time of their menstrual cycle. That might not come as a huge surprise to you…

Studies have shown that higher oestrogen levels are associated with greater levels of the hunger hormone, leptin, which triggers stronger cravings for sugary foods. PMS also causes the stress hormone cortisol to increase and the feel-good hormone serotonin to dip, making you reach for chocolate, chips and sugary snacks to give you a feel-good boost at that time of the month.

Generally, the foods you choose to eat every day can help to regulate or trigger these cravings.  Try switching your white bread, pasta, sugary cereals, low fat products and processed foods for lower GL (glycaemic load) alternatives such as wholegrains, pulses, root vegetables and increasing your protein intake at each meal.  This can help to regulate the release of glucose into the blood stream.  Quality proteins such as eggs, turkey, salmon and nuts and seeds are also rich in tryptophan and tyrosine, which support production of serotonin and dopamine – a much better source than a packet of chocolate digestives or a bag of sweeties.  Making the switch to a more wholesome and nourishing alternative may be a much more sustainable approach to healthy weight loss than crazy diets you might be tempted to try.


Sugar doesn’t do it for you? Perhaps you are more inclined to reach for savoury, salty foods; crisps, salted nuts, cheese and biscuits.  Generally speaking, this may be a sign that your adrenal glands are under strain, and similar to sugar, that hankering for salt could be attributed to stress, fatigue or PMS.  You rely on your adrenals to produce the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline whenever you need it. That might mean meeting that deadline at work, training for a marathon or gearing yourself up for a big presentation.

Like insulin, this is fine and necessary in the short term but chronic demand on the adrenals can result in fatigue and insufficient secretion of other hormones including aldosterone, renin and angiotensin, mineralcorticoids which regulates blood pressure by controlling fluid levels and electrolyte balance in the body.

When your adrenals are tired and don’t produce enough aldosterone, your blood pressure can become low and result in salt cravings and these might be accompanied with other symptoms such as fatigue, excessive thirst, headaches and nausea.  If you are experiencing a multitude of these symptoms, a trip to the doctor would be recommended for further investigation.

Don’t read this that I’m suggesting you need to be consuming salt by the bucket load. Too much sodium (the key element in salt) should be avoided as it can tip the hormone balance in the other direction and contribute to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues.

Ultimately, it’s about tuning into your own body and how it’s feeling.  What signs is it giving you each day?

Working with a Nutritional Therapist can be a powerful way of tuning into your own body, equipping you with the knowledge to recognise these signs when they present themselves, and make positive changes to benefit your long-term health and wellbeing.  For more information on what this involves, contact Marianne@cotswoldnutrition.comor book in for a free 20 minute chat by clicking here



Summer Health

As we hit peak mid Summer, what can we do to look after ourselves at this time of year?


In Chinese Medicine terms, this is time is the utmost yang of the year and associated with the element of Fire and its corresponding organs, the small intestine, heart/pericardium and ‘triple heater’



Summer gives us the power to fully celebrate life, and nature, in its maturity. We are open to social events more than ever, need to sleep less and feel the boundless energy of the sun feeding ourselves as well as our gardens.

We need to gently be aware that we don’t overindulge and ‘burn out’, though, and make sure we still make time and space to be quiet. As summer activities can sometimes get in the way of relaxation and meditative time, it’s important to find a balance between action and just being, between social events and time to be in your garden, and allowing the earth to nourish and recharge our battery pack. Perhaps try a yin or restorative yoga class in addition to more vigorous summer sporting activities?

It’s easy to eat more healthily in the summer. If we listen to our bodies, we will naturally steer towards more vegetable based foods, salads and plenty of healthy liquids, taking advantage of what is seasonal and at its peak nutritionally and in terms of taste. However, it’s also easy to over indulge in both alcohol and summer ‘treats’ when we are in peak socialising season.  Marianne Andrews, our Nutritional Therapist, is offering a free 20 minute ‘Summer Shape Up’ chat, if you wanted to discuss in more detail about changes you could be making to your nutrition this summer.

The legendary Yellow Emperor, regarded as the founder of Traditional Chinese Medicine, has these instructive words about the season of summer in the ancient text, The Yellow Emperorʼs Classic of Internal Medicine:

“In the three months of summer there is an abundance of sunshine and rain. The heavenly energy descends, and the earthly energy rises. When these energies merge, there is intercourse between heaven and earth. As a result, plants mature and animals, flowers, and fruit appear abundantly.

One may retire somewhat later at this time of year, while still arising early. One should refrain from anger and stay physically active, to prevent the pores from closing and the chi from stagnating. One should not overindulge in sex, although one can indulge a bit more than in other seasons. Emotionally it is important to be happy and easygoing and not hold on to grudges, so that the energy can flow freely”

These words were written about four thousand years ago, and are still as relevant today.


Is Fat Bad?

Park the notion that fat is bad. It is not. In fact, most of us aren’t eating enough of it.

Fat can help you lose weight, protect against heart disease, absorb vitamins and boost your immune system. Do you know which fats to eat and which to avoid?



Saturated fat

These are the fats that have the worst reputation, and they’re found in animal fats and coconut oil.

Here’s the controversial bit –  because it goes entirely against what we have been told for decades (and we are still being told by government agencies) – these saturated fats that you eat – the dietary saturated fats – don’t raise cholesterol.

The fats that are ‘bad’ are the trans fats, which cause cell membranes to become stiff and hard, and they no longer function correctly. Trans fats are harmful to cardiovascular health (they lower good cholesterol – & increase level of bad cholesterol). Some transfats are contained naturally in dairy products, but particularly in processed foods (i.e. hydrogenated oils, margarine).

Monounsaturated fats

These are the kinds of fats associated with the Mediterranean diet – particularly olive oil – and populations that eat a lot of these fats, like the people of Greece and Italy, have some of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world. Many cardiologists advocate the Mediterranean diet, as higher intakes of this kind of fat are linked to lower cholesterol (or, to be more accurate, a better ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol).

Polyunsaturated fats

You will probably know these as omega-3 and omega-6 – the essential fatty acids. ‘Essential’ relates to the fact that the body cannot make this kind of fat; you need to eat it as part of your diet – or take it as a supplement.

They fulfil many roles in the body, and sufficient levels have implications for cell membranes, hormones (they regulate insulin function), managing inflammation and immunity, mood and memory.

As a rule, omega-6 fats are not as good for you as the omega-3 fats, which are all anti-inflammatory. It’s not that omega-6 fats are inherently bad, just that it’s less good when the balance between the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids gets disturbed.

Historically, humans ate a good ratio of omega-6 to 3 – ranging between 1:1 and 4:1. The modern Western diet has changed things for the worse, and the ratio is frequently 20:1 thanks to processed foods, vegetable oils and conventionally raised (rather than grass-fed) meat.   But what happens is that you get more of this…

  •   Increase in inflammatory conditions/ autoimmune disease

  •   Obesity

  •   Heart disease

  •   Diabetes

  •   High cholesterol

  •   Cancer

Here’s why fat is essential in the body…

  • It’s a concentrated energy source.   Gram for gram, fat is twice as efficient as carbohydrates in energy production.

  • Fat can be an energy store. Excess fat is stored for future energy production (excess calorific intake).

  • Protection – internal (visceral) fat protects your internal organs, like the kidneys and spleen.

  • ‘Subcutaneous adipose tissue’ (that’s code for the fat that you can feel by pinching your skin) helps to maintain normal body temperature and provides padding.

  • Fats regulate inflammation, mood and nerve function.

  • Every cell membrane in our body is made of fat – the brain is 60% fat.

  • Many hormones are made from fat. These are known as steroid hormones and they govern stress, sex, and immune function.

  • Fats are actually essential for survival (experiments on rats in the 1920s showed that, then fat was removed from the diet they died).

  • Fat is the preferred fuel for muscles and the heart. The brain can also burn fat for fuel.

  • Essential fatty acids are required for healthy skin, healthy cell membranes, healthy nerves, healthy joints and to help with absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

How did fat get such a bad name?

Fat has got a bad reputation. Over the last 70 years low-fat products have been marketed as the saviour of our health. And the message from governments and the media was – and largely still is – that, when eaten, fat gets stored as fat in the body and puts us at greater risk of heart disease.

Part of the problem, of course, is that we use the same word for the fat we DON’T want (on the hips, around the middle and so on) and the fat we eat.

The demonisation of fat began when an American scientist called Ancel Keys produced the first ‘evidence’ linking saturated fat to heart disease in 1953. He based his scientific opinion on observational data of heart disease, death rates and fat consumption in six countries (ignoring statistics from a further 16 countries because they contradicted his hypothesis) and assumed a correlation between heart disease and eating fat. (As an aside, when another scientist looked at the same research, this time considering ALL 22 countries’ data, no correlation was found).  Although there might have been correlation (there was a relationship), it was not causal (didn’t actually cause the situation).

A further study on rabbits compounded Ancel Keys’ hypothesis: The rabbits were fed cholesterol (which doesn’t normally form a part of their 100% veggie diet) and went on to develop fatty deposits in their arteries. And then, guess what happened? Poor bunnies!

Governments (and their health care agencies) across the world began advocating a low fat diet.  They told us to fill up on bread, rice, cereals and pasta, and opt for low-fat or no-fat alternatives wherever we could.

Soon, the food industry jumped on board to create products that better satisfied this new advice. They replaced saturated fats with ‘healthier’ vegetable oils, like margarine and shortening – ironically trans fats are now one of the few fats research shows ARE linked to heart disease. The biggest problem is that, when you remove the fat from foods, you need to replace it with something else to make those foods palatable – and this replacement is sugar. This was a REALLY bad move.

My favourite fats

AVOCADOS They go with practically anything and are high in both vitamin E and in healthy monounsaturated fats. Slice it, mash it, love it!

COCONUT OIL There’s so much to like. Apart from helping reduce bad cholesterol and blood pressure, coconut oil is an anti-fungal (caprylic acid) when used both externally or internally. The ideal replacement for butter in baking and as your oil of choice when frying (though we think it works best if you’re cooking something with an Asian influence).

NUTS Packed with nutrients like magnesium and vitamin E, nuts bring plenty of essential fats to the table. They make the perfect snack – eat a handful (preferably raw) with a small piece of fruit or spread a little nut butter on an oatcake (peanut butter is just for starters – try almond for a change).

OILY FISH are chock full of omega 3 fatty acids, which are the building blocks of your sex hormones, so are essential for hormone balance. We love them all!

OLIVE OIL Use cold pressed organic oil as a dressing on salads rather than to cook with as the high temperatures reached when roasting or frying can turn the oil rancid.

Cooking with fat

How the fat is used (through cooking and processing) is a big deciding factor whether it is healthy or unhealthy. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) become free radicals in the presence of light, oxygen and heat.  That is because frying with oils like olive oil at high temperature leads to oxidation and the production of free radicals – highly inflammatory for the body and may increase the risk of heart disease or cancer.

Use these oils for cooking:

Coconut oil, rapeseed (vegetable) oil, avocado oil, butter or ghee, or goose fat (clarified butter).

NOT olive oil or sunflower oil. Don’t use sunflower oil at all (although do eat the seeds) and save olive oil for dressings on salads.

Marianne Andrews – Nutritional Therapist


Liver Qi – ‘The Energy Of Spring’

Liver Qi – ‘The Energy of Spring’

‘To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the Heaven’ – Ecclesiastes

Each season is imbued with the patterns of life, with Spring inspiring regeneration, restoration of spirit and  new beginnings.

 Springtime rituals occur in many cultures, in our own Christian tradition we have Lent, a six week observance before Easter, with the Springs Full Moon symbolising the principle of resurrection. These rituals give special attention to Liver health, detoxification and resurgence.

Spring carries a special resonance with Liver Qi in Classical Chinese thinking. To understand this traditional philosophy we need only to perceive our body-mind functions as an extension of the same informational processes we see throughout Nature.

The Chinese liken the cyclic, rhythmic movement of Qi to the procession of the seasons and use a system of correlation and correspondences to map out this Natural Order. So in the smaller diurnal cycle we observe the ‘energy’ of dawn, and the rousing of life in the larger round of Spring, in Humankind this particular process is named  after the Liver. They are fractals sharing and expressing the same underlying potential.

 Liver Qi / Spring finds its natural culmination as a vision and blossoming of the Heart / Summer.

Dylan Thomas encapsulates this movement of life in poetic form:

“The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower”

This Force in our bodies is the evenly measured circulation of Qi & Blood; its lymph and nutrient flow and the cleansing of toxins, Liver Qi ‘spreading and draining’ serving the upkeep of life.

And by extension the processing of mental and emotional toxins that pass through the heart and mind.

Happy Liver Qi is when we experience ourselves flowing through life with a sense of ease and clarity. With a balance of calming, nourishing Yin and progressive, lively Yang expressions helping us maintain a healthy lifestyle and balanced outlook.

But it’s easy to see how the Liver can become quickly depleted.

Modern lifestyles with an ever faster-pace and complexity, increasing pressures and competitive edges means Liver disharmony has become commonplace. We call it stress.

Liver Qi constraint and stagnation includes tension, fatigue, depression, mood swings, feeling overwhelmed, PMS and other hormonal imbalances, sluggish digestion-elimination, inflammation & pain in muscles and joints, headaches, and perhaps most notably impatience, frustration, irritability and anger.

The remedy is to understand the movement of life and honour its place and purpose. So what to do! How can we treasure and express it skilfully? The short answer is to retain an affinity for the YinYang themes of Liver/Spring.

The Liver is generally seen as a Yang Organ by temperament.

So for a start get moving! – it governs the ‘Muscular Forces’, a reference to our willowy suppleness, the woody forces of Spring.

Going on more hikes is ideal -there is a well known herbal mixture designed to treat Liver stagnation named ‘Rambling Powder’!

The action of walking, of swinging arms and legs, shoulders and hips opens the Liver/Gall Bladder Channels quite naturally and moves the Blood and Qi. Whilst the deep diaphragmatic breathing that accompanies walking massages the Liver.

Striding out on a path carries the psychological Liver themes of journeying with open eyes, being in the moment of life, dealing immediately with whatever presents itself as we go along.

It is the energy of ‘Zen mind, beginners mind’, open, keen, fresh. Our eyes are on the front of the head so we look forward.

There are other types of  rhythmic exercises with similar movement patterns that also open Liver/GB Channels… cycling, swimming.

And of course Qi Gong or Yoga release constrained Liver Qi, as does Massage since they open joints, lengthen tissues and promote circulation with a dynamic but calming tone, all Liver themes.

Traditionally the Liver was delegated ‘General of the Armed Forces’, a role of strategising with courage and decisiveness in action.

My favourite cricket player, Jos Buttler exemplifies this, he realised through many conversations with coaches and mentors that his optimal mental state for batting was to be bold and daring, so he has inscribed ‘F*ck It’ on the top of all his bat handles as a reminder not to play with the handbrake on! The Liver in its most Yang guise.

Nothing is so transformational as changing our underlying attitudes, the active force that sponsors our actions.

I was once given a herbal formula for Liver Qi stagnation called ‘Happy Free Wanderer’ and that captures the carefree spirit perfectly.

Can we put a stop to feeling fenced in; by time constraints, rules, regulations, social conventions, expectations and our own neurotic restrictions, can we put them down, throw caution to the wind.

The Chinese Classics talk about the Liver in these tones:

‘…at dawn one gets up,

One paces the courtyard with great strides,

Hair loose, body relaxed,

Exerting the will for life…’

We are seeking conscious companionship with Life in all its forms, so a great antidote to constrained Qi is to look out with wonder.

As Shunryu Suzuki reminds us ‘Wherever you are, you are One with the Clouds and one with the Sun and the Stars you see.’ 

We can choose happiness by cultivating a spirit of gratitude, and forgiving others as well as ourselves.

Nothing makes the Qi flow more than a helpful, co-operative effort, nothing treasures the Qi more than a warm hearted good-will.

Intention is ultimately what moves the Qi and our life forward.

Article by Jeff Docherty. Jeff teaches Qi Gong at Cheltenham Holistic Health Centre every Tuesday 12-1pm  



The secret to weight loss in your 40’s and beyond

Did you ever do a double take as you walked past a mirror and realise that THAT woman is actually you?  Sometimes it is almost as if your fat cells take on superpowers while you sleep, adding inches in the space of just a few hours.  How is it that all of those tricks you had up your sleeve in your 20s and 30s for quickly shaving off half a stone before the summer holidays just don’t work anymore, despite your dedication and willpower?

The ‘midlife’ years can be a challenge for all sorts of different reasons and, yes, weight loss IS harder. The rules are different when it comes to weight loss when you’re over 40, that’s for sure. Aside from diet, the seven remaining pieces of pie are thyroid hormones, the stress hormone cortisol, the fat storage hormone insulin, oestrogen, sleep, digestion and exercise.

It’s a path you need to navigate carefully to find your own magic formula, but losing weight, regaining your energy, getting back to your best is possible with the right advice, and some support along the way.

You may not have given your hormones a second thought before, but it is worth having some understanding of what’s going on chemically inside you and the impact it is having.

OESTROGEN – progesterone levels fall rapidly as you stop ovulating as regularly and, although oestrogen is decreasing too, it is falling at a slower rate, meaning that you can end up being oestrogen dominant (that is too much oestrogen in proportion to progesterone).

THYROID  – the thyroid is your internal motor and it comes under increased pressure in your 40s. Imagine a record playing at a reduced speed … That’s what happens when your thyroid is struggling to keep up. Low levels of thyroid hormones can bring mood changes, weight increases, constipation and a sluggish feeling.

Your hormones work together synergistically. When one or more is out of kilter, there is an effect on the others, too. This is especially true where the thyroid and adrenals are concerned.

CORTISOL – the stress hormone cortisol, made by the adrenal glands, can also increase (particularly if you are used to spinning too many plates), making sleep more difficult and leading to weight gain. We have not evolved a great deal since caveman times when the big stressor was the sabre-toothed tiger and we had to keep the energy round the middle so it could be easily accessed when we needed to run away!.

INSULIN is the hormone linked to diabetes, but it is also the fat storage hormone. As a double whammy, it additionally blocks fat burning. It is made by the body in response to the carbohydrates you eat. The more refined the carbs, the more insulin produced and the more fat is stored. As we age, the cells in our bodies can become less sensitive to insulin, so the pancreas needs to pump out more and more to get the same job done

DIGESTION If your digestive system is not working quite as it should, this can leave you feeling – and looking – bloated. Right now there is a lot of research into the microbiome (your gut environment), and there are proven links between the balance of bacteria in the gut and being overweight.

Anyone with an imbalance of good to bad bacteria in their large intestine will also find themselves absorbing up to 15% more calories from their food. So, if you are the kind of person who has suffered off and on with tummy troubles, it is worth talking to a nutrition professional to get things checked out. Symptoms worth investigating include gas, bloating, acid reflux, constipation (not going to the loo at least once a day) or diarrhoea (or alternating),  or feelings of nausea.

All this, and you might even be managing the symptoms of perimenopause, menopause and beyond. These include delights such as night sweats, erratic menstrual cycle, insomnia, bloating, cravings, headaches/migraines, overwhelm, irritability, mood swings, anxiety/depression, brain fog, poor memory, loss of sex drive, vaginal dryness, aging skin (and hair), joint pain and fatigue.

Most of the weight loss solutions you have likely tried were possibly not meant for you at your age.  What you need is a programme where we will work together to tackle all aspects of what suits you personally. The programme combines both diet and lifestyle elements, so we can work on your confidence as well as that expanding waistline. The food plan was designed for women of your age by women of your age.

Now is exactly the right time for a brand new you: new diet, new attitude and new healthy lifestyle habits.  Click here to book in for a free 20 minute health chat.



Top 10 Tips for Beating Colds & Flu

10 Top Tips for Beating Colds & Flu – February 5, 2019

When the temperature drops, the chance of you coming down with a cold or the flu increases significantly. It’s widely accepted you’ll get sick more often in the winter. That’s because you’re likely to be inside more and the common cold thrives better in dry air than where there’s humidity, and, when you spend more time indoors, you’re exposed to more germs.

Here’s something interesting about the common cold: when your core internal temperature falls after exposure to cold, the immune system’s ability to battle the rhinovirus (the virus that causes it) is also reduced. The immune system literally slows down. Cold feet may also play a part. In a recent study, researchers made students sit with their feet in cold water for 20 minutes. These students were found to be statistically much more likely to catch a cold in the next five days than the control group (those who didn’t have to sit with their feet in cold water).

The flu virus is also transmitted much faster when it’s cold out because the lipid (fatty) coating of the virus becomes more resilient the colder it gets. Your immune system is the most powerful weapon you have against disease. Strong immunity means that the body is better able to fight off viruses and germs.
Fewer colds and sick days this winter would be good, right? There are many diet and lifestyle tweaks you can make to reduce your risk of catching a cold and flu this season (and ensuring it’s shorter and less serious if you do get the lurgi). Here are my top ten tips to keep you fighting fit this month – and beyond.
I print out this list and stick it on the fridge as a reminder to me (and my family) that prevention is better than cure.

Your body needs real, unprocessed food to stay healthy and not the processed foods we kid ourselves are OK for us to eat.  Focus on eating natural, unprocessed food as often as possible. Follow the 80/20 rule (for the avoidance of doubt, this means eating healthily 80 of the time – think fresh apples rather than apple juice, or wholegrain bread instead of a white bread butty).

Meat and fish, fruit, vegetables and wholegrains all contribute to a stronger immune system and offset the occasional indulgence.  Following the low GL diet is key to sustainable, glowing health, as it provides your body with a steady supply of energy throughout the day, rather than a high-octane roller-coaster of energy spikes and troughs.

Did you know that up to 80% of our immunity to germs and disease is in the gut? The mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) in the gut is part of the first line of immune defense, so getting the right balance between beneficial, or ‘good’ gut bacteria, and the ‘bad’, or potentially pathogenic bacteria, is key.

How to do this:
The gut environment takes a beating year after year, owing to poor diets, too much sugar, stress, antibiotics and other factors. Even if you have no obvious tummy troubles, digestive health is vital, so it’s worth the extra effort to take care of it.  Add probiotic and prebiotic foods to your diet, as these re-populate the gut with good bacteria and feed them well enough to crowd out bad bacteria.

Here are some gut-friendly choices to get you started:

  • Organic, probiotic, natural yoghurt (such as Yeo Valley or Rachel’s)

  • Always buy full-fat, as the 0% or no-fat options have increased levels of milk sugars – and fat isn’t the enemy, either in life or in weight loss

  • Miso soup or miso bouillon paste (add these to soups and stews)

  • Oats (soak first, as you would to make overnight oats, in order to release the goodness)

  • Onions, garlic and Jerusalem artichokes

  • Bananas

  • Beans

  • Cooked, then cooled potatoes

Did you hear that chicken soup is great when you’re unwell? If you thought it was just an old wives’ tale, you’d be wrong. Research suggests that a bowl of chicken and vegetable soup can slow the speed at which neutrophils move around your body. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell and part of the immune system, protecting your body from infection. When the neutrophils move slowly, there’s a greater chance of them becoming more concentrated in the areas of your body that need the most healing. Studies have shown chicken soup to be particularly helpful in reducing symptoms in upper respiratory system infections like the common cold.

Top of the list for immunity are a good probiotic, a multivitamin and extra vitamin C and zinc.  For most people, a daily probiotic will help maintain the right balance of bacteria in the gut. If you have ongoing tummy troubles like IBS or constipation, we should talk – you will need something for your specific symptoms.  A multivitamin bridges the gap between what you are eating and what you should be eating, and takes care of any major deficiencies.Women need a product high in B vitamins (for hormone balance), but apart from that, everybody has his or her favourite. Just be sure to take it!

Go large when it comes to vitamin C, both in food and supplement form. Broccoli and red peppers contain more C than oranges (contrary to popular belief) and there are loads of other foodie options, too: kale, cauliflower, parsley, spinach, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, blackcurrants, kiwi fruit, pineapple, mango, papaya and citrus fruits.

Top up zinc levels by eating more palm-sized pieces of lean meat (especially lamb, beef, venison and turkey), pumpkin seeds, ginger root, green veggies, oats, nuts, sesame seeds, yoghurt and scallops.

Adding flavour to food is a smart way to include delicious immune boosters on your plate.  Garlic is a potent superfood. It is antimicrobial, thanks to the active ingredient allicin, which helps fight viruses, and has been used for thousands of years to boost the immune system and prevent sickness.

Most culinary herbs contain anti-inflammatory properties due to their phytonutrients, but oregano and thyme are particularly rich. Spice up your cooking with turmeric and ginger, too, as these are well-documented immune boosters.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a sugar addict, it’s worth taking a look at how much you do consume – and trying to swap sugary treats for something more wholesome.  Sugar fans the flames of inflammation and affects the ability of white blood cells to fend off viruses and bacteria. In fact, the immune system stays depressed for hours after consuming sugar, according to recent studies.

Enjoy raw cocoa or cacao hot chocolate on chilly evenings, adding your favourite milk or milk substitutes (with a little xylitol or stevia to sweeten, if you like). A few squares of pure, dark chocolate will also satisfy – Green & Blacks, or any good chocolate with a higher cocoa content (at least 75%), is ideal.

Water is a miracle worker. It flushes germs from your system, helps your blood to carry plenty of oxygen to your body’s cells and allows those cells to absorb important nutrients.  Invest in a filter jug or bottle to avoid quaffing high levels of chlorine and fluorine along with your tap water.

Green tea and chamomile tea are also immune system strengtheners, as they contain antioxidants that help battle free radicals.

There are a variety of different natural ingredients that are backed by research pointing to their usefulness.  Fresh ginger added to boiling water may help sooth a sore throat or cough. Honey (look for raw honey or Manuka rather than the common-or-garden variety) is often teamed with lemon for a soothing drink for sore throats and may also act as cough suppressant. Raw honey should not be given to children younger than one as it may contain botulinum spores.

Sore throats may additionally benefit from gargling with salt water, while saline (salt water) nose drops help clear mucous from blocked nasal passages and soothes tender skin inside the nostrils.

As difficult as this is to achieve in winter, spending sufficient time in sunlight is a vital immune booster.  Vitamin D is made by your skin absorbing sunlight, so planning an hour or two outside during daylight hours is a good reason to leave work early, or take your children to the park when you’d rather sleep late.

Expose as much of your bare skin to the sun as possible and don’t wear sunscreen during that time either, as it inhibits the process.

Supplement your vitamin D levels by eating more of the following foods: oily fish (salmon, mackerel and fresh tuna), beef liver, mushrooms, cheese, egg yolks and vitamin D-fortified foods, such as dairy products and orange juice.

An age-old way to boost immunity is by following childhood rules – wash hands, go to bed early and take some exercise.  These simple measures may seem boring (and more difficult to achieve than popping a pill), but science proves that they work.

And your immune system will thank you for it.

Are you the kind of person who is more ill than other people with the same bug, or you’re ill more often and your immune system could use some support? Maybe there is an underlying issue, especially if you also have asthma, eczema or allergies. Is this you? I invite you to book in for a free 20 minute immune system chat. Click here for an appointment.

JANUARY SALE – Allergy and Intolerance Testing

You can resolve many health issues by identifying food sensitivities, and omitting the offending foods from your diet!

Allergy Test UK – Cheltenham is offering a January discount for intolerance testing. £55 for a full test (£15 discount) and £30 for a retest (£10 discount).

In a one hour appointment you will go through a thorough health questionnaire, will be tested for 75+ foods and drinks and you will come away with a list foods to avoid, plus information for alternative choices and ideas for other lifestyle change!

Please call 01242 584140, message or book online www.chhc.co.uk.

Why walking isn’t enough

Exercise Advice from Public Health England 2018
“I do an hour and a quarter of ​Taiji​​ every week.” says Louise Ansari from theCentre for Ageing Better.

Public Health England says that muscle, bone strengthening and balance activities are vital for health and future wellbeing. Dr Tedstone, head of diet & physical activity: “Alongside aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, all adults should be aiming to do strengthening and balancing activities twice per week,”

Strengthening and balance activities help prevent falls, improve mood, sleeping patterns, increase energy levels and reduce the risk of an early death.

“The need for us all to do two sessions of strength and balance exercise a week has been the ‘Cinderella’ of public health advice,” said Louise Ansari.

But ​Health Survey for England​ found this type of exercise neglected, with only 31% of men and 23% of women doing muscle-strengthening exercises.
And his drops to 12% over the age of 65.

Muscles tend to be at their peak in our 30s and the muscle tone is going by the time we reach 40, ​unless we actively work on it.

Ansari said “If you are a reasonably fit adult and you do walking, you should also do yoga or ​Taiji ​​…which could be in a structured exercise class. You can do two long sessions a week.“I do an hour and a quarter of Taiji every week…”

Taiji Qi Gong Classes are available
@ The Cheltenham Holistic Health Centre, Tuesdays, 12-1pm.

Jeff Docherty has been teaching for 15 years, he is qualified in Traditional Chinese Medicine, a professional member of the Association of TCM and fully insured.

Contact: ​​jeffdocherty@yahoo.com Tel: 07970303694

Who Are You Eating With?

You are trying your utmost to follow the latest Gluten free, Paleo, Vegan, Fod Map and have been invited to the in laws for dinner, or it’s your birthday, or that longed for break to Provence is upon you, your other half is a dedicated meat eater and your sister has turned up with a bottle of champagne. It seems hardly fair does it? It’s not easy to follow a consistently healthy diet when it seems the world is conspiring against you!

Having control over the food we eat all the time, let alone its quality is almost impossible. We would have to have our own organic small holding where we could grow everything that we would need away from possible air driven pollutants and genetically modified seeds, access to unadulterated spring water and tons of money to buy it in the first place. Is there anywhere left on the planet that has not been tainted by humanity’s industrialization? The next best option is a community of like minded people somewhere in the Outer Hebrides!
For most of us the quality of the food we eat depends initially on what our parents fed us, what our school fed us, uni sandwiches and the work’s canteen. It isn’t until we are earning enough money above subsistence level that we can even begin to think about the quality of food that we eat. It shouldn’t be like this but money does drive the food industry.
I advice everyone I see to buy as much quality/organic food as they can afford for two reasons; one that it is better for your health and two that in a capitalist economy demand and supply are intertwined. The more people that buy organic the more farmers will see it as good business – the more organic food being grown – prices fall. Of course, what is good for the soil is also good for the planet. Pesticides are not chemicals we can easily live with long term. They hamper bee pollination, get into the water supply, the crops that are being grown in the soil and our intestinal tract!
Why are the numbers of people with moderate to severe food intolerances rising so dramatically? It is quite frightening. Might it be possible that the harmful pollutants that are now part of our food chain including the micro plastics swallowed by fish behind the exponential rise in food allergies?
We know that inflammation begins in the gut with dysbiosis in our microbiome (an imbalance in the gut flora).That means people with Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other gut issues are even more susceptible to inflammation and motility issues than those with a healthy gut. But even more than that, chronic inflammation is linked to diseases like asthma, allergies, Crohn’s and Colitis, Alzheimers, Parkinson’s, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and just about anything else that goes wrong in your body.
I have so many clients now who cannot eat even a mouthful of gluten without drastic consequences and by drastic I mean chronic and acute gas, constipation and or diarrhoea. It is literally as though they have eaten poison. With these types of intolerances and it can include a whole host of allergens we really need to protect ourselves as much as we can.
We cannot compromise our health because of peer pressure or any pressure for that matter. Thankfully as demand for ‘free from’ food has increased so has supply, most supermarkets now have organic/gluten free sections.
I so understand peer pressure. When I first began to make changes to my normal diet, over thirty years ago, my family were incredulous. I was laughed at, ridiculed and generally considered weird and we are talking about quite mild changes here – cow’s milk, sugar, fried foods, alcohol, – mainly because those foods were making me feel unwell. That they were injurious to my health was not sufficient reason, according to my family, to be different.
Within reason we need to be brave enough to be different and brave enough to say no. The main problem is our own temptations, our own desire to have that glass of champagne, slice of cake, fresh bread and best cheddar cheese. When this happens and with Christmas looming it will probably happen a lot, we need strategies to help us survive the rich and numerous feasts.

1.    Keep your quantities small.
2.    Take your time eating
3.    Have alkaline only (vegetables/salad/fruit) days planned
4.    De tox with dietary cleanses and colon hydrotherapy

Colon Hydrotherapy is an amazing treatment and can very quickly rectify gut trauma as a result of over eating or consuming food/drink that we have mild to severe intolerance to. Far from having a detrimental effect on gut bacteria it seems to calm inflammation and help the body restore harmony and balance. When the gut has got stuck in a vicious cycle of dysbiosis, Colon Hydrotherapy can assist the bowels in the release of offending matter This together with a cleansing diet and infusions of high potency good bacteria gives the small intestines and liver a chance to recover equilibrium.

Throughout January 2019 I will be offering discounts on Colon Hydrotherapy/Nutrition Advice treatments.

Initial Consultation will cost £65.00 – saving £5.00
Follow up Colon Hydrotherapy sessions will cost £60.00 – saving £5.00
Three colon hydrotherapy session booked in advance (with initial consultation) will cost £180.00 – saving £20.00
Three colon hydrotherapy sessions book in advance (without initial consultation) will cost £175.00 – saving £20.00

Happy holidays and happy recovery!

Caroline Shaw

Food, Glorious Food! My Mindfulness Journey with Dietary Intolerances

Food, Glorious Food!

My Mindfulness Journey with Dietary Intolerances

Author and mindfulness teacher Catherine G Lucas shares her experience

Becoming gluten, dairy, yeast and sugar-free has been a journey. Sometimes it has been uphill with a strong head wind in my face. Other times, I’ve been propelled forwards, the wind to my back.

It’s a personal journey, a unique journey, and I guess it has to be for each of us. Even now, there are times when I have to be careful, times when I know I could end up eating something that will make me feel unwell. There are times when I do. Luckily, fairly rare occasions. Nearly always when stress levels peak. My mindfulness practice has been a huge help.

Mindfulness has been shown to help cope with stress, leading to ‘a 58%reduction in anxiety levels and 40% reduction in stress’ according to the Mental Health Foundation.What the research figures don’t tell you is that being gluten-free or dairy-free or anything-free is all about kindness, self-compassion. The journey is essentially one of moving from self-harm to self-care. As our awareness grows, through our mindfulness practice, so too inevitably does our ability to be kind to ourselves, to our bodies.

A breakthrough came for me when I realised it wasn’t about depriving myself of anything but rather nourishing and nurturing myself with all sorts of delicious, healthy alternatives. If we feel at all deprived, the journey is simply an uphill struggle and we won’t achieve what we’re hoping to.

For every food I needed to cut out, in time I’ve worked out wonderful substitutes. From being someone who had never so much as baked a cake, I’ve gone to being known amongst friends for my various tasty breads, cakes and puddings, all totally gluten, dairy, sugar and yeast-free.

But it’s not about the recipes. It’s about bringing our awareness to the journey, to the kinds of situations that might trigger us, where we might slip up. And bringing in self-compassion if we do. A shared supper where there will probably be all manner of puddings laden with sugar, dairy and/or gluten is the kind of situation where I take along something I caneat.

It’s about acknowledging, with that same compassion, that, as is the case for me, I’m dealing with an addiction. It takes the tiniest bit of sugar for me to be right back there, hooked and craving. It won’t surprise you to hear that mindfulness is being used increasingly to help those struggling with addiction. Of the two books I’ve written for the Sheldon Press Mindfulness Series, one is on addiction recovery.

So the journey continues and I’m delighted to have this opportunity to support you on yours, to share what I’ve learnt, how mindfulness and kindfulness help. May the journey to healthy eating for us all be one where, rather than battling against a head wind, a warm breeze gently caresses our skin.


Cheltenham Holistic Health Centre

Kindfulness & Nutrition

A one-day mindfulness retreat

exploring our patterns around food

Sunday 21 October 2018


Are you coping with food sensitivities or allergies? Candida or diabetes? Do you need to avoid certain foods for health reasons but struggle to do so?

Join us for this one-day Kindfulness retreat. We’ll explore ways of self-nurturing, moving from a sense of denial to feeling nourished on every level.

An essential aspect of mindfulness is kindness and compassion, in this case compassion towards ourselves. As we grow in self-awareness and self-compassion, so we move more easily through our food challenges.

The day is suitable for mindfulness beginners as well as more experienced practitioners. For bookings, please contact Cheltenham Holistic Health Centre – £60 for the day; £50 for CHHC clients. Any queries do get in touch: catherine@catherine-g-lucas.com

Please bring on the day

  • a pillow and some sort of a throw, shawl or blanket as one of the mindfulness practices, the body scan, involves lying down.
  • something for a shared vegetarian lunch.


Catherine G Lucas has been teaching mindfulness since qualifying as a mindfulness trainer in 2007. She has taught many groups, including NHS therapists and soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Catherine is also the author of four books, her two most recent in the Sheldon Press Mindfulness Series.

On this one-day retreat she brings her personal experience of thriving on a diet that is gluten, dairy, sugar and yeast free.

“I couldn’t have achieved this without the self-awareness that my mindfulness practice brings. If I slip up occasionally, it’s kindness and compassion towards myself that gets me right back on track. For me, it’s about moving from self-harm to self-care, from foods that harm me to foods that nourish and nurture me.”