Month: November 2017

Why I don’t Take Essential Oils Internally

This post is taken from the blog of Julia Lawless on her company site, Aqua Oleum.

Julia Lawless is a world-renowned aromatherapist, highly respected as an authority in the field of aromatic plants and oils. She believes ingesting essential oils is a dangerous method which she doesn’t encourage.

This is an excerpt from an article written for the Canadian Aromatherapy Association: BCAPA. I wrote the article because of a growing concern I have regarding an increase in members of public in the UK enquiring about taking essential oils internally. I want to make absolutely clear that the UK official Aromatherapy policy as supported by Aqua Oleum Ltd does NOT support taking essential oils internally in any manner by members of the public, as stated clearly on our labels. I myself consider this a very dangerous trend and would like to ensure that this practice is not adopted in the UK despite the internet and other sources, especially in the US, publishing misleading information in this field – as outlined in this article.

I am writing this article in Colorado with a large volume in front of me entitled: ‘Essential Oils Desk Reference’, a type of encyclopedia compiled by Essential Science Publishing and published in the US. In the section entitled ‘How to Safely Use Essential Oils’ it says at point 11:

“Before taking GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) essential oils internally, test your reactions by diluting one drop of essential oil in one teaspoon of an oil soluble liquid like blue agave, olive oil, or rice milk. Never consume more than a few drops of diluted essential oil per day without the advice of a physician”

How many drops are a ‘few drops’? In their ‘Essential Oil Application Codes’ in Appendix E at the end of the book, they divide oils into those that can be taken neat (such as lavender); those which need to be diluted to 50-50% – i.e “one part essential oil to one part vegetable oil for topical and internal use “- (such as basil and bergamot); and those which should be diluted 20-80% (such as lemongrass or clove). A 50-50% blend of an essential oil with a vegetable oil being recommended for internal use is not the same as a few drops! Generally speaking, in making a blend for a massage or body oil, I recommend using a 1% to 5% blend of essential oils in a vegetable oil base – depending on the subject, the specific oil and the region being treated. So a 50-50% blend is itself a very, very strong dilution for topical application… let alone internal use!

When in the same Appendix, an oil such as ‘Blue Tansy’ (Tanacetum annuum) is recommended for neat use while ‘Tansy’ (Tanacetum vulgare) is recommended for 50-50% use, the situation becomes even more worrying! Tansy (T. vulgare) contains up to 80% thujone, as stated in the constituent data section – yet thujone is a severe oral toxin. Moreover the average member of the public is not going to distinguish between tansy and blue tansy so may even be tempted to swallow tansy essential oil neat. Indeed, in another popular book published in the US, I found ‘tansy essential oil’ being recommended for treating tummy upsets in children by adding a ‘few drops’ to their bowl of yogurt in the morning!

In my ‘Encyclopedia of Essential Oils’, which is still used as a textbook for training aromatherapists on an international basis, I also list the essential oils which should not be used for aromatherapy purposes. Under the Safety Data entry for Tansy (T. vugare) it says:

“Oral toxin – poisonous due to high thujone content. Abortifacient. Should not be used in aromatherapy whether internally or externally. … The oil used to be used in alcoholic beverages – it is no longer used for flavouring.”

Another words, this oil does not even have a GRAS status due to its toxicity levels. I specifically decided to include such oils in my Encyclopedia as a form of education … to outline the reasons why such an oil can be dangerous. Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) falls into the same category due to its high thujone content, yet it is also recommended for 50-50% usage in the Essential Oils Desk Reference volume. It is not that essential oils cannot be used internally under any circumstances, such as under the guidance of a Medical Herbalist qualified in this field … but the vague, inaccurate, contradictory and blatantly dangerous messages being communicated to the public regarding safety issues via all sorts of media sources these days, such as the internet and you-tube, is of very real concern.

See the post on Aqua Oleum here.

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A Brief Guide to Using Essential Oils

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The use of essential oils has grown widely in popularity in recent years, but one thing is for sure, they’re nothing new. They have existed since the moment the earth was created and have been used therapeutically for centuries.

When slicing a lemon, the smell that is left behind on your hands comes from the oil of the peel, and the beautiful, heady scent of a rose is from the oil of its leaves.

If you’ve ever been handed a bottle of potent smelling oil and wondered what to do with it, I’m going to break down the what’s and the how’s of essential oils here.

What are Essential Oils?

Essential Oils are volatile liquid substances extracted from aromatic flowers, plants, barks, stem, leaves, roots, fruits or other parts of the plant by various extraction methods.

They are called “essential” because they are necessary for the life of the plant and contain the essence of the plant. They are live, they contain life force, intelligence and energy that gives them healing power when used by the body.

Essential oils can be traced back to biblical times, with over 600 references to essential oils and/or aromatic plants in the Bible. The most popular one we probably all know are the gifts of Frankincense and Myrrh given to baby Jesus at his birth.

The use of aromatherapy came into existence after scientists deciphered the antiseptic and skin permeability properties of essential oils and their therapeutic use to treat diseases.

How do Essential Oils Work?

Essential Oils are composed of tiny molecules that can penetrate into every cell, administering healing therapy at the most fundamental levels of our bodies which, when used correctly, come with no side effects. Once the oils are in the system, they remodulate themselves and work in a positive manner at the area of malfunction or distress. One of the wonderful things about essential oils is their ability to target a problem in a cell but leave the surrounding area unaffected, unlike some medical treatments.

Although essential oils have been used therapeutically for centuries, there is little published research on their effectiveness. But that is about to change as countries all over the world are conducting clinical studies on their power and uses. Research studies so far show positive effects on a variety of health concerns including infections, anxiety, pain, depression, cancerous tumours and hormonal imbalances, to name just a few.

Why Choose Essential Oils?

Essential oils are safe, which unfortunately we can’t quite say about medicines manufactured by man. Man-made pharmaceuticals lack the life, energy and intelligence found in essential oils and often come with many undesirable side effects, some of which are deadly.

The reason only licensed doctors are allowed to prescribe drugs is because they are inherently dangerous; a person can die from an overdose or from failure to follow given instructions. They also frequently work in disharmony in the body when more than one type of drug is taken at once, producing a downward spiral of needing more drugs to counteract negative side effects, hurting the body further and causing a dependence on the health system.

Essential oils however, when used properly (by this I mean not pouring a whole bottle of undiluted oil on your skin or down your throat) have no serious side effects and they can be used by anyone without needing the supervision or prescription of a doctor. When certain oils are used together, they work in harmony. They also have the ability to truly heal, naturally and harmlessly, bringing the body back into balance whilst withdrawing a persons’ dependence on the medical system.

How Do We Use Essential Oils?

There are a few ways to use essential oils, the main ones are through topical application, massage, baths, inhalation and controversially, ingestion. I say controversially because there are many companies selling essential oils who promote their internal use and the information surrounding this seems conflicted. Personally I do NOT ingest essential oils and I would never recommend anyone to. Please see here as to why.

When diluted appropriately, essential oils can be applied directly to the skin. I would think most household bathroom cabinets contain a small pot of Vicks Vaporub, and that’s all Vicks is; an ointment containing essential oils used for inhalation and topical absorption to relieve the symptoms of congestion.

I use essential oils topically for a variety of purposes; I use a diluted blend which includes frankincense, spruce, blue chamomile & blue tansy oil as perfume, which has a grounding effect and helps support my thyroid. I rub diluted oils directly on my neck in the area of my thyroid, as part of my healing from Hashimotos protocol.

At night I rub lavender on my son’s feet after his bath to help him sleep, and in the morning I rub an immune supporting blend on his feet for nursery.

Applying essential oils to the feet is one of the best ways to use them topically; the feet have much larger pores than the rest of the body so they can be absorbed better, but no sebaceous glands so the oil won’t have to compete with our own body’s natural production of sebum, which can act as a barrier. Combining essential oils with reflexology gives even further benefit, targeting specific areas of the body that need support through particular pressure points on the feet.

Inhalation is one of the ways I personally use essential oils the most; I have multiple diffusers in my house which serve a multitude of purposes. One of the most fascinating things about essential oils is they contain antibacterial, antibiotic, antimicrobial and antiviral properties. I found this particularly helpful when my son was first born last November, the time of year when colds are rife. I found diffusing essential oils helped to protect both him and me from airborne germs unintentionally brought in by our visitors.

At night I religiously diffuse Frankincense and Lavender; both very calming and soothing, helping us all sleep. Both Frankincense and Lavender have respiratory supporting properties, helping to clear mucus and reducing the spasmodic effects of coughing. If someone at my house has a cough, the first thing I do is turn on the diffuser!

Adding a few drops of essential oils to a bath, and Aromatherapy Massage are both wonderful ways to incorporate the benefits of oils into a relaxing way to de-stress and support the body. Having a professional massage is of course ideal, but we can become our own massage therapist just as easily (or ask a loved one!).

Essential oils are very powerful, and their uses are finally gaining the recognition they deserve. It’s important when choosing a brand of essential oil that they are graded as pure and therapeutic. There are many companies out there who are using synthetic oils which may smell nice, but they are adulterated, often containing no actual trace of essential oil and containing no health benefits.

Have you ever used essential oils for your health and if so, did they help you? Comment below!

References
P.H. Koulivand, M.K. Ghadiri, A. Gorji Lavender and the nervous system Evid Based Complement Altern Med (2013), 10.1155/2013/681304
Frankincense (乳香 Rǔ Xiāng; Boswellia Species): From the Selection of Traditional Applications to the Novel Phytotherapy for the Prevention and Treatment of Serious Diseases  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3924999/
Disclaimer
This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information on the use of essential oils is based on personal opinion, research and experience, it is not advice and should not be treated as such.

 

Pumpkin Spice Latte

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I love Autumn, there’s something about all the changes around this time of year that really warm my heart. The beautiful colours of orange and red leaves against the golden sunshine and clear blue skies (when it isn’t raining in the UK), the faint smell of burning wood in the air, putting on a warm cozy cardigan, the taste of a delicious syrupy-sweet Starbucks Pumpkin Latte with the kick of 15 teaspoons of sugar….

Ok, that last part isn’t true. Not the 15 teaspoons of sugar, but the part where I actually drink one. True they are delicious, but they hold zero nutrition once they contain that amount of sugar. And do they actually contain any pumpkin at all?!

So, I make my own very nutritious and very delicious Pumpkin Latte with real, organic pureed pumpkin and fresh, warming spices. Oh, and no sugar.

I puree pumpkin by cutting it into large pieces and steaming it because it’s quicker and it retains moisture. I then scrape the pumpkin out of the skin and puree it with a hand blender.

I have an espresso machine with a steamer which is perfect for this, but you don’t need one; heating the ingredients in a pan and adding coffee at the end works just as well. I use coconut milk as it adds healthy fat but I’ve found almond milk works just as well.  Rude Health seems to have the most naturally sweet taste. If this needs extra sweetness, choose maple syrup or honey.

Makes one large serving.

1 heaped tablespoon pureed pumpkin

200ml milk

½ tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp Cinnamon

½ tsp Nutmeg

¼ tsp Allspice

Double shot espresso or strong coffee

 

Steam or heat the milk together with the pumpkin. Add coffee, vanilla and spices. Stir well and enjoy.

 

 

How to Have a Naturally Healthy Pregnancy

I would love to write a how-to guide that would ensure all future pregnancies across the world are exactly like my title says. But as we are all individual, I can’t. But, I do honestly believe that simple steps I took during my pregnancy did help; I turned a supposed “sickening, aching and exhausting” time in my life into one of genuine health, happiness and energy.

I loved being pregnant, it is such a magical time for any woman to experience, to be one with nature and marvel at the little miracle growing every day inside her body, and I don’t believe that sickness and exhaustion are things we should just accept as part of the course.

There is so much to write about here (a book or e-guide might be better!), so please excuse me if there are areas where it’s pretty clear I’m being brief. But in an effort to not take up too much time or space in your already busy day whilst growing or planning to grow a human (I figure, why else would you be reading this?!), I want to simply highlight my most important aspects.

  1. EXERCISE.

I cannot stress enough the importance of exercise in pregnancy, even if it’s just walking every day. Exercise gets your body pumping fresh oxygen around your body and most importantly, through the placenta to your baby. It keeps your joints and muscles supple and mobile, helps to maintain your strength for dealing with the extra weight on your body and helps to keep your skin clear. If you’re used to working out, pregnancy shouldn’t stop you; you may need to tailor your workouts to accommodate your bump but most things are safe to continue (with the exception of things like skiing, water sports and horse riding, etc.) Be sensible.

During my pregnancy I continued doing my barefoot, squat-intensive workout at the gym twice per week and took up swimming instead of running, which I vowed to commit to at least twice a week. Rain or shine, warm or cold, I swam (outside in a supposedly heated pool). There were plenty of days I would much rather have laid on the sofa eating warm buttered toast while watching Friends but there wasn’t a single time I pushed myself to go swimming and regretted it. I even swam on my due date (huge), energised and excited.

The 12 days of anticipation that ensued though brought with them some backache (hence the “almost” in this posts title), and I found myself doing exactly what I had fought so hard against during my entire pregnancy, lying on the sofa eating hot buttered toast and watching Friends. Still, I had 40 weeks of regular exercise under my belt and thought it was time for a little balance before my little one finally made an appearance.

The important thing here isn’t about becoming super fit or lean and toned during pregnancy, or pushing yourself to do heavy cardio, it is about movement. If all you can manage is a 20-minute walk (ideally in the fresh, clean air, not along your local high street) and a few yoga stretches per day, it all helps.

  1. NOURISHMENT and HYDRATION.

Your body is a vessel for the miracle of new human life and it is vitally important you nourish it with all the vitamins, minerals, fats, protein and carbohydrates it needs to function at its best. God knew what he was doing when he formed us to carry on the human race, if your body is deficient in certain areas your baby won’t suffer, it will take everything it needs from you. But YOU will. So overcompensate if you feel the need, you can never eat too many vegetables and fruits at this stage. Listen to your body.

I craved fruit during my pregnancy, particularly oranges and bananas which I’d hardly eaten before, my body clearly needed vitamin C and potassium. Cravings are your body’s way of saying you are lacking in something. But you can make healthy choices with your cravings, for example craving a McDonalds cheeseburger? Maybe you need some iron, make yourself a homemade steak sandwich. Craving ice cream? Try frozen berries and coconut yoghurt (add cacao powder to make it chocolate flavoured). This is a prefect dessert option as it contains minerals, vitamins and wonderful healthy fats and probiotics from the coconut yoghurt. There is something so satisfying about munching on sweet frozen berries.

To provide some inspiration, a typical food day for me would be;

Breakfast

  • Hot lemon water, goats milk kefir, goats milk yoghurt with banana, blueberries and mixed seeds – pumpkin, sesame and sunflower.
  • Or banana pancakes made with gluten free flour and coconut milk, with bacon.
  • Or gluten free oatmeal with berries.

Lunch

  • Salad mix of spinach, rocket and watercress with chicken breast or fresh sardine or mackerel fillets, avocado, pomegranate seeds, sauerkraut or raw slaw, chickpeas, sliced almonds, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Slice of organic rye toast with KerryGold butter (from grass-fed cows).
  • Falafal with hummus, salad and pita bread

Dinner

  • Steamed salmon stir fry with quinoa or brown rice noodles
  • Or Shephard’s Pie made with sweet potato and swede mash
  • Or chicken or fish curry with coconut milk and lentils

Dessert 

  • Coconut yoghurt with frozen berries and cacao powder
  • Two pieces organic dark chocolate

Snacks

  • Apple and almond butter
  • Oatcakes with humus or avocado dip
  • Homemade banana bread or muffins.

Drinks – water, water, water. Two litres per day is optimum, do not allow yourself to feel thirsty if you can help it so drink as much water as you can, alongside decaf herbal tea. Lemon and Ginger, Peppermint or Raspberry Leaf are all great in pregnancy.*

*Some herbs such as nettle and raspberry leaf can act as a uterine tonic (they help nourish and “tone” the uterus, great for labour!) However, I avoided these herbs during the first semester. While there is no solid evidence of them causing harm in early pregnancy, since they work to tone the uterus I thought it best to avoid them in the early stages while the baby was forming.

  1. SUPPLEMENTS.

I used to take a range of supplements but when I discovered I was pregnant I cut them down to just three; a wholefood multivitamin, fish oil and probiotics.

Vitamins and supplements are a multi-million-pound industry but most people don’t realise that synthetic supplements aren’t really providing much, if any, benefit. Some can even do harm. Everything you ingest has to be processed by your liver and if your liver thinks something is a foreign substance, it will work hard to break it down and expel it. If your vitamins come in the form of a food source and are taken with food, your body can recognise it as such and thus it is more easily utilised. I like Nature’s Own Pregnancy Support (60 Tablets) which I took every day throughout my entire pregnancy, not just the first three months, and continue whilst breastfeeding.

About Folic Acid 

Folic acid is actually a synthetic form of Vitamin B9, it is not naturally found in the human body. L-Methylfolate is the biologically active form of Vitamin B, which is a vital compound used for DNA synthesis and the formation of healthy cells, especially red blood cells. It comes from foods like spinach, watercress, citrus fruits and beans. This compound is a key chemical used in the beginning stages of pregnancy and is crucial for baby’s brain and spine development. Deficiencies in folate have been known to cause spina bifida in babies. Look for Methlyfolate, not just the words Folic Acid on your multivitamin. Current RDA guidelines in the UK are 400mg.

Fish Oil

There is an entire human brain developing inside your body so you want to give it all the support you can. 200mg per day DHA contributes to the normal brain development of a foetus and breastfed infants. There is currently some controversy around the sourcing and potential toxins in cod liver oil, so after some research I chose a fish oil supplement from sardine and anchovy. I like Natures Own 550mg Fish Oil 60 Capsules

Probiotics

While babies are mostly sterile in the womb, studies have shown that beneficial bacteria can be passed from mother to the foetus and that probiotic supplementation of the mother during and after pregnancy has been shown to alter the infant’s microbiome, increasing the abundance of beneficial bacteria.

I took Bio-Kult Advanced Multi-Strain Formula – 120 Capsules all throughout my pregnancy as it has the greatest diversity of strains, as well as drinking goats milk kefir daily. Kefir is also wonderful for post-birth recovery as it supports healing and can alleviate constipation. Generally, I find probiotics really helpful at alleviating IBS symptoms, which can also unfortunately become more prominent for some during pregnancy.

  1. Sleep

What I find most ironic about having a baby is that you spend countless hours and methods trying to get your baby to sleep, whilst at the same time desperately trying to keep yourself awake! If I had been really, honestly prepared for how little sleep I would be faced with having a baby I would have prioritised it a whole lot more in pregnancy.

Don’t sacrifice your sleep. It is so important for yourself and for your growing baby. Sometimes I did struggle to sleep during my pregnancy, either from discomfort, a very active baby at night or because I was anxious about birth and becoming a mother for the first time, but in those moments I found deep breathing incredibly helpful; breathing in for a count of four and out for a count of six.

My house is full of salt lamps and at night, I find their orange glow and warmth particularly calming. Two hours before bed I turn on a filter on my phone called EasyEyes which reduces blue light. I try to restrict my phone use as much as possible at night and read a book. I also diffuse Frankincense and Lavender essential oils, both known for their calming and soothing properties.

  1. Environment

Minimising toxic exposure to chemicals is important at any time in our life, but even more so when you are growing a tiny human. Bisphenol A, (BPA) is one of our most widely used chemicals and can be found on every day products like water bottles, metal food cans and store receipts. BPA can act as an endocrine-disrupter, mimicking or blocking hormones naturally produced in and needed by the body. BPA has been linked to several health problems later in life such as asthma, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, infertility, anxiety and depression.

I hate plastic water bottles, they are so bad for us and then they end up dumped in our oceans. It is much kinder on the body and the environment to avoid them as much as possible. Investing in a quality water filter and a reusable glass or stainless-steel bottle is a great way to do this. This glass bottle by Lakeland is covered with a spongy sleeve to make carrying glass a little more practical.

As well as avoiding bottled water, we can limit our exposure to BPA by avoiding taking store receipts or getting them on email, avoiding canned foods and plastic-packaged foods (I know this is challenging).

However, it’s not only what we ingest that has an effect on our body. The skin is actually our largest organ and everything we put on our skin has the potential to be absorbed. Be particularly careful of parabens and hard-to-pronounce chemicals in store-bought lotions and creams. It’s really easy and actually cheaper to make your own moisturising cream with shea butter, coconut oil and essential oils, which have numerous health benefits as well as helping to avoid the use of chemicals. And for the household, thankfully, brands like Ecover and Method make it easy to switch to gentler alternatives to common (and unfortunately highly toxic) household cleaners.

 

When we are busy with work and maybe other children, it can be so difficult to prioritise ourselves and our health often takes a back seat on our immensely fast journey through life. But pregnancy is such a short journey and likely the most important and exciting one we can take. Nine months is no time and every decision we make can impact the future. I believe that health is one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves and the little miracle growing inside of us.

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Resources

https://www.mailman.columbia.edu/public-health-now/news/mom’s-exposure-bpa-during-pregnancy-may-put-her-baby-course-obesity

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4464665/

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information on the use of supplements is based on personal opinion and experience, it is not advice and should not be treated as such. Always seek advice from a medical professional when undertaking a new exercise regime.

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Tips for Healthy & Comfortable Long-Haul Travel

Whether you like flying or not (and I happen to love it), there are a few simple, easy, but effective measures I always take for the journey, making it just that bit more comfortable while ensuring I (hopefully) don’t arrive looking like I just spent a week sleeping in the same clothes in a tent.

I’ve flown a fair amount in the last ten years, always on long haul flights, and the few details I add to my regime ensure I have a relaxing, enjoyable and most importantly, comfortable flight

  1. Immune Support

While it may sound obvious, I cannot stress this enough. Airports, airplanes, dirty hands, air conditioning and the overall number of people you are likely to come into close contact with en-route, does not make for a happy immune system. Especially adding on the physical strain of jet leg. Support your immune system with large doses of vitamin C and echinacea. The trick is to take them consistently, not just once or twice. I would take three times a day, the day before, day of and day after travel. It might sound like a lot, but in my experience it’s foolproof.

  1. All-Natural Hand Sanitiser                                                                                                                  

I make a spray bottle of this myself with 6 drops each of frankincense, lavender and melaleuca (tea tree) essential oils, mixed with equal parts aloe vera, water and coconut oil (or any other carrier oil).  It’s a wonderful, natural hand sanitiser that is also moisturising, cleansing and immune supporting.

  1. Lip Balm

The air conditioning on the plane can make your lips dry and crack, so I aways carry little pot of Carmex. Actually I carry a little pot of Carmex everywhere.

  1. Underwear

I don’t want to get too personal here, but do not underestimate the benefits of having a spare pair of underwear and socks. Enough said.

  1. Toothbrush and Toothpaste

This is vital!

  1. Make up and Face Wipes

Your skin can suffer terribly when traveling so I like to take a small stash of face wipes so I can take my makeup off on the plane and reapply it for landing. I use Bare Minerals powder foundation and blush, these two pots and a sample size bottle of mascara means I can fit in the basics for hand luggage.

  1. Relaxing or Night Time Tea        

I swear by these teas and always drink them when I’m flying. Sleeping pills are fine as long as you know you can actually sleep. But if for some reason you can’t, you could end up at your destination feeling drowsy and disorientated. This relaxing tea is all herbal, it makes me feel relaxed and a little sleepy, without any drowsy side-effects.

  1. Eye mask        

Of course it will block out light, but a silk eye mask will also help to avoid redness and puffiness around the eye, and it feels fabulous next to your skin.

  1. Sweatpants, and a Blanket or Hoodie

I always take a warm sweater or large scarf and some light sweatpants. If the air-conditioning is low on the plane it can get cold and if you’re not flying international you are not guaranteed a blanket. I change into them just before I get on the plane. Sitting in jeans can get uncomfortable after a while, and everything else just gets horribly creased.

And finally…

  1. Blag it    

Some call it gift of the gab, I call it just being proactive. This has worked for me in getting an upgrade a few times when I’ve been traveling solo, so it’s worth a try. Enroll in the frequent flier program before you fly, and at check-in – try to speak to a real person, not a machine – tell them you are a bad, nervous or sick flier. (It’s not lying, I can often feel nauseous from airplane food….!) No airline wants a sick passenger, so the least you should get is your window or aisle preference, and you might just be fortunate enough for an upgrade.

My Thyroid Story

My first baby, Sebastian was born at the end of 2016, I had had an amazing pregnancy and can honestly say I felt better pregnant than in other times in my life. Although my birth recovery was hard (I ended up with a c-section at 42 weeks as baby was breech and decided not to turn or come naturally!), I revelled in the energy, joy and adrenaline I was blessed with as a new mother in the first few months with a newborn, even though I was feeding him every two hours, night and day.

Things changed when Seb was about five months old. I started feeling unable to tolerate the cold, particularly in the morning. Granted it was winter, but I would wake with freezing cold hands and feet and really struggle to get warm, even in bed. My encouraging postpartum weight loss suddenly seemed to reach a plateau, I was gaining not losing weight and all of a sudden my hair was falling out in handfuls, blocking my drains and sticking to everything, even ending up in my baby’s nappy. I felt anxious and a sickening tiredness swept over me that I was unable to recover from, even when I did sleep. All of a sudden I was struggling, not enjoying motherhood, unable to keep up with the demands of my now-mobile baby, normal household chores and simple outings to the supermarket. I felt exhausted.

We were moving house around that time so I assumed it was just stress, it was a difficult time for us being so far away from family support. My husband was managing our business, I was taking care of Seb and we would both pack bits of the house in the evening, trying to race against the clock of our looming moving date. I cried most of our moving day. I had become so unwell and exhausted I could barely function, our new house was less than a mile away and I pushed our baby in the stroller back and forth from one house to the other using the basket to transport any extra bits from our house, depressed, wondering why on earth my body felt like it was held down with lead. I felt like I had been poisoned.

However, I thought this might be normal for a new, breastfeeding mother of a very energetic child, and that I just wasn’t adapting to it. Weight gain (breastfeeding does make you crave carbs), hair loss (isn’t some post-partum shedding normal?!) and exhaustion (synonymous with sleep deprivation). But then my arms and legs broke out in horrible bumps, I got stinging eczema around my eyes and I stopped being able to taste my food. I couldn’t concentrate on a simple conversation about the weather and while my husband always joked about my terrible memory, I was forgetting everything from appointments to the dentist to names of my family members. The fatigue was unlike anything I had ever experienced, if I missed the chance to sleep while Seb napped I would cry in desperation wondering how I was going to get through the day.

Eventually I went to the doctors thinking I must have a vitamin or mineral deficiency. I had bloods drawn Friday afternoon and 9am Monday morning, the doctor called me in and revealed I had become severely Hypothyroid with my TSH over 100, higher than my doctor had ever seen, apparently.

I was dumbfounded. I had developed an overactive thyroid when I was 17, told I had Graves Disease and was put on thyroid-supressing medication for six months, after which I was told my thyroid function had returned to normal and I was discharged.

Looking back now it all makes sense. The next almost two decades of my life after being discharged from my endocrinologist saw constant fluctuations in weight, unexplained fatigue, persistent gastrointestinal issues which seemed to rule my life, acne, constant thirst and urination, periods of depression and anxiety, brain fog, achy joints and a host of other odd ailments that made me feel “off” most of the time. I went to the doctors often, and usually I got the impression they thought I was a hypochondriac or a nuisance. They looked at everything independently, and I don’t remember them testing my thyroid. If they did I never thought to ask to see the results.

I feel certain now I have had thyroid antibodies for over two decades which have gone up and down depending on my lifestyle at that time. How much damage they have done to my thyroid I won’t know without a scan, I’m almost too scared to have one and find out. I’d rather believe my diet and lifestyle interventions, along with my methods of using essential oils to rejuvenate my thyroid tissue will help bring it back to a state of normal. I know it’s going to take some time but thyroid tissue can regenerate; our bodies are amazing at healing when provided with the right environment, and I have every hope mine will.

Baby Oat and Raisin Bars

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I call these Baby Oat and Raisin bars because they are an excellent and nutritious snack for baby, are great as finger food and are so easy to make, containing just five ingredients. But since my boy is so fussy at the moment, he wouldn’t even try them so my husband and I ended up scoffing the whole lot for breakfast. They are perfect with a cup of morning Joe and are a great on-the-go breakfast option.

I have made these with gluten free oats, buckwheat flakes and quinoa flakes, the latter of which really didn’t work, they fell apart easily and tasted a little odd. I find the oats very chewy so good for grown-ups, whereas the buckwheat is a little softer and less grainy so may be easier to chew for those without a full set of teeth. This recipe makes about 10 finger-sized bars.

200g Gluten Free Oats / Buckwheat Flakes

80g Raisins

100ml Organic Apple Juice

4 tbsp Coconut Oil (melted)

2 tbsp Honey *

1tsp Cinnamon (optional)

*For babies over one year old

Mix ingredients in a large bowl then transfer to an oiled baking tray and cook on 200 degrees C for 15 minutes, or until golden on top. Cool and slice into squares or bars for serving or storing.

 

 

Essential Elements for Overall Wellbeing

There are many factors today that affect our health, many more than our ancestors would have faced. We are ever-evolving and adapting to our increasingly toxic world, but sadly not without a price.

Our vegetables are grown with toxins, the standards of our meat industry are questionable (at best) and our grains are overly processed, almost unrecognisable by our gut which has to work tirelessly to process and protect us from everything we ingest.

We put toxins on our bodies with the promise of looking younger and more beautiful, and we put chemicals on our skin to block out the sun, missing out on much-needed vitamin D.

We forgo sleep, maybe because we are too busy or too stressed, then we rely on coffee during the day to keep us going. We forget to drink water, or if we do, we drink it out of plastic bottles and then drink alcohol at night to relax, only to wake up feeling exhausted and do it all again.

Maybe we follow fad diets and extreme weight loss programs that appear to work for those posting perfect bikin-body photos but end up making us feel ill or gain even more weight.

Does any of this sound familiar? (And depressing?!). Thankfully, even when stuck in a health rut our bodies are amazing at adapting and recovering, and it really doesn’t take much to get ourselves back into balance, feel well, live well and look well.

When we focus on proper nutrition, hydration, exercise, sleep, and managing environmental toxins, we can get ourselves back onto the path towards optimal health.

Lets start with Nutrition.

I can’t stress enough the importance of good nutrition, we can so easily get into a bad rut with our diet and it can seem easier to keep doing what we’re doing than to break the cycle.

Many issues with our health these days result from poor diet, our food can be saturated with hidden fats, sugars and salt, it can be really challenging to eat well and nourish your body. Our global obesity epidemic isn’t reducing, in fact it’s only growing. In the West we rely too heavily on convenience foods, perhaps because we are too busy to cook, too tired or just don’t know where to start. A good way of looking at your food intake is to think, if it didn’t fly, walk, swim or grow from the ground then don’t eat it!

Let’s look at the basics:

* Cut the C.R.A.P – Carbonated Drinks & (excess) Caffeine, Refined Sugar, Alcohol & Processed Food

Carbonated Drinks – This means no soda; Coke, Pepsi, Sprite etc. There is no goodness or hydration in these drinks and they should not make up any portion of your hydration requirements for the day.

I’m not a happy mama if I don’t get my coffee in the morning but it’s not because I need it to wake me up, I actually find the juice from half a lemon with hot water much more energising. I just love the ritual of having a steaming hot cup of coffee and I love the smell and taste. I drink organic decaf. Organic coffee is obviously more expensive but so worth it as coffee can contain a whole range of different toxins in the processing period, which can upset our stomach. I hear a lot of people say coffee upsets their stomach but then find this eases when switching to organic coffee. Waitrose (UK) have a wonderful selection that isn’t too pricey. Caffeine should ideally be limited to two cups per day, otherwise it can affect sleep. Herbal tea is not included in this, herbal teas are a great alternative to black tea and has numerous health benefits.

Refined Sugar – Sugar is not just limited to the obvious list of cakes, pastries, sweets and sugary breakfast cereals, it can also be hidden in things like peanut butter and tomato ketchup. Read the labels on your food; the terms sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose dextrose, lactose, high fructose corn syrup all indicate the presence of refined sugars. Check out my list of sweet swaps to satisfy a sweet tooth.

Alcohol – This is an interesting one, as I love a glass of wine and happen to be quite a dab-hand at making cocktails. So I’m not going to say I think we should all abstain from drinking alcohol, life is too short not to enjoy wine! But I think it’s important to stick to the recommended guidelines and to take regular days off from drinking. However in pregnancy, avoid alcohol altogether.

Processed Food – I have a really simplistic view on this; cook fresh, real food. Even gluten free packaged foods are still just processed foods. I try to think about the process of what I’m about to eat, how did it get on my plate? Meat from my butchers with vegetables from my local farmers market that I cooked on my stove? Or a plastic tray containing meat and vegetables, with a host of other ingredients I can’t pronounce that I heated in the microwave? You get the picture.

* Eat fish at least twice a week.

* Eat the rainbow – eat from all colours of the spectrum, think of beautiful red raspberries, delicious crunchy green peas, succulent blueberries, ripe red tomatoes, zesty yellow lemons, oranges and brightly coloured purple beets. There are so many beautiful plant food choices out there, I think there is nothing more satisfying than having a lovely array of colourful vegetables and fruits on your plate.

* Grow your own. This is time consuming and may take some effort but it’s a wonderful thing to get children involved in and can be simple and cheap (you can buy rocket as an example for pennies and it grows really easily in pots)

* Eat local – visit your farmers market if your town has one, they are a wonderful source of local food and it’s great to support local farmers and businesses. Or look to see if your region has an organic vegetable box business.

* Eat organic (whenever possible)

 

 A Note About Gut Health and Mental Performance

We tend to think the brain is in charge when it comes to your mental health, your behavior, and even your mood, but in reality, your gut has more influence on your brain than you might think.

In addition to the brain in your head, embedded in the wall of your gut is your enteric nervous system (ENS), which works both independently of and in conjunction with your brain. Scientists are increasingly convinced that the vast assemblage of microfauna in our intestines may have a major impact on our state of mind, (and I can attest to this. I always feel really down when I have a stomach ache, and not just because it aches, it seems to make me feel really irritable.)

Your ENS contains 500 million neurons and is thought to be largely responsible for your “gut instincts”, responding to environmental threats and sending information to your brain that affects your well-being.

This communication between your “two brains” runs both ways and is the pathway for how foods affect your mood.

This can also suggest that positive gut health can lead to a better state of mind and encourage mental performance.

I am a firm and passionate believer in probiotic and prebiotic foods, it’s one of the first things I do to support gut and immune health and I’ve seen great results in my GI issues with the use of pro and pre-biotics.

While pro-biotics are the good bacteria that live in our system, pre-biotics are the plant fibers that nourish these good bacteria that are already in the large bowl or colon.

Prebiotics, such as garlic, onions, leeks, artichoke, and bananas help these good bacteria grow, improving the good-to-bad bacteria ratio.

When buying over-the-counter probiotics, generally the higher the number of billions of bacteria, the more expensive the product. However I don’t think they are always necessary if you can manage it in your diet. It’s proving to be more beneficial to eat fermented foods, for example yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi. A recent look at the number of probiotics in sauerkraut showed it to be in the trillions! When buying sauerkraut it’s important to buy it from the refrigerator section as the bacteria don’t tend to have a good shelf life at room temperature. Even better, make your own!