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Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric Tonic

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For the last four years, I’ve had the weirdest bit of joint inflammation in my right index finger. It gets worse when I’m tired, eating poorly and drinking too much alcohol. I never thought about it too much and just chalked it up to a bit of arthritis, unless it was accidentally pushed or I needed to open a jar.

Last year, I went to see a naturopath at my college for some general coaching. I happened to mention my ‘dicky’ finger to her and she recommended taking two Pukka Wholistic Turmeric capsules in the morning for a few months to see if that made any difference.

And you know what, the capsules made a little difference. I started to wonder if there was more I could do, so started looking into ways of eating and drinking the raw turmeric root. Turmeric root has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and liver detoxification properties through its active compound curcumin, which is why you might have noticed more chatter about this plant in the last year. Research has shown that curcumin from turmeric in its food form is more bioavailable, especially consumed with a pinch of black pepper.

So I decided to start drinking a turmeric tonic in the morning to see if I could relieve some more of the sore feeling in my ‘dicky’ finger. After many trial runs, here’s the recipe I use every week.

This tonic has made a huge difference to my finger – to the point where I notice when I’ve forgotten to have my shot of tonic in the morning. Try it!

NB: please avoid this drink if you are on blood thinners, as turmeric and blood thinning medication can cause excess bleeding.

What you need

1 grapefruit (exclude this if you are any medication as grapefruit contains naringenin, a phytonutrient that can interfere with CYP450, an important family of enzymes that help break down toxins in phase I liver detoxification. This can cause adverse reactions to medication.)

3 lemons

1 orange, if you need to exclude the grapefruit

2-3 thumbs of fresh turmeric root

1 thumb of fresh ginger

1 tbsp raw organic honey

200mL filtered water

Large blender cup / Nutribullet cup

How to make it 

1. Cut the citrus fruits in half and squeeze the juice into your blender or Nutribullet cup. Take care to remove the seeds, but to keep the pulp.

2. Wash the turmeric and ginger and drop them in with your citrus juice.

3. Add the honey, black pepper and water.

4. Blend for at least 30 seconds and decant into a glass storage jar.

5. Drink a shot’s worth each morning.

6. Keeps in the fridge for 7 days (if it lasts that long!).

Don’t detox, just eat better.

At this time of the year, newspapers and magazines are filled with weight loss, fitness and detox stories. And I’ll admit, I do enjoy reading them and seeing what nutrition & exercise (mis)information is being passed around.

One of my biggest gripes is seeing articles that talk about needing to detox post Christmas, with claims that a 3, 5, 7, 10 (you choose a number of days!) day detox will cure everything that ails you.

The biological reality is that your body is constantly detoxifying itself – that’s what your liver, kidneys, bowels, lungs and skin are for. And the by-products of this perpetual detoxification are stool, urine and sweat (really! they’re not just annoyances!).

The liver is the body’s waste purification plant and it is perpetually in motion, 24 hours a day. The more toxins you put in, the harder the liver has to work to remove them. By toxins, I mean products and by-products of the digestive system (excess sugar, trans-fatty acids and gut dysbiosis), alcohol, smoking by-products, environmental toxins (lead, chlorine, fluorine, insecticides, herbicides, solvents, metals, mould, pollen, algae) and oxidative stress (free radicals).

Your body really doesn’t want toxins to build up. So much so that the liver has a two stage detoxification process to make sure all the waste is removed – anything from alcohol to heavy metals to pesticides to the by-products of medication to hormones like xenoestrogens. The liver is continuously converting these substances to inactive forms for excretion in urine (via the kidneys) or stool.

How do you know whether your body’s detoxification functions are working correctly? Here are some signs and symptoms are suboptimal detoxification:

If your bowels aren’t functioning well, you’re likely to have bloating, fatty stools, constipation, diarrhoea, an intolerance to fatty foods and bad breath.

If your immune system isn’t functioning well, you’re likely to have food allergies, skin issues like eczema and psoriasis, recurring infections and potentially asthma.

If your endocrine system (hormones) isn’t functioning well, you’re like to suffer from high stress, infertility, PMS, mood swings, anxiety and potentially depression.

If your nervous system isn’t functioning well, you’re likely to have headaches, poor sleep, lethargy and poor memory and concentration.

So knowing all this, the real question (which is less of a quick fix and not as sexy a ‘detox’): how can I consistently support my liver, lungs, skin, digestive system, bowels and kidneys?

  1. Drink lots of water throughout the day. Most people are slightly dehydrated and often mistake thirst for hunger, so the bare minimum to aim for is 1.5L of water across the day.
  2. Eat green leafy vegetables. These contain the micronutrients and enzymes that support the first stage of liver detoxification and kickstart the second stage.
  3. Eat more nuts and seeds. Seeds like pumpkin, sesame, sunflower and nuts like almonds, cashews, Brazils and hazelnuts have micronutrients that help your liver work better.
  4. Eat enough protein. Red meat, nuts, eggs and fish are amongst some of the protein sources that contain the amino acids needed for the second stage of liver detoxification.
  5. Don’t drink alcohol every day. Metabolising alcohol puts pressure on the liver and diverts it from its other important functions, such as bile secretion, which is helps the body digest fats.
  6. Support your gut. A good balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut supports your immune and digestive systems and helps improve the quality of your skin.
  7. Get at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. Sleep is when your body has a chance to repair and regenerate and this supports its detoxification systems.
  8. Get sweaty at least 3 times a week. A good excuse for a run, a spin class or a shag!

Just eat more vegetables.

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People like shortcuts. Maybe it’s a symptom of our modern world, where we can get pretty much anything we want at the touch of a button.

Speaking of shortcuts, I’m often asked by friends, family and colleagues about the fastest ways to get healthy / fit / more energy (delete as appropriate).

There are two answers I always give, no matter what their underlying symptoms. Then I ask more questions and give a more detailed, tailored response.

The first answer is always – get more sleep or go to bed earlier.

I’ve talked about the benefits of sleep before – it regulates your metabolism, allows your various organs to repair and heal and allows your brain to process the events of the day. Don’t give into the current masochism around sleep – most people really need at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night to be fully functional.

And then my second answer is always – eat more fresh vegetables, especially green leafy ones.

I cannot overstate that vegetables are little nutrition powerhouses! Each vegetable has many individual benefits, with its own mix of macronutrients (protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates) and phytonutrients.

The greater the variety in your vegetable intake, the more benefit to you. When in doubt, just eat the rainbow!

Ideally, everyone would eat at least 5-7 servings of vegetables a day. I know that’s hard, so  you’ll often hear nutritionists,(including me!) say to prioritise cruciferous / brassica vegetables. You know them as broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, kale, brussels sprouts, savoy cabbage, radish, bok choy and watercress.

Not only are they high in antioxidants like vitamins A and C, they are also high in folic acid and vitamin K and have a huge amount of minerals such as magnesium and potassium.

Cruciferous vegetables are also high in phytonutrients like glucosinolates which support your liver in clearing excess hormones, alcohol, xenoestrogens and environmental chemicals.

So, adding a big handful of kale to your morning smoothie after a big night out will help your liver clear the alcohol from your system and make your feel better a bit faster!

In a nutshell, adding more cruciferous vegetables into your diet can help you boost your energy levels, support your liver, balance your hormones, support your immune system and feed the good bacteria in your gut!

There are lots of ways to add cruciferous vegetables to your diet:

Add a big handful of kale to your morning smoothie

Make a big pot of soup with broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower

Make a big a*s salad with loads of different veggies in it

Grate up some cabbage for a coleslaw

Make a big tray of roasted veg

Steam some asparagus and eat them with hummus as a snack

How do you eat your veggies?

The importance of self-care.

There’s been so much depressing, upsetting news recently that sometimes I feel like shutting off my phone and laptop and burying my head in my pillow until it all goes away.

But it’s not going away, is it? Between Brexit, the US election, even the abuse that Meghan Markle is getting, makes me feel really sad for the world. There’s so much hate bubbling under the surface, hate that’s now fully out in the open, tearing apart families, friends and communities.

Obviously, hiding away isn’t an option, which is why self-care is so important.

We all need to take time out of the relentless news cycles, the phone alert and screaming headlines to slow down and appreciate the small moments in life that bring us joy.

It feels more essential than ever, if we stand a chance to keep moving forward in our lives.

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What do you do for self-care?

I find myself drawn to beautiful bouquets of flowers, the vivid sunrises and sunsets we’ve been having recently, slow meditative cooking and long walks in nature, breathing in fresh air.

I’ve also talked before about how switching off and staying away from news sites & social media has become an essential part of my self-care. I don’t want to shut the world away, but sometimes I want a break from the bad news and bad behaviour. Is that selfish? Is it indulgent? It feels necessary to avoid emotional burnout.

Stories I loved this week.

Happy weekend! I can’t wait to hang out with my husband and son and relax this weekend.  And it’s Bonfire Night on Saturday! We’re going to check out our local Guy Fawkes fireworks display and let J have a few sparklers  – can’t wait!

What are you up to this weekend?

How it feels when your friends have babies. (Refinery 29)

What to eat when you have no idea what to cook. (The Pool)

I learned how to sharpen knives on Leiths knife skills course last year and it has been a revelation for my food prep. (Lucky Peach)

I love this idea of fine dining club for young children and their parents. I was a part of one when I was on maternity leave and it was incredible to be able to try some of the top restaurants in London with my son with me. (Bon Appetit)

The woman is incredible – doing so much, with a little toddler by her side. (Motherly)

How to choose a probiotic that will actually work. (Well + Good)

This is one of the best things I’ve read in a while. (Nplusone)

In case you missed it earlier on the blog…

I made chestnut pancakes and they were sooo good.

I’ve been wondering why we don’t talk about nutritious eating more.

Operation rebuild the gut bacteria!

During the summer, M had some trouble with his nose and his doctor put him on two four week courses of really strong antibiotics. You all know the story… the antibiotics managed to clear up the nose problem, but killed all the good bacteria in his stomach.

He was prescribed some probiotics to take with the antibiotics, but forgot to take them. Cue the last two months of upset stomachs, colds and general fatigue and grittiness. After M went to bed at 9pm the other night with an upset stomach, he finally decided to look at ‘alternative’ medicine to help heal his gut bacteria and get him back on the right track. I’m hoping that this becomes a slow route to paleo eating, but we’ll see as I’m dealing with quite the cynic over here!

After throwing quite a lot of good research on how many bacterial cells there are in our bodies – there are over 100,000,000,000,000 microorganisms and over 400 known bacterial species –  at him, I went over to my local branch of As Nature Intended and had a long chat with the store’s in house nutritionists about the best way forward.

I ended up buying some kimchi and sauerkraut, but I would be completely amazed if M actually ate any of it, as he can be a bit picky about his food choices. As you can see from the photo below, I also got some coconut kefir and some probiotic capsules.

I’m personally very intrigued at how this little experiment is going to go, as it’s better to try these things out, rather than suffer, right? After all, the stomach isn’t just for food – there’s a huge gut – brain connection that we’re only just scratching the surface of. I’ve been listening to Underground Wellness’ most recent podcast on digestive health and I’m super excited to check out The Digestion Sessions to go deeper into this fascinating topic!

I completed the #whole30!

And here it is, 30 days later and I’ve completed my first Whole 30. What did I learn (because I always have to be learning something)?

1. My craving for wine was so very real and only really left me after day 20.

A glass of nice red wine with dinner and one after dinner used to be my ritual. When you have a baby and a new freelance gig, rituals and routines are important for a sense of stability. It was so very hard to break this habit. Even tonight, I had a brief hankering for a glass.

2. I am an emotional snacker

My venture back into the world of work has started with a nice freelance gig, which means I’m back to being a desk jockey for more of the day. My stress levels have also increased, which has corresponded with an increase in snacking on fruit, mainly mangos. I reached peak snacking last week when I ate a whole tub of mango in one sitting. I realised that I need to be much more mindful about the way I eat in between mealtimes and really ask myself the ‘Am I hungry / thirsty?’ question.

3. I am stronger than I think

My new normal is moving an 11kg baby around, so it took me a while to realise that this was contributing to an increase in muscle. Then I started a 30 day push-up challenge and went from being able to competently do 20 modified push-ups to as of yesterday, doing 25 ‘real’ push-ups! I’m so very excited about this as this has been a long time goal of mine.

4. Once you’re in the swing of things, eating strict Paleo isn’t too hard.

I’ve been eating primally off and on for the past two years, so going into the Whole 30 wasn’t a huge transition for me. Ordering in restaurants can sometimes be a bit tricky, but generally wait staff tend to more au fait with off menu ordering than they used to be.

5. I struggle not to weigh myself.

My weight has gone up and down my whole life, so it’s been really, really hard not to weigh myself on my fancy digital scales each morning. My jean size has gone from a 31-32” to a 29-30”, which I’m so very happy about – I’ll take that #nonscalevictory!

My body is still settling down, hormonally, after stopping breastfeeding, so I’m going to go for a Whole45 and maybe even a Whole 60. This will really give my body a break and allow my hormones to return to some sort of equilibrium.