Creating Healthy Habits: Fasting

I had such a fun time with the people who showed up for our Creating Healthy Habits talk for Restoration Health last night. I barely touched my notes as there were so many helpful questions that I felt like I had covered most of it before I started to read them. It's always great when a session is more interactive like that.

One of my favourite quotes was a lady who said 'I always used to think fasting was a duty, that you had to do for spiritual reasons but it was miserable. Now I'm excited about trying it again'. That, to me, is the heart behind Restoration Health. Positive choices shouldn't be about misery, they're about freedom.

If you wanted the full version, I'm afraid you had to attend(!) but the quick summary is here:
  • intermittent fasting shows almost identical health benefits to continuous fasting
  • intermittent fasting is actually superior to continuous fasting for managing metabolic disease markers such as high cholesterol, blood pressure, triglyceride levels, heart rate and more 
  • Fasting increase insulin sensitivity (and therefore reduces insulin resistance)
  • It takes around 8 hours from your last meal for your body to begin a fasting state
  • You can fast whilst you sleep, and yes, that counts
  • You don't enter 'starvation mode' until you have been fasting for more than 72-96 hours
This month we are challenging ourselves to attempt to build regular fasting into our lives. We're aiming for five days a week. You can download the habit tracker here. All you do is colour in the bar for every day that you go more than 10 hours between dinner and your next snack or meal. Practically speaking this means that if you finished dinner at 9pm and you had breakfast at seven, you only colour 10 hours. If you finished dinner at 6pm and had brunch at 11 am you get to colour in 17 hours. If you had a cup of hot chocolate at 10pm though, you are back to just 13 hours. 

Nobody else is going to see it, so don't cheat yourself. It's only a record for you. Start small and see what you can build up to. You might feel hungry initially in the morning, but usually that's actually dehydration. Have a glass of water and see if you are still hungry in an hour. If you are, break the fast. Try again tomorrow. No pressure, no stress. We're building healthy habits, and building takes time.

If you are interested in more research on this, here's my recommended reading list:

Canadian Medical Association Journal March 20, 2013
American College of Cardiology in New Orleans. 2011 annual scientific session
International Journal of Obesity 2011; 35:714-27
Washington Post December 31, 2012Free Radical Bio Med 2007; 42:665-74
Cell Metabolism December 2, 2014: 20(6); 9911005
British Journal of Nutrition 2013 Oct; 110(8): 153447
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences November 25, 2014: 111(47); 1664716653
British Journal of Diabetes and Vascular Disease March/April 2013: 13(2): 6872









Diabetes and a High Fat Diet

When you read headlines in the new like 'How Fatty Food Triggers Diabetes' you'd be forgiven for thinking that a high fat diet might indeed trigger diabetes. You might be surprised to discover that this study isn’t about food – it’s actually all about the gene expression; in obese mice.

It's another classic example of how the media create headlines that sound dramatic and grab people's attention, but in reality, the conclusions drawn from the study don't really add up to what is implied. To be honest, they kind of have to, because most people aren't really interested in what the study was really about, unless you are geeky enough to be me...
...To continue reading this post, please head over to my professional page.

Seasonal Affective Disorder


Winter blues, seasonal depression, SAD syndrome… it’s all the same and it’s miserable if you suffer with it. It’s estimated that around 10% of the population suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I imagine that’s much higher in our nation with our damp weather and short days. It’s very much a ‘modern world’ problem, largely because around 80% of the population used to work outside, whilst now it’s closer to 10%.

If you’ve been suffering since October time, the good news is that we are now heading into spring and your symptoms should begin to imporve over the next few weeks as our days get longer and the sun starts breaking through the cloud cover.

Not sure if you suffer? There are lots of symptoms associated with SAD, but here are some of the most common ones:
  1. A need for more sleep
  2. Feeling tired during the day and restless at night
  3. Lethargy and struggling to keep up with daily routines
  4. Increased apetite
  5. Craving carbohydrates and comfort foods
  6. Social anxiety and a need to be alone
  7. Anxiety
  8. Sadness or a feeling of general low mood with no apparent reason
  9. Increased PMS (for women)

So what can you do if you struggle with SAD?

Well, the most obvious solution is light. There are SAD light boxes which can be useful, but they are also very expensive, and the free option is simply to get outside, every day, for at least 40 minutes to an hour, as early as possible.  When we wake up and get out in the sunlight as soon as possible, our body sets us up with seratonin to keep us alert and happy.

During the winter months, when we want to lie in our warm, cosy beds a bit longer, the body produces an excess of melatonin, which makes us feel sleepy and tired, as well as increasing our risk of depression.


You will need to do light therapy for at least two weeks to start seeing improvements in your bio rhythms and experiencing better sleep, but it’s definitely worth it, and if you can build the habit it in now and keep it going through the autumn, you hopefully won’t be feeling this low again next year.


Getting out and about early also gives you a good dose of fresh air and some light exercise. Exercise is important for releasing endorphins and boosting seratonin levels. If you can’t get up early enough to fit in a walk before work, you could consider walking or cycling to work instead of driving to get some of the benefits.


Finally I recommend staying away from stimulants. Regardless of how tempting that coffee looks when you hit an afternoon slump, it won’t make you feel better in the long run. Sugar won’t make you happy, and alcohol doesn’t relax you for a good nights sleep. Using these artificial methods to creat the highs and lows you are looking for actually puts more stress on your body, reduces your capacity to produce seretonin, and increases inflammation which aggravates depression. They might help in the moment, but they create a vicious cycle of dependancy which means you need to consume more and more to get the same hit, leaving you unable to cope without them.


People often assume lack of vitamin D is the cause of their seasonal depression, but this is actually very unlikely. Whilst plenty of people are deficient in vitamin D, it takes a long time to get there, and at least 6 months to rebuild stores. It doesn’t respond fast enough for you to start feeling low in the winter and better in the summer. Whilst a vitamin D supplement may benefit your health in other ways over the long term, it’s unlikely to be the solution for SAD.

 


Living Life Our Way

This week I was interviewed for 'Living Life Our Way' blog for their 100 days of home ed series. I'm day 33 :-)


You can read it here:
http://livinglifeourway.com/home-education/100-days-of-home-ed/100-days-of-home-ed-lovehomeed-day-33-kj/



Diabetes and Your Liver

It’s well known that diabetes comes with complications, from kidney disease, nerve and blood vessel damage; to infections and heart disease, but many people are unaware of just how badly their livers can be affected.

According to Dr Gillian Booth, newly diagnosed diabetes is linked with a near doubling in the rate of cirrhosis, liver failure or transplant compared with non-diabetics; and patients do not have to be overweight for this to remain true.
Insulin resistance is the driving force behind fatty liver disease, and insulin resistance is also a fore-runner for type II diabetes. Although Type I diabetes is genetically acquired, by their mid-thirties these patients have usually developed insulin resistance as well (the exceptions being those who have stuck with rigid diet and exercise programs).

While most people believe diabetics struggle to produce insulin, the problem with most is that they actually have very high levels of insulin in the blood. As the insulin levels rise higher and higher, the body becomes less responsive and it loses it’s capacity to control blood sugar levels....

You can see the rest of the post on my professional site:
KJ Gracie Nutrition

Milk Kefir: The Basics

At the beginning of this month BBC 2's "Trust Me I'm a Doctor" did an experiment to discover whether or not various probiotics were having positive effects on people's micro biomes, and as expected the homemade culture out performed anything you could buy in a shop.
The specific culture they used was Milk Kefir, and ever since I've been inundated with questions about it.
It's actually really easy and typically one of the first fermented foods I recommend people try. You can culture it at room temperature, with no special equipment, and once you get a stable colony going it's fairy resistant to neglect.
You can use any mammalian milk with no problems, you can also use some plant milks, although that gets a bit trickier, and if you are using raw milk you will need to give your grains a little pasteurised milk every now and then to recover (the enzymes and beneficial bacteria in the raw milk start to over power the Kefir - they aren't dangerous, but they also aren't Kefir). The higher the fat content of the milk, the more the Kefir seems to thrive. If you don't have access to raw milk I recommend using full fat, and/or adding a little cream.
Heres my basic guide to culturing your own Kefir:

What are Kefir grains?

They look like little florets of cauliflower, but they are actually colonies of yeast and bacteria living together in a little bundle.

Getting started

You will need a clean jar, a sieve, some milk and about a tbsp of Kefir grains.
Place the grains in the jar with about 7:1 ratio of milk:kefir. If you have a tbsp of grains this will be approximately 100ml of milk.
You then need to cover the jar, but still allow the Kefir to breathe. I recommend a piece of paper towel with an elastic band to secure it.
Place it somewhere dark, inside a cupboard for example, and leave it to grow. After around 24 hours you will hopefully see a thickened Kefir with liquid whey beginning to separate. You can now taste the Kefir and decide if you like it or want to leave it a little longer. When the ferment has reached your desired flavour/consistency you simply push it through a sieve to rescue your grains and you're ready to start your next batch.
If you need a break between batches, simply place your grains in a clean jar of fresh milk and store in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.

Milk Kefir uses

Add it to a smoothie, eat it like yoghurt with some honey and granola, let it really thicken and strain it to make a cream cheese, give it a second ferment with some fruit purée to make a lassi style drink, use it as a base for salad dressings, make ice cream.... a quick google will find you all kinds of fun recipes.
Have fun!


Instant Pot

For those who don't know me well, I have a mild obsession with kitchen gadgets. I have a large kitchen and I couldn't fit in a smaller one because where would I keep my dehydrator and my ice cream machine?

Kitchen Gadget list up until about two weeks ago was:


Which is pretty ridiculous, but I really love all of them. :blush:

But two weeks ago I got my new favourite toy.

Welcome home, Instant Pot.

photo credit
 Let me justify myself a little bit here. We did have a slow cooker which broke years ago, and I never replaced it, so I was one gadget down anyway.

Plus, instant pot has a smaller footprint on the counter top than the slow cooker did, but the same capacity.

Also, I can get rid of yoghurt maker, which only performs one task, because the instant pot makes yoghurt.

Oh yes, I have already made yoghurt, and it was delicious.

How to make yoghurt in an instant pot

First of all, you need to sterilise the pot (especially if you cooked butter chicken in it earlier and it's a little bit smelly). 

The quickest way to do this is to add a cup or so of water, a few drops of food grade essential oils (lemon works well) and hit the steam button for five minutes. 

Dump that out in the sink and add some milk. I used four pints, because that is what my milk bottles are. I use raw milk, but I guess this would work with pasteurised. 
We don't buy that though. 

Once that's in you close the lid and press 'yoghurt' then hit the adjust button until it says 'boil'. Once the milk is scalded the pot will say 'yogt' again and you can go ahead and take the lid off and let it cool. I like to take the pot out of the machine so it cools more quickly. You can use a candy thermometer, or just guess when it's been cooling for about 2 hours. 

Now stir in your starter culture (any live yoghurt that you like will do) I used two tbsp of Yeo Valley greek yoghurt. Now you place it back in the instant pot, turn it on and press yoghurt. It will start saying 'yogt' but if you leave it, it changes to 8:00 which is the 8 hour countdown until you have delicious yoghurt. 

You can also adjust the timer, I switched it to twelve once, then put the yoghurt through a nutmilk bag for a really long time and had the most beautiful cream cheese. 

What else is instant pot good for?

I'm so glad you asked...

  1. Cooking poultry, FROM FROZEN. Yeah, you heard that right. It safely cooks chicken from frozen in a super quick amount of time.
  2. Dried lentils/beans. You can cook chickpeas from solid little rocks to perfectly soft in 60 minutes with no overnight soaking. 
  3. Frozen fish
  4. Rubbish cuts of Meat the really cheap cuts that would be tough and nasty in an oven just fall apart like the best meat you've ever tasted in the instant pot.
  5. Bone Broths  I hated making stock in my slow cooker, because my house stank of cooking for 12 hours. Instant pot makes bone broth in 45 minutes, and with the steam valve closed, you smell NOTHING. 
  6. Making soup throw in some frozen or raw veg (either works) pour on some water and hit the soup button. All you have to do at the end is blend. 
  7. Keeping stuff safe and warm Sure, I could just make soup on the hob, but then I'd have to watch it and actively cook it. With instant pot I throw the ingredients, walk away, it cooks it perfectly (without drying out or boiling over) then keeps it warm until I remember that I made it and swing by for some. 
In fact, I made an awesome mushroom soup today using dried mushrooms. Normally I would have had to soak them for 12 hours before use, but 20 minutes in the pressure cooker and they were perfectly done.  

I realise this sounds more like an advert than a blog post.
Sorry about that.
I just love a new gadget.

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