Mental Health and Restoration Peace

I subscribe to an email list from Dr Caroline Leaf (she's an amazing neuro-scientist in case you are interested in that kind of thing) and today I received an email that was so great I had to share it with you.

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She was talking about how the sad passing of Carrie Fisher was, and how we had seen people talking about how amazing she was for her strength of character and her determination to overcome the challenges she faced in her tragically short life, and rightly so. She was a remarkable woman, compassionate, kind, and a successful career woman despite her circumstances, both as a recovering drug addict and someone who suffered from bi-polar disorder.

Fewer people are talking about the possible link between her heart attack and her psychiatric medication. As mental health activist Corinna West shows, “new antipsychotics cause weight gain, diabetes, and a bunch of other risk factors associated with heart disease.” We have to take these risk factors seriously. We are not merely talking about statistics—we are talking about real people.

Sadly, individuals suffering from mental health issues “die, on average, 25 years earlier that the general population.” These medications are incredibly dangerous, and we have to start asking ourselves, as the investigative journalist and mental health campaigner Robert Whitaker notes, if the benefits of these drugs truly outweigh the risks.

I also listened to a great TEDtalk this week on the surprising role of nutrition in mental health. If you don't already follow Restoration Health on facebook and you haven't seen it, you can watch it below.

The thing is, as mentioned in the TEDtalk, there doesn't seem to be a magic bullet, one size fits all, mental health treatment, like the pharmaceutical companies would have us believe. I've said it before, and I will say it over and over again, our bodies are unique. No two people were created the same. Even 'identical' twins have different epigenomes.

This is why it is so important to take responsibility for your own health. Yes, seek the advice of medical professionals, but a ten minute appointment with your GP is only long enough to hand out generic, might work for some people, advice. If you really want to get healthy, you need to get educated and experiment with your diet and lifestyle choices.

With that in mind, one way to look after your mental health and emotional well-being is to regularly take time out to pray, meditate, relax or destress. We're hosting an event at Kings House this Thursday to help you do just that. It's called Restoration Peace

There'll be mood lighting, music, people to talk to if you need, or just a cup of tea and a blanket, to take time out from the chaos around you and fully relax. No expectations of you, no pressure to do anything but just be.

We're going to try to run them once a month, so if you can make it along, then try to book it in. You might also like to check out some of the other events on our page. We plan to host a 'Creating Healthy Habits' seminar on the last Tuesday of each month, so block that out and join us as we discuss small changes you can make each month that will have a lasting impact on your health. 

Hashimotos, Hypothyroid and Vitamin D

I read recently that 93% of patients with hashimotos thyroiditis are vitamin D deficient. Seems like the two go hand in hand, although I'm yet to work out whether hashimotos prevents you from absorbing vitamin D or whether being vitamin D deficient makes you prone to hashimotos. Someone should do some reserach on that.
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And by someone, I mean someone with money and a big lab and lots of patients, not a homeschooling mum with a sample base of about five friends.

In fact, various estimates from different clinics suggest that 94-98% of hypothyroid patients are vitamin D deficient. Yet another excellent reason why we all need lovely sunny holidays if we live in the UK...

But before you reach for the vitamin D suppplements, there is something you should know; Vitamin D supplementation dramatically reduces your ability to absorb fat soluble vitamins like vitamins A, E and K. :-(

So should you supplement?

A recent study (Vitamin D supplementation reduces thyroid peroxidase antibody levels in patients with autoimmune thyroid disease: An open-labeled randomized controlled trial) says yes!

"Vitamin D supplementation in AITD may have a beneficial effect on autoimmunity as evidence by significant reductions in TPO-Ab titers."

Their study improved hashimotos disease pretty dramatically. After 3 months of an equivalent daily supplementation of 8,500 IU Vitamin D3 and 1,250 mg of calcium carbonate daily, the median reduction of TPO-antibodies was 46.7 percent.

So, how can you recreate this yourself? I mean, ideally we'd all live in sunny climates, or take expensive holidays to hot places regularly, but if you can't...?

For a start you need some calcium carbonate (pretty easy to get hold of) and some vitamin D (make sure you get a high strength and it's labelled vitamin D3 (this is the kind your body makes and absorbs easily) rather than vitamin D2 (the kind produced by fungi, but not that easy for you to use)). I prefer the liquid to the capsules, because it absorbs through mucus membranes (eg under your tonuge) without the risk of it being damaged in the digestive tract by stomach acid etc... Also, if you do go for pills, get gel caps rather than the tablets. Several studies have shown the tablets have a poor bioavailability, probably due to them not dissolving fully in the digestive tract (if you have low thyroid function, remember that means you have less ability to digest this stuff).

I found some in my local health food store (pumpernickels if you live in Bedford) that has only three ingredients; vitamin D3, lemon essential oil and tangerine essential oil. That's great because I prefer not to eat vegetable oils, but I'm afraid I haven't found an online source of this brand yet. When I do, I'll be sure to post it here.

Part two is that you MUST also supplement vitamin A if you are supplementing vitamin D. Vitamin A is vital for the immune system and an important part of your body converting T3. Taking levothyroxine and finding you get worse, not better? That's a conversion issue, and no amount of T4 will improve the situation, you will continue to make reverse T3. Supplementing vitamin A may help.

Vitamin A is also known to calm the immune system and regulate T-cells which cause inflammation in hashimotos disease. Hashimoto's causes too many T Helper cells that produce and abundance of cytokines leading to the inflammation that damages your thyroid. Vitamin A allows you to produce more T Regulatory cells, which shut down the immune reaction and clean up the inflammation that has been caused. It's one of the reasons Vitamin A is so helpful for people with allergies and asthma.

There are some arguments about the best forms of vitamin A, I like retinol, but you are welcome to read more about that here. The easiest and simplest way to get it is in a cod liver oil supplement. We use Green Pastures fermented cold liver and high vitamin butter oil, because the added butter oil covers us for vitamin K2 as well.

Remember, just adding a few supplements won't be enough to reverse an autoimmune condition. You got here because something is wrong with your lifestyle, and long term you will need to make some changes.

Why not follow Restoration Health on facebook, where we post loads of articles to help you start making informed, healthy choices and take your next steps towards a healthier, happier, you.

Reading Challenge 2017
A friend just pointed me towards this reading challenge for 2017 and I LOVE it.

Absolutely no idea where I'm going to find the time to do it, but I want to try. I'm going to get my son to try it too, and see if I can't diversify his reading a little bit from the standard Marvel/Star Wars/DC Comic stuff he is reading at the moment.

You can click on the picture to see the challenge up close, but here are the rules:

  1. The Light Reader. This plan has 13 books which sets a pace of 1 book every 4 weeks. 
  2. The Avid Reader. The Avid plan adds another 13 books which increases the pace to 1 book every 2 weeks.
  3. The Committed Reader. This plan adds a further 26 books, bringing the total to 52, or 1 book every week.
  4. The Obsessed Reader. The Obsessed plan doubles the total to 104 books which sets a demanding pace of 2 books every week.

Begin with the Light plan, which includes suggestions for 13 books. Choose those books and read them in any order, checking them off as you complete them. When you have finished those 13, advance to the Avid plan. Use the criteria there to choose another 13 books and read them in any order. Then it’s time to move to the Committed plan with a further 26 books. When you have completed the Committed plan (that’s 52 books so far!), you are ready to brave the Obsessed plan with its 104 books. Be sure to set your goal at the beginning of the year and pace yourself accordingly.

Use the #vtReadingChallenge to connect and to keep track of others on social media.

Our Home

This app, my friends, is a game changer. I learned about it from another parent who uses love and logic parenting styles.

First off, if you don't know what love and logic is, go buy a copy of this book and read it. You won't regret it, it's great. Then, if you have a specific need read these books for early years, teens, special needs, adoptive families etc.... there's even one specifically for teachers.
And then finally join this facebook group

You're welcome. 

Next, download the free Our Home app. Then make your husband and kids download it too. We've had it less than 48 hours and I already love it. It's basically a chore management system. You get to assign each family member a cute icon (or a photo, but where is the fun in that?) and then you create chores. 

Some chores can only be done by a specific person e.g. Brush hair is relevant to Lila, but not so much to Will. Others can be claimed by anyone in the family e.g. Unload the dishwasher. You can then set chores to recur e.g. No one can claim they tidied up the school room if someone else already did that today. 

Chores are assigned points e.g. 1 point for brushing your teeth. 5 points for for putting all the laundry away. If you hate a chore, assign it a high points value. My children actually had an argument about who got to clean the school room before bed last night. Not even joking. 

But what are points worth? Well, you get to decide!!

We've created a list with a wide range of rewards e.g. An ombar is worth 50 points.  Family swimming trip 500 points. 1000 points means mum or dad will come have a sleepover with you (that's a highly valued prize in our house right now, but I can see we might need to change that one as the kids get older 😉).

The best part is, you can make the rewards fun for you too, so one of ours is a date at the juice bar with parent (400 points), or seriously low effort (for 200 points my kids get to skip one day of handwriting practice).

This app has the potential to change nagging without bankrupting me in the process (I'm frequently told that my pocket money system was slave labour, but if I had put my prices up, my money oriented boy would have bankrupted me with chores!) and yes, in an ideal world there would be no chores and everyone would contribute as a member of the household... but here's the thing:
  1. that only works if you are all happy to live in the same standard. My husband and kids don't feel the need to have clear surfaces, so without incentives I won't get hem unless I do all the tidying up myself. Which sucks. 
  2. we all need to learn work ethics. You don't work for free. Well, unless you are a volunteer, but even then you probably choose to work somewhere that gives you a sense of satisfaction or meaningful results. There is always an exchange that you consider beneficial or you wouldn't do it.
Am I making my kids buy my love with the rewards?

Yes and no. I love my kids and will often throw in some of these rewards for free just because I want to bless them; but really this is no different from an "energy drain"* but it's a bit more visual and they can watch the accumulation of their actions. If you don't help me out and life is a battle, I will not have the energy to take you to the park. That's just real life consequences for lazy decision making.

Welcome to 21st Century parenting.

*If you don't know what an energy drain is, GO AND READ LOVE AND LOGIC

What's Your 'Third Place'?

I've been listening to Robb Wolf talking at the Thyroid Connection summit (it's free, but you have to sign up to watch the interviews) and I heard about him speaking about your 'third place'. Essentially the concept is that you have your work, you have your home and then you need a 'third place'. A place where you find community and companionship, that's light-hearted but also where you can get support when you are going through hard things.

It's interesting that he suggests that when you have a suitable 'third place' what you eat becomes less of a problem in terms of managing your thyroid function.

The problem most people have today is that the 'third place' has become pubs, clubs, and bars for far too many of us. Alcohol is a stressor, but it feels weird to meet your friends at a pub and not get a drink. Late nights are a stressor, but meeting friends early and leaving before 9pm is kind of weird and loads of bars aren't even open until evening. But it's hard, you feel really anti-social when you are turning down the fourth or fifth invitation from a friend because you are too tired to go, but evenings are a real struggle for your adrenal glands.

Robb's suggestion that works great for him is to get up super early, spend a little time with his kids (they get up at 5:45am - it made me thank the Lord for my little late sleepers!) then when his wife gets up he heads out and meets a few guys for breakfast once a week.

For a lot of us, Church can be a 'third place', but even then, the mid-week meetings often finish pretty late. I'm lucky to be on the worship rota for the evening service and I find it so helpful to have a slot where I'm regularly on that team. There's a great social aspect to meeting up and rehearsing, goofing around and praying with and for each other in the afternoon before the evening service; but if church for you is somewhere you attend on a Sunday and don't really talk to anyone during the week then it possibly doesn't count.

My husband's 'third place' is a group of guys that meet every two weeks and sit around a fire, and have a social and bible study time, but they also have a whatsapp group to keep connected through the week and support one another.

An exercise class can also be a great 'third place'. The pilates class that I used to attend had some really great ladies and the social chat time was short, but so life-giving, and everyone quickly becomes intimate when you are all beginners desperately trying to learn how to balance and hold your core. If you get in quickly I believe Johanna still has a few places left for this half term too.

It can be hard getting out when you have young kids, but join a toddler group if they are small, or meet someone for coffee after school drop off if they are a bit older.

The summary I guess is this, find your tribe. It's so important for your health. If you don't have one, create one. That might be car sharing for the school run, a breakfast club, the park run on a Saturday (it's super social and not competitive I promise!!), knitting group or whatever.

If you don't have one, and you are too scared to start one, why not try church? Even if you aren't a Christian, it's kind of their job to be welcoming and you don't have to believe in God to start hanging out with them.

Your health matters.
Look after it. 

Juice Therapy

Most of you who know me in real life, will also know that I am currently studying to be a Natural Juice Therapist. This seemed like an obvious extension of my nutrition studies and a way to help my clients to really address nutrient deficiencies without resorting to supplements that often have lots of fillers/preservatives and often aren't very bio-available anyway. 

Juicing is such a great tool for getting a large quantity of nutrients into the diet with minimal effort, and it's sooooo much easier to get people to eat kale if you hide it with some pineapple juice!

Part of my course included attending a weekend at the 'Juice Factory' in Kettering. It was a great weekend and I learned so much from Jason Vale (that man can talk VERY fast) and the rest of his team, including my lovely course director Mairi Taylor

One of the things I found really interesting was how the subject of sugar was handled. Generally, I'm a big fan of mostly vegetable juices, adding a bit of fruit to make it palatable. I know the sugar in fruit is not the same as the refined table sugar we see added to most foods, but I have always still been cautious with it. Certainly if you are following a GAPS style diet, Dr Campbell-McBride would recommend limiting even fruit intake for the first two years, but remember that this is not a diet to follow strictly for life. 

However,  I do believe fruit sugars can get unfairly bad press. Fructose is often implicated in all kinds of inflammation/health concerns, but all the studies done tend to remove the sugar from the fruit and either feed it alone (e.g. high fructose corn syrup), or administer by IV!! Clearly this isn't going to having the same effect as eating an apple. 

Interestingly, Jason mentioned a study that's been published very recently, which is the first known to use whole foods, eaten by the subjects. It should come as no surprise then, that the results were vastly different to previous studies. In fact, the fructose is mostly not absorbed at all, but simply passes through the digestive tract (which would explain why the body has such an adverse reaction to having it injected directly into the blood stream!) and the tiny amounts that are absorbed showed no effect on insulin production. The implications for diabetics and those with insulin resistance being huge - fruit is back on the menu! I will admit, I haven't seen the study yet myself, but I'll edit this post and add the references once I've trawled through my backlog of emails and found the notes we were sent after the weekend. 

Restoration Health are going to be joining in with the Juice Master "Big Juice Challenge" and I'm super excited about having a group of people locally juice fasting with me and seeing the results. Matt and I did the seven day challenge in July and found it so helpful, particularly for sleep patterns. My sleep tracker informs me that I get very little (around 20%) deep sleep each night - which explains why I was waking up feeling so tired! When I was juicing, within a few days that went up to nearly 70%, which meant I had loads more energy, despite spending less hours asleep. Slowly that's crept back (I've been lazy with the juicing since term started) so a Juicy reset is just what I need! 

This term, the challenge is only 5 days, but that should be plenty, and I can always continue if I feel I need to. 

If you are looking to be inspired about the benefits of juicing, I highly recommend watching the Juice Master documentary "Super Juice Me" (it's Free). It's amazing to see what a difference juice fasting can make. I love the documentary so much, that I bought several copies of the book (which includes all the recipes and plans you need to do a 28 day juice fast at home safely) and when I finish my qualification, my first five clients will be getting a copy each, so keep your eyes open!

What am I listening to?

Right now there are two albums that I am playing over and over in my house.

The first is The Garden by Lex Brodie. Oh my goodness, if you haven't heard it yet, go take a listen.

Lex was such an inspiration to me when I was younger, having just moved out of home and attending Soul Survivor Watford. She was one of the first female worship leaders I knew, but also someone who spoke with such honesty and authenticity. Her vulnerability about her journey with God resonated with me so much, and then to hear it come through in her music made 'Through the Valley' one of my favourite albums of all time.

It's ten years later and she has finally released another album for me to gush over and it's every bit as beautiful. If you loved Heaven Rejoices, just wait until you hear 'A Beautiful Heart' - songs that speak to your identity like no other songwriter I know.

The whole album is just perfect, there isn't a single song on there that is 'filler' and I'm so in love with it.

The second album is actually only an 'EP' with just four songs, but oh my goodness we love them. Orphans to Heirs by Andy Flood just hit number two in the UK iTunes 'Christian and Gospel' album chart, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if it hits number one by the time I finish typing this an post it.

The first time I heard 'Heaven on Earth' Andy just played it with my rubbish guitar in my living room and I was already so excited about it. If you can make a song sound good on my guitar it is a winner!

Add to that the production skills of Jack Kirchner and you are always going to have something incredible. Andy's song writing is amazing, but this album is backed up by an incredible team and genuinely the only disappointment is that there aren't more tracks. I seriously cannot wait for him to produce a full album.

Both these albums are so worth investing in and I genuinely believe they will build your faith and bless you if you do. 
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