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:

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.

Creating Healthy Habits

Restoration Health is launching a new series of monthly events entitled 'Creating Healthy Habits' and I'm so excited about it. On the last Tuesday of every month we are going to be meeting at Kings House and talking about one small change you can make each month to give you a healthier 2017, so that by 2018 we will have made twelve positive changes to our lifestyle that are simple enough for anyone to do, with plenty of time for Q&A at the end. We'll also be hanging out for half an hour or so after, so that if you have any questions you didn't want to raise publicly you can grab a member of the team.

There will be a different guest speaker each month, form various disciplines so that we get a nice range of topics covered, and we'll have a coaching group on facebook so that you can sign up to get support and online coaching each month. I'll also be posting some printable habit trackers so that if you are a visual person you can print it, stick it on your fridge, and enjoy the small victories you feel as you check off each time you complete a challenge.

Our first topic, on January 31st, is 'Hello Hydration' and we'll be talking about the importance of getting enough water in each day. It would be great if you could download the voxvote app on iTunes or Play so that you can join in and make the session a little more interactive; but don't worry if you are struggling, because the venue has free wifi and we can give you a hand on the day.

Anyone is welcome along, it's 7:30PM at Kings House, but we'd love it if you could let us know that you are coming via the facebook event, so that we can cater accordingly with some delicious, healthy snacks. 

Breastfeeding Babies and Vitamin D

It's another Vitamin D post! Sorry to keep going on about it, but I saw an article this morning that I really want to address.

I love Dr Chatterjee, I really think he is awesome and is doing amazing things for medicine in the UK, particularly in bringing the Functional Medicine Forum to London. He's a real hero of mine and talks about controversial issues so openly, and refreshingly honestly.

I did cringe a little when I first read this post though. The article he is alluding to was published on Medscape this morning entitled 'Breastfed Babies Still Need Extra Vitamin D'. The article critiques the fact that the mothers of breast fed babies believed that they were receiving all the nutrition that they need, and were therefore less likely to supplement vitamin D, compared to a mother who was mixed or formula feeding.

Note that the study didn't say that breast milk had less vitamin D than formula, only that mothers were less likely to supplement it. The article goes on to blame paediatricians and health visitors for not telling them that it was necessary.

Whilst I totally agree that our children, in general, due to our climate in the UK (particularly if they are born in autumn or winter) will usually be deficient by 6 months of age, I felt like the article headlines were suggesting that breast milk might be deficient.

I'm possibly being over sensitive, but I felt like both Dr Chatterjee and the pubmed article title implied that your baby would be better formula fed, or that you have to supplement if you breast feed. Neither of which are true. You have to supplement whether you give formula or breast feed according to the study.

In fact, I would actually recommend neither. A babies gut and micro biome is incredibly sensitive, and I recommend only breast milk for the first 6 months. How does the baby get vitamin D then?

Through the breast milk.

I know I sound crazy, but bear with me.

The reason breast milk is deficient in Vitamin D is because THE MOTHER is deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D in breast milk increase dramatically when the mother takes the supplement, and it means you aren't giving the baby whatever other fillers, binders, E numbers and flavourings have been added to your supplement. Mother is much better at processing these things with her more mature immune and detoxification system than the infant is.

Maternal supplementation is the safest way to adequately supply an infant with enough vitamin D, and there's a pubMed study to prove it. It was a randomised, controlled trial, which saw mothers of breastfeeding infants supplementing 400, 2400 or 6400IU a day and then conclusion was that 6400IU was enough to create the same Vitamin D level in breastfed infants as if they had received 400IU directly themselves.

But these were randomly selected individuals, and as we know that around 3/4 of the population are deficient, wouldn't a baby with a properly nourished mother not need any supplementation at all?

The deficiency isn't in breast milk. It's in mothers. We need to be working with mothers to ensure that they have optimum nutrition, before and during pregnancy, as well as lactation so that babies aren't becoming nutrient deficient. Sadly, rickets is on the rise in the UK, and has been for many years. Something needs to change. We need to eat more cholesterol, get people off statin drugs and get outside; and we need to make sure mothers are getting adequate nutrition, not just for themselves, but for their children too.

Image source

Powered by Blogger.