Tuesday, 8 October 2019

How's your gut health?

Did you know that there are studies that show a link between gut health and your immune system, your mood, your mental health, your autoimmune system, the functioning of your endocrine system, your skin condition and the chances of developing cancer?  

In this blog we are going to look at gut microbiomes which are the microorganisms that live in your intestines.  

Good gut bacteria can enhance your immune function, improve the symptoms of depression and help to combat obesity – amongst many other benefits.  So how do you know if you have an unhealthy gut?  

Here are seven signs;

1.       Upset stomach – you have bloating, heartburn, constipation or diarrhoea

2.       Sugar cravings – if you have a high sugar diet it gives rise to inflammation and in turn a craving for yet more sugar

3.       Weight gain – an unbalanced gut can impair your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar and store fat.

4.       Sleep disturbances / constant fatigue – this could be due to the reduction of serotonin in an unhealthy gut.  Serotonin affects sleep and mood.

5.       Skin irritation – poor diet might cause a leak of proteins from the gut into the body which can lead to irritation

6.       Auto immune conditions – an unhealthy gut may increase systemic inflammation which can give rise to auto immune diseases

7.       Food intolerances – there is a thought that some food intolerances are due to difficulty digesting some foods due to poor gut health.

7 things you can do for your gut health

       Lower stress levels

·         Meditation

·         Walking

·         Hanging out with friends

·         A massage

·         Decrease caffeine intake

·         Acupuncture

2.       Get enough sleep
                 ·         7 hours a night
                 ·         Adopt a good sleep routine

3.        Eat slowly and mindfully

4.       Stay hydrated; drink plenty of water throughout the day

5.       Take a prebiotic or probiotic to promote growth of good gut bacteria

6.       Check for food intolerances – try removing things from your diet that you think might upset you and see if there are any changes

7.       Change your diet

·         Reduce processed food

·         Reduce foods high in sugar

·         Reduce foods high in fat

·         Eat plant-based foods

·         Eat lean protein

·         Increase your fibre intake

4 foods that are good for gut health

1.       High fibre foods;

·         Beans

·         Oats

·         Peas

·         Bananas

·         Berries

·         Asparagus

·         Leeks

2.       Garlic and onions – will possibly help to boost your immune system and have anti-cancer properties

3.       Fermented foods;

·         Kimchi

·         Sauerkraut

·         Yoghurt

·         Miso

·         Kefir

·         All of these are sources of probiotics

4.       Collagen boosting foods;

·         Bone broth

·         Salmon

·         Mushrooms

·         Good dairy

Bone broth

2-3 pounds of chicken bones (you could use beef, lamb or pork if you prefer)

4 litres of water

2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

Sliced onion

4 cloves of garlic

Salt and pepper

Simmer for 4 to 24 hours (or use a slow cooker)

Strain and discard bones etc

Use to make a hearty soup, adding a variety of vegetables

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Student Summer Special

Back for the summer, take advantage of our student special!

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Do you say ‘yes’ when you mean ‘no’?

According to The Guardian on Monday 3rd June, 95% of the time, when people are asked how they are will say ‘I’m OK but very busy’ – or some version of that.  Perhaps, just perhaps, if we really are that busy we are just not saying ‘no’ often enough.

Have you ever agreed to go to something when you really you would rather not?  Do you say ‘yes’ because you fear upsetting someone?  Apparently this can start in childhood when we strive not to make our parents cross.  We get so used to pleasing people that we are at risk at forgetting our own needs and wants. 

Now I am not suggesting that we all become really selfish and don’t think of others; rather that we are selective in what we choose to do.  As you might know, I have been ill recently and am recovering slowly.  This has meant that I have chosen to say no to events and meetings that I might otherwise have gone to.  Even when I have a ‘reason’ it still doesn’t feel quite right, how much harder is it to say ‘no’ when you don’t have an excuse? 

But if your own mental and physical wellbeing is put under pressure you are really not doing anyone any favours.  Chances are you will only resent going to the event and not be at your sparkly best anyway.  If the very thought of saying ‘no’ feels you with horror, try a delaying technique.  Say something like ‘I need to just check my diary and get back to you’.  Then think about how your time can be best used.  Do you really need to be at that meeting / coffee / wedding or would it be better if you worked on your favourite hobby (that you never have time for), spent time with those you love or maybe just had some down time?  Then you can say ‘yes’ to things you can really give yourself to – you will have energy and passion to really enjoy an evening out or a planning meeting. 
And who knows – you might just have time to get to the gym and give your mind and body a chance to get fit and functional! 

Thursday, 28 March 2019


Following on with the work of Dr Chaterjee we are looking this time at touch.  Do you know that being touched can make you feel better?  Of course you do.  But there are real benefits according to Dr Chaterjee in his book ‘The Stress Solution’.  His research shows that ‘Affectionate Human Touch’ can:

·         Lower heart rate

·         Lower blood pressure

·         Reduce cortisol levels

·         Raise levels of Natural Killer cells (one of the immune system’s defences against infection)

·         Increase parasympathetic tone, which puts us into thrive state.

It really is that good.  Of course, there are some people who for one reason or another don’t want to be hugged, so I suggest you don’t just go around randomly hugging!

We work a lot in care homes and I often hug the residents.  For some it is the best way of communicating, it says what words can’t.  I also hug some of my cancer exercise group, when words won’t work a bit of human touch can say it all.

A hug can say ‘thank you’ and it can say ‘I really care about how you are feeling’ and its free.  It can make a big difference.  Give it a try !  

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Three things to schedule to reduce stress

What can we get into our busy days that will help to deal with stress?

Dr Chaterjee (carrying on with the series from his book ‘The Stress Solution’) suggests three things that we should build into everyday;

·         Something that brings you joy.  Now I don’t know what that is for you.  Things that spring to mind for me are reading, listening to a story and music.  For you it might be seeing the new shoots on your favourite shrub (take a picture, then you can go back to it time and time again).  Wendy Cope (my favourite poet) – in her poem ‘The Orange’ tells us that ‘it made me so happy, As ordinary things often do, Just lately’ .  Its not the big things – look for the joy in the everyday small things.  (getting your washing dry on the line?)

·         Something that helps you to learn ‘delayed gratitude’.  We live in a world of ‘instant gratitude’ – the buzz of a text and the dashed off reply, face book, Instagram and food – food that ‘hits the spot’ and alcohol.  We are growing used to getting what we want when we want it.  We have a chance of feeling less stressed if we take it slowly, find something that takes a while to learn, that takes a while to complete.  How about doing your favourite hobby?   People spend hours on the bank fishing, a great way to chill.  Learn to knit, play an instrument, speak a different language.  None of this is quick or easy, but so good if we can learn to enjoy the journey and the eventual reward of a skill mastered.  

·         Something that involves movement or exercise.  Schedule it in – maybe it’s a walk, maybe it’s a quick trip to the gym.  Perhaps it’s a home workout or some yoga, just move your body.  Our bodies are designed to move – make use of them!  Exercise is a great stress buster !

Monday, 4 March 2019

Reframing - Find the positive

Continuing our series on dealing with stress from Dr Chaterjee’s book  ‘The Stress Solution’ I would like to talk, this time, about reframing your day. 

Is your life a mess?  Do you hate your job?  According to Dr Chaterjee, if you consider these types of options (or any of the many negative frames we put on our life) and spend all day reinforcing these ideas then that is how you will continue to see your life.  By dwelling on the negatives in your life you will simply reinforce them.  So you are stuck in traffic, in fact you get stuck in traffic every day.  You can get cross and rant or you can think ‘great, more time to listen to the radio / my audio book’.  You can say ‘I have set off in good time and I won’t be late and anyway, getting cross won’t shift the traffic’.    Its about how you frame it.

If you think constantly about how much you dislike one of your co-workers then will probably be unpleasant to that person and the situation will get worse.  How about telling yourself ‘I don’t really get along with them well but I will be polite and cheerful and not dwell on her nasty remarks’?  I bet you will feel less stressed. 

Dr Chaterjee gives some great examples of finding value in your work (pages 40 & 41).  One that particularly resonates with me is that of a nurse.  If we spend all our time moaning about the fact that we are underpaid and overworked we will be unhappy and fed up.  However, if we acknowledge that we are making a difference to people’s lives we are much more likely to be less stressed.

Now the cynics amongst us will be unsure at this point – but give it a go – find a positive in the situation and cling to it! 

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Boil in the bag omlette - Really!

Boil in the bag cheese omelette

How’s this for a whacky idea?  A quick and easy snack meal – boil in the bag omelette.

It was with a sense of ‘really?’ that we tried this for supper last night – but it works

Taken from Tom Kerridge’s ‘Dopamine Diet’ cook book

Put a large saucepan full of water onto boil

Take about 150 gms grated cheese – we just guessed and put half into each of two sealable plastic bags

Beat 5 eggs (this is for two people) with salt and pepper, some milk and a knob of butter (not quite what Tom suggested – but it works well)

Pour the egg mix equally into each bag

Seal the bags and put in the pan of boiling water

Turn the heat down so that the water simmers nicely

Cook for about 10 mins – its easy to see if they are cooked.  I turned ours over a bit as the bottoms were cooking and the tops were a bit runny

Serve with salad or peas

A little note – make sure you tuck the tops of the bags so that they are over the water – one of mine burnt onto the outside of the pan! 

Thursday, 7 February 2019


This week we are taking the Ikigai concept into reality

Dr Chaterjee suggests the acronym LIVE

·         Love – do something you love

·         Intent – live with a clear intent

·         Vision – develop a long term vision

·         Engaging – with the world about you

Looking in a bit more depth, first of all try to find and do something that you love.  Even a small amount of time every day or even every week will make a difference.  You may have heard that Steve and a small (but growing) group are running the Park Run every week.  It’s a few minutes of something that really matters to them.  Its great fun and there’s a sense of camaraderie.  Now that’s not what I love just at the moment – but doing my degree is just fab.  So once a week I catch the bus and go to uni – I just love it and feel loads better for doing it.  What do you love?

How about living with a clear intent – what does he mean by this?  its about paying attention to the small things – don’t just drift through every day.  Try pausing and noticing.  I often stop on my walk and take a photo of something that catches my eye.  By keeping an eye out for the beauty I can find lots of interesting things to snap.  Try to just enjoy the every day things, not rush through and notice nothing.

Do you have a goal or do you think you will just carry on doing what you are doing now for ever?  We make plans (certainly now that it seems that Steve might have a few more years left in him) – they don’t always work out but it does give us something to look forward to.  If any of you have seen us having lunch in Little Acre at the weekend you will see the notebook and pen – we’re making plans.  Try it, when the day is tough it helps to know that there is something on the horizon.

As for engaging – its really about those Random Acts of Kindness.  It’s the little things.  Chat to someone who looks lonely, say hi to someone who helps you.  Offer a kind hand, a gentle word, a bright smile – try it, I can almost guarantee that you will feel great at the end of the day. 

Just LIVE! 

Friday, 1 February 2019

Have you found your Ikigai?

Continuing our series from the book by Dr Chaterjee (‘The Stress Solution’) we are looking this week at Ikigai.  Now I know that I risk losing half of you now – try to hang on !

Ikigai is a Japanese word – Iku means ‘to live’ and gai ‘ reason’. 

Have you found you rikigai?   Does your life meet these four criteria, do you have in your life;

·         Something you love

·         Something that you are good at

·         Something the world needs

·         Something you can make money from

Why am I asking?  The chances are that if you have this then you are happy and healthier.  I realise that we are expecting a lot to tick all four of those boxes and those of us who can are very lucky.  If you are in a job that you don’t particularly like then getting up (especially on these cold dark mornings) can be a struggle.  (I love early mornings).

If you don’t feel particularly good at anything then your feelings of self worth can suffer.  Can you do a course, read a book, do something on line to improve a skill that you have?  I started a master’s degree this week – let’s push the boundaries! 

Do you do something that the world needs?  This is a big challenge, my daughter is an anaesthetist – I think the world needs good doctors – but we can’t all be doctors.  But can we all do something that the world needs?  Your job might not be an imperative for the world – but the way you live your life can be.  The world needs kindness – we can all be kind.

And of course, we do need to make money.  Lucky are those people who can make money out of their hobbies but lucky too are those who do a job they enjoy that pays the bills.  And if you don’t love your job?  Well, is it time for a change?  Would you feel happier, healthier and more fulfilled?
So – if you don’t have these lovely four things in your life what can you do about it?  It might just make a difference to your life and your health. 

Tuesday, 22 January 2019


Continuing our journey through Dr Chaterjee’s book (‘The Stress Solution’) we are moving to the section on time.

He talks about how little time we often feel we have and how a bit of organisation could well help.  We absolutely know that those of you who schedule in gym time make it in much more often than those who will ‘pop in if they can’.  Dr Chaterjee also talks about the joy of ticking something off our list and he even goes so far as to consider a breakdown of your day into tasks.  I thought this was crazy until I realised that that is what I do – I just don’t write it down.  If I were to tell you how my daily routine panned out you would think I was crazy – but it works for me.  I get up early, unpack the dishwasher, sort out the washing, feed the birds -  you get the idea?!

Dr Chaterjee suggests that to reduce your stress there are three things to schedule into your day:

1. Something that brings you joy.  You know what this might be; it could be a piece of music, 10 minutes with the newspaper, a chapter of your book, maybe a few minutes with your knitting or a hobby of some sort.  Whatever it is, schedule it in, make time for it – it really matters.

2. Something that trains you ability to delay gratification.  That is something that takes time to master.  So not the instant gratification that comes from alcohol or food snacks.  Rather something such as learning a language or a musical instrument.  It might be as simple as a crossword or a jigsaw, as long as it is something that takes time and patience.  The sense of achievement will be well worth waiting for.

3. Something that involves movement or exercise.  Everyday make sure you move.  Do your 10,000 steps, go for that run, lift some weights.  But it needs to be scheduled in.  I was going to try to fit in 10 minutes of yoga today.  But I didn’t – it wasn’t on the list and it didn’t get done.

Try it and remember, these are not luxury items, these are essentials.  If we are to avoid getting stressed out and anxious we need to put in some time to look after ourselves.  So next time you write that ‘to do’ list – add in something that nourishes you. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Being Positive

Last week we talked about MSDs (Micro Stress Doses) and I was wondering what strategies we could develop for managing stress?

I am reminded of the times I get into a real downward spiral and the stress that comes with that.  You know how it goes;  ‘I am so disorganised and chaotic’, ‘people don’t like me’, ‘I am so fat’ and anything else that I can put myself down with.  This is stressful and so is battling with the traffic and shouting at our children.

There is another way, we can alter the way we think, we can change our reactions.

How about ‘I do get muddled but I am working on it and now have a system for getting tidied up’.

‘There is actually no evidence that people don’t like me, I am just putting together some assumptions and making them match up to what I think’

‘I am a bit overweight but I am exercising more and eating healthily’

Do you see what I mean?  Looking at things from a positive viewpoint can really help to manage stress.   Caught in traffic?  Take the opportunity to listen to more of your book, hear more of a podcast you follow, enjoy the radio, fuming won’t make the traffic move more quickly.  Feel like shouting?  Pause, breathe and let it go.  Shouting is so exhausting.
So the problems are the same but the way you are looking at them has changed – try it, it’s a great stress buster!

Friday, 4 January 2019

Feeling stressed?

We have just bought ‘The Stress Solution’ by Dr Chaterjee.  In this book he looks at Purpose, Relationships, Body and Mind.

I thoroughly recommend that you get a copy and take some time to read it – however, help is at hand.  Over the next few weeks we will be reading it and pulling out snippets that we think will interest you – so keep watching out for my blog.

Just for starters – he talks about Micro Stress Doses or MSDs.  Do you have these?  It starts early, the alarm shouts out at you (MSD 1) and you drag yourself out of bed.  Into the loo, no loo roll (MSD 2) and the dog barks to go out (MSD 3).  Child number one is already on their ipad, you ask them to get off – no response (MSD 4).  Partner surfaces into the kitchen and is grumpy; favourite cereal box is empty (MSD 5)

See what I mean?  We can’t get rid of all these but stick with us as we travel through this book and we will pass on hints and tips to manage them more easily.  Along the way you’ll find out about different ways of eating throughout the day, the importance of exercise (well we would say that !) and how down time and sleep can help. 

Speak again soon