Clapham Osteopathy and Functional Movement

To Your (Gut) Health

Microbiome. Microbiota. Beneficial bacteria. Gut bugs. Call it what you will, you’ve probably read or heard somebody talking about this subject recently. But did you know that gut health is correlated with everything from Parkinson’s disease to cardiovascular health to skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, to anxiety, depression and cognitive function?. There is more and more evidence that the vast quantity of microscopic critters in our guts can play a huge role in our physical and mental health, both positive and negative.

This is achieved via another term you may have heard of: the gut-brain connection. Gut microbes influence how we digest and metabolise the precursors of important neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Then there is a direct line of communication to the brain, through the vagus nerve, which has receptors near the gut lining that allow it to keep a check on our digestion. Microbes in the intestine can therefore release chemical messengers that alter the signalling of the vagus nerve – and, as a consequence, the brain’s activity.

These pathways are not one-way streets, however, as brain activity can also influence the gut flora composition. Stress can increase inflammation, for instance, which can then affect the microbes in our gut. The result can be a feedback loop. Gut, brain, gut, brain, gut.

Humans used to eat a huge quantity of fermented foods as fermentation was one of the few ways to preserve fresh foods for later.  This would have included pickled vegetables, dairy (yoghurt and cheeses) and meat. However, the advent of packaged foods and refrigeration has lead to the reduction and even, sometimes, elimination of this category from our diets.

Over the past 10 years or so, the idea of feeding and maintaining our gut microbiome has become increasingly mainstream. It seems clear that today’s Western lifestyle featuring vast amounts of stress, poor sleep, antibiotics and nutritionally-depleted diets are impacting the type and amount of microbes present in our guts, leading to a variety of health problems. This has led to a booming probiotic supplement industry that aims to help increase the number and variety of microbes. We believe that even though probiotics can be helpful to deal with specific conditions – we always take a supplement to increase resilience when travelling –  it is better to include fermented foods as a mainstay of the diet.  So we regularly eat home-made sauerkraut, pickles and kombucha. Of course not everyone has the time and inclination to make all of these from scratch (even though basic fermented veggies are dead easy!) but fortunately some of the commercial products out there get the job done handily and tastily (Okay, not sure if that’s a real word, but if not, it should be.) UK friends, check out the kefir made by our friends at Ki, straight outta Vauxhall!  (Shameless plug alert)

Ki Kefir is a new sustainable & organic company based in South West London, hand delivering traditional and powerful kefir to your door. Frustrated with buying kefir without the powerful kick of life it should have, we decided it was time for Londoners to get their hands on a real kefir, full of probiotic goodness that’s exceptionally powerful and really makes a difference to your gut health. Unlike many shop-bought Kefirs who use a powdered (lab-made) bacteria to make kefir,  at Ki we make it the traditional way with living cultures. This ensures the highest quantity and most diverse range of good bacteria. Our kefir also contains a cocktail of vital vitamins and minerals crucial for good health, including B12, K2, calcium and magnesium. It is made with the finest organic milk from grass-fed cows in Sussex. We are also a minimal waste company, packaging our kefir in glass and offering local deliveries.

To find out more about Ki you can visit www.kilondon.com
Instagram: @ki.kefir https://www.instagram.com/ki.kefir/?hl=en
Facebook: ki.kefir.london https://www.facebook.com/ki.kefir.london/

The Top 5 Health Benefits of Coffee

coffee beansCoffee. Love it or hate it, you probably can’t escape it. (We love it, BTW) There have been many stories in the news over the past few years discussing its potential health benefits, and in this article, Chris Kresser details 5 big ones. For balance, he also includes a section on people that probably shouldn’t be drinking the stuff.

So kick back with a cup o’ joe and read the full article, The Top 5 Health Benefits of Coffee.

The Great Con-ola

bottle of oilThis article from The Weston A. Price Foundation takes aim at one of our most popular cooking oils, canola. The food industry has been lauding the benefits of canola oil since its arrival on the scene in the mid-1980s, calling it ‘heart healthy’, ‘high in Omega 3s’ and ‘widely recognized as the healthiest salad and cooking oil available to consumers.’ However, there is a dark side to canola oil, as studies have shown it to actually be potentially dangerous to humans. This article details the history of the oil and documents the health risks associated with canola and other industrial seed oils.

Read the full article, The Great Con-ola.

If You Want To Save The World, Veganism Isn’t The Answer

dry field with one treeVeganism is becoming more and more popular these days. Understandably so, as people are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of Intensively farmed meat and dairy’s toll on the environment. However, in this article, farmer Isabella Tree discusses the potential negative implications that veganism can have on the sustainability of our farmland, as well as our health. This article is a great read no matter which side of the debate you may stand on.

Read the full article, If You Want To Save The World, Veganism Isn’t The Answer

Hormesis: The Good Stress

Nietzsche famously said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Or was it Conan the Barbarian? Either way, there is certainly some truth to the statement. One such way actually involves stress. Now, with good reason, we are constantly warned about the dangers of stress, both physical and psychological. Stress has been shown to worsen or increase the risk of conditions like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma. However, the intent of this post is not to warn you about the dangers of stress – you are probably already well aware of them. Rather, we’d like to focus on a very particular kind of stress – a good stress – called hormesis.

Whereas the chronic stress from our jobs, lack of sleep, bills, antagonistic relationships, poor diet, etc. will break you down, certain low-level stressors can actually make you physically stronger, boost your immune system, improve your mood, and more. Some of these hormetic stressors are probably already very familiar to you, including such staples as exercise, sunlight, fasting, exposure to extreme heat or cold, and even certain foods. The key to hormetic stress is that it needs to come in small(er) amounts. For example, plunging into arctic water for a long period of time will ultimately probably kill you. But a cold bath or shower can actually stimulate your immune system, making you healthier. Similarly, exposure to extreme heat for a prolonged period can lead to dehydration and other issues, whereas a 20 minute sauna session can produce loads of beneficial effects, physical and mental. For a more detailed and scientific analysis of this, check out Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s article, Hyperthermic Conditioning’s Role In Increasing Endurance, Muscle Mass, and Neurogenesis.

weightsAnother very familiar example of hormetic stress is exercise, in particular strength training. A challenging weights workout increases levels of oxidative stress and inflammation in your body. Done in the right amount, ie not over-training, this provides a relatively low and manageable dose of muscle injury. Your body responds to this microtrauma by building new muscle fibres as well as repairing the slightly-damaged ones. Regular exercise improves your body’s ability to rebuild, making you stronger and healthier. But the key to this is not overdoing it, and ensuring proper rest and recovery between workouts. If recovery isn’t adequate, the hormetic stress becomes chronic stress and the body can’t cope with the damage. This is why so many people who insist on training super-hard too frequently often wind up feeling ‘broken.’

Fasting, especially intermittent fasting, is another hormetic stressor. Skipping meals provokes a great hormetic stress response. Additionally, fasting triggers autophagy, a process in which cells clean themselves up, getting rid of damaged or junk cells that could potentially become cancerous. Again, though, this needs to be approached correctly, as calorie deprivation combined with gruelling exercise, sleep deprivation or other chronic stress can do more harm than good. So once again, don’t over do it! Notice a trend? Dr. Jason Fung is one of the world’s foremost experts on fasting. You can check out interviews with him here and here. Even better, buy his book, The Complete Guide to Fasting. We’ve read it, and highly recommend it.

Certain foods also promote hormesis. You’ve almost certainly heard about foods rich in antioxidants. Well, antioxidants are actually hormetic stressors, which is why they are so good for you. Colorful fruits and vegetables, as well as bitter foods, tend to be high in antioxidants, so having a good amount of these types of foods in your diet can be very beneficial. Check out this article on antioxidants for more info. Some of the most popular “superfoods” – blueberries, dark chocolate, turmeric, red wine, green tea, broccoli –  contain hormetic compounds that activate adaptive stress response pathways, improving our health. But of course, moderation is still key. You certainly don’t want to go on an ‘all chocolate and wine’ diet, no matter how appealing that may sound.

Believe it or not, sunlight is even a hormetic stressor. Getting regular, small amounts of sun exposure can help reduce skin cancer and improve vitamin D levels. But again, overdoing it can have the opposite effect, so don’t get sunburnt!

In conclusion, it’s critical to note the difference between chronic stress and hormetic stress. In almost all instances, too much of a good thing can have the opposite of the desired effect. Too often we push ourselves too hard – the ‘just do it!’ and ‘no pain, no gain!’ mentality. Conversely, not having enough hormetic stressors does not enable us to develop as we should. Here at Backs Etc., we believe that balance is the key to health, fitness, and happiness, so do challenge yourself, but do it wisely.

 

More than half your body is not human

Our bodies (especially our skin and gut) are perfect environments for a vast range of micro-organisms. In fact, human cells make up only 43% of the body’s total cell count. The rest are microscopic colonists. Because of bacteria phobia, we destroy these using anti-bacterial cleaning products and antibiotics, often without a second thought to the vast quantity of bacteria beneficial to us that are wiping out. Think of a wildflower meadow – if you covered it in pesticide, it would likely kill off most of the existing plants and that space, without some careful planting and care, would regrow with weeds. This is what happens to the microflora in our guts when we use these products, and this is intensified when we eat a diet of processed foods. Everything you eat is feeding your microflora as much as it feeds you, and we need healthy microbiome to be truly healthy.

 

Read the full article, More than half your body is not human.

 

 

 

 

A Quick Guide To Fasting

fastingMore and more studies are proving the myriad of health benefits that fasting can provide. And these days, with the growing popularity of intermittant fasting, the 5:2 diet and compressed eating windows, many people are reaping these rewards. If you’re at all interested in fasting (and you should be!) here is a great little one page intro guide from the folks at www.gutgeek.com.

Read the article, ‘A Quick Guide To Fasting’

Is Red Meat Bad For You?

meatNina Teicholz describes red meat as ‘the third rail of nutrition’ because of the abundance of bad news about it out there. However, in this fascinating presentation video, she analyzes many of the studies and reported facts about the dangers of red meat, and comes to some conclusions which may surprise you. Recommended viewing, regardless of your stance on red meat consumption.

 

Watch the video, Nina Teicholz – ‘Red Meat and Health’

My Favourite Crispbread

To start, let me just say that I love this recipe. It’s easy, inexpensive, low-carb, gluten-free, vegan (if you care about such things!), contains 0% guilt, and, best of all, is delicious. I hit upon it when we were doing a keto cycle and needed something on which to spread my homemade liver pate. I found a similar recipe on the web, adapted it a little, and bingo. So I will keep this intro short, and get right to the good stuff!

Ingredients

feel free to double the amounts if you want an extra big batch

  • 1 ½ cup mixed seeds – flax, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, etc. (Note: you can use chia seeds too, but will need to add more water to the recipe as they soak up a ton of it)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons psyllium husk powder – Don’t omit this, it’s important for binding the dough. You can buy this online or at health food shops. Make sure it’s unflavoured!
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 ½ cup of water – start with this, you may need more
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder (This is optional. It makes the crispbread puff up a little, which you may or may not prefer.)

 

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 175°C/350°F
  • Put the seeds, psyllium, baking powder (if using), and salt in a food processor and blender. Blitz until ground. You can either leave it a bit chunky or grind it into a sand-like consistency depending on your preference and your device, but don’t let it start to turn into butter.
  • Add the water and mix into a uniform batter. It should be thick, stirrable not pourable. Let sit for about 10 minutes for the water to be absorbed, making it more dough-like. You may need to add a bit more water, but do it in small amounts to ensure you don’t make it too watery.
  • Spread the mixture on a baking tray covered with parchment paper or baking mat, ideally something non-stick. Use a spatula or similar device to spread the dough into an even layer around the tray. I aim for about ⅛” / 3 mm thickness, but you can make it thicker if you prefer. The thicker it is, the longer it will take to cook, though.
  • At this point, I like to score it into sections. I actually use a pizza wheel for this, but a knife works too. Be mindful you don’t cut through the parchment or baking mat beneath. This step is optional, as you can break it into pieces once cooked. However, if you prefer a more uniform size and shape of the servings, then scoring is key.
  • Pop it in the oven and bake. Timing here can really vary depending on the thickness and water content of the dough. I usually start to check on it after about a half hour, and then every 10 minutes or so. Ultimately you want to ensure that it is completely crisp all the way through. If the edges start to brown, but the middle is still not crisp enough, break off the ends so they don’t burn.
  • When you’re satisfied it’s all nice and crisp, take it out off the oven and allow to cool. Then break it up into servings and either eat immediately (it will be hard not to, even when it’s hot!) or store in a cupboard in a paper bag or uncovered container to maintain crispness.

I hope you love this crispbread as much as I do. Enjoy!