Going Green 3

So it’s been a couple of weeks now and the Vitamix has become a big part of my meal times. I have a green smoothie at least once a day (greens with fruit) and use it to make very healthy raw sauces for my pasta, rice, fish, you name it!  My partner is also ever impressed with the sauces I come up with, and is also eating really well at the moment. I am also enjoying the delicious soups I have come up with just from combining whatever vegetables I had in my kitchen. I find that adding a tbsp of linseed oil to most soups works really well.

Because I am trying to stick to organic fruit and veg, I have decided that whatever I blend using the Vitamix is worth two of my ten a day. I figure that as I am absorbing the portions completely due to their being blended so well, it is better than eating two portions unblended, and certainly better than eating more non-organic veg. I am of course not limiting myself to ten a day under these rules – I often go over, but it is a way to make it more affordable. I have also stopped taking as many vitamins as I was before because my body should be absorbing these better from the vegetables I blend. I will be having a blood test soon to check on my progress, but I am generally feeling well and my digestion is fantastic at the moment.

Oxygen – are you getting enough?

Now a days, if you live in a city; the answer is no. Have you noticed how pure the air you breathe feels in the countryside or by the sea? It is quite different to the air we are used to breathing in the city. Of the city air we breathe in, only about 30% is oxygen. Oxygen makes up 80% of our bodies so it is extremely important. Not only does it lift your mood, but it is needed in every aspect of your body’s functioning, including the nervous system, to keep you healthy. How can we city-dwellers get more oxygen? Here are a few of our options:

HBO (Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy) can help, during which you breathe about 90% pure oxygen and this is good for everyone!

Learn to breathe correctly – most of us use only a third of our lungs’ capacity when breathing. A good way to improve your breathing is by doing exercise such as swimming where you need to breathe harder. Practicing  yoga and meditation will also help you learn to breathe correctly, as well as de-stressing you in the process.

Pranayama breathing practices can teach you to breathe correctly. We should inhale through our nostrils, expanding our belly and then chest and then exhale with the mouth, as our chest and belly relax. Exhalation should last twice as long as inhalation – but this should not be forced, and will be perfected with pranayama breathing exercises. The body has been breathing wrongly for too long to just change it suddenly. It is a gradual yet extremely worthwhile process. I have started practicing these breathing exercises during yoga first thing in the morning.

According to Stancak A jr, alternating breathing through the left and right nostril can influence our brain activity. Wood C. Mood wrote that we can also use such exercises to make ourselves feel more alert, enthusiastic and to improve our overall mood.

“Breathing through the left nostril stimulates the right brain hemisphere and intensifies the functions of the parasympathetic nervous system. This is connected with a slowing-down of the heart rate and consequently greater stroke volume of the heart (greater amount of blood is pressed out of the heart per beat, as a consequence of lower heart rate)”

“Breathing through the right nostril stimulates the left brain hemisphere and the sympathetic nervous system. This results in accelerated heart rate, higher blood pressure, greater consumption of oxygen by the body cells and constriction of the blood vessels of the skin, thus preserving body temperature (which explains how some yogis can be totally oblivious to extreme weather conditions).”

The benefits of breathing correctly are overwhelmingly important, a few of which are:

Strengthening of the heart and lungs, through quicker blood flow towards them

Strengthening of the nervous system and supplying it with more oxygen

Increased brain function and clarity

Significant reduction of the quantity of free radicals in the system

Reducing the number of asthma attacks in asthmatics as well as reducing the dosage of anti-asthmatic drugs needed

Lowering the intensity of shortness of breath in chronic bronchitis

Conserving energy

Adapt better to cold and heat

Once we have mastered Pranayama we can move onto Kumbhaka which involves holding your breath. It has been discovered that, when practiced correctly, Kumbhaka can reduce the body’s metabolic processes and thus its oxygen consumption. With this practice we can influence the parasympathetic nervous system lowering both heart rate and blood pressure. (Bhargava R, Gogate MG, Mascarenhas JF.)

Now that I am practicing pranayama with yoga, am I enjoying the yoga postures so much more. I find it helps to imagine I am breathing in sea air, it reminds me of la Manzanilla, a Mexican beach I used to wake up and do yoga on, bliss! I inhale and exhale as the sea ebbs and flows. I also keep finding myself breathing properly during the day – unconsciously. It just feels better. I am so sure that it is doing me good. So come on people, let’s get breathing correctly!

                                                                                                           I often find myself daydreaming about la Manzanilla…

Good Food for a Good Mood (Concentration and Memory)

Food is not only important for boosting your immune system and sending your MS into remission, it also has a great impact on your mood. Since having started my MS diet I have been in an exceptionally good mood most of the time. A big part of this is because I am really doing all I can to work against my illness, which is very fulfilling in itself. I recently discovered that another reason however was to do with the particular foods I was eating and their relation to mood balance in the brain. In fact, a diet recommended by nutritionists to pull oneself out of depression, is very similar to my own. Here I will outline the mental advantages of eating as I do:


Not only are saturated fats extremely harmful to us (especially those of us with MS) physically, they have also been shown to reduce intelligence and to lower our mood.

Omega 3, one of the EFAs (essential Fatty Acids) essential to people with MS found in fish and linseed also makes us happy! Not only do EFAs prevent the short-circuiting in the brain which takes place during MS, (the myelin sheath is made out of Phospholipid and EFAs (DHA or arachidonic acids) and these combine to stop those short-circuits) they also greatly improve your mood. It has been proven that there is a lower rate of depression in areas where a lot of fish is eaten, as well as a lower rate of MS of course. Among Inuits a case of MS is unknown for example.

The EPA and DHA found in oily fish and flaxseed (linseed), hemp and walnut oils is what makes up half of the fat in brain-cell membranes. Because DHA builds receptor sites and improves reception; it also improves your mood – if you have a higher level of DHA you are also likely to have higher levels of serotonin and acetylcholine. You will get enough of both EPA and DHA which are equally important and work in unison, if you eat oily fish three times a week.

The best sources are oily fish and shell-fish rich in docosahexaenoic acid (essential nutrient for the brain) like herring, mackerel, kippers, tuna, whitebait, lobster, sardines, mussels, sprats, squid, prawns and shrimp. Salmon, trout, haddock, flounder and cod are also fine. Herring, mackerel tuna and salmon will also significantly improve your mood, and your concentration span.

If you don’t like fish you can take fish oil supplements and follow the vegetarian guidelines: Vegetarians should aim at having 1 tbsp of flaxseed (linseed) and a tsp of its oil once a day. They can also try Spirulina which is a great source of Omega3 and Omega6.

Diets and drugs that lower cholesterol cause a deficiency in omega3, encouraging demyelination and leading to depression.

Phosphatidyl serine found in organ meats is extremely important for the liver, immune system, nerves and brain. It provides the building materials needed for neuronal membranes as well as neurotransmitter receptor sites. It also improves memory, mood, concentration, learning and one’s ability to cope with stress. Vegetarians can take supplements of Evening Primrose oil instead.

Protein – almost all neurotransmitters are made of it. It also influences your mood. The quality of proteins depends on its amino acid balance. You only really need eight of these as the body makes the rest itself. Click here for a list of the best proteins.

Amino Acids make serotonin, a happy neurotransmitter which makes us happy. To ensure you are getting enough it is essential to chew your food really well. Another way of ensuring your body’s absorption of amino acids is to use a quality blender such as vitamix to get amino acids out of all the food you eat, including vegetables.

Choline is essential for the building of nerve cells and the receptor sites for neurotransmitters. A deficiency in this nutrient is the most common cause of memory decline. In order to make acetylcholinethe memory neurotransmitter, your body also needs vitamin B5, B1, B12 and C. If the body is deficient in choline it will use it to make acetylcholine instead of for building nerve cells. Choline also improves concentration and can make you more alert as well as clear-minded– something very useful to people with MS who often have problems concentrating due to mental fatigue.

Choline can be foundinfish, especially in sardines, eggs, liver, soya beans, peanuts, other nuts (be careful not to eat too many because they are high in saturated fats). It can also be found in the supplement lecithin.

DMAE found in large doses in sardines and anchovies works like Choline to make acetylcholine even quicker than the latter because of the speed at which it crosses into the brain from the blood. It also reduces anxiety and improves mood significantly. It also improves attention span and regularises brain-wave patterns. Too much can cause insomnia. Vegetarians can take supplements of 100-300mg in the morning/at midday.

Carbohydrates most break down into glucose during digestion and so turn into the best fuel for our cells; the brain uses a lot of this glucose. A low-carb diets have been shown to cause low moods. The best carbohydrates are those which release a steady amount of sugar slowly into the bloodstream. To make the release of glucose into the blood slower, combine with protein. The best carbohydrates to go for are whole, unrefined grains, all vegetables and some fruit; click here for a list of the best slow-release carbohydrates.

So you see, eating well is not only good for your physical health, helping to stabilise your MS, but also for your mood. Eating well will keep you healthy and happy, so why not start now?!

Going Green 2

So, my Vitamix arrived a few days ago and the tastiest green smoothie I have so far discovered is spinach leaves with banana. It is much easier to eat a lot of green leaves if they are mixed with a fruit. Banana works well, blackcurrant not so well. It is important to note that the green tops of vegetables such as carrots and beetroot are the most valuable part! Don’t throw them away, blend them instead with other greens and fruit to make a deliciously nutritious smoothie. Even just green leaves on their own with a bit of lime is quite tasty – obviously don’t try this with bitter ones such as watercress, speaking from a very recent experience! Apple works well with every type of green leafy vegetable I have tried so far, including carrot tops which are actually quite nice.

I have also used the Vitamix to make great sauces to go with vegetables or fish using very little ingredients such as garlic, red pepper, lime and pumpkin seed oil, no cooking necessary. It is so quick and easy to experiment with the Vitamix that I am already getting quite good at knowing what goes well together. I made a Gerson carrot/apple juice yesterday and it was much nicer than I expected. I didn’t use a green apple however, because I couldn’t find any organic green ones, so it wasn’t really a Gerson juice…I’m sure it was good for me anyway. I have found that celery gives a smoothie a nice kick.  I am trying to eat only organic fruit and veg but finding it very expensive. If you are trying to do the same, look for a local organic growing scheme, the closest to me is organicalea in Waltham Forest, but there is also one in Hackney and I imagine that it is easier outside of London, wherever you are in the world, have a look on the internet for a scheme near you.

This new blender is incredible. I made some delicious peanut butter with just dry roasted peanuts! Obviously I have to be careful about how much I have due to the saturated fat content, but it was so satisfying to make my own. I will try sunflower seed butter today, which will be slightly healthier!

Detoxification for Degenerative Diseases

According to Dr Max Gerson, the causes of all degenerative diseases are toxicity and nutritional deficiency. That’s why in 1930 he created The Gerson Therapy: a natural treatment involving an organic vegetarian diet combined with raw juices; a logical detox combination. It also involves coffee enemas, which I had never heard of before, but which Dr Gerson thought was very important. This natural therapy is aimed at activating the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Patients following it were to drink fresh organic raw juices every hour up to thirteen times a day.

It is thought to work by breaking down the fruit and vegetables enough to make their nutrients vitamins and enzymes much more digestible. Victoria Boutenko highlights the importance of this in her book in terms of green plant leaves which are made of tough cellulose and which we do not chew well enough to make the most out of. In MS the body is not absorbing nutrients as well as it should and so the process of blending raw fruit and vegetables is all the more important.  I read today that vitamins in capsule forms are also difficult to absorb for those with degenerative diseases due to digestive weaknesses which are often present. So, perhaps it is worth investing in more organic vegetables, and a good Vitamix blender rather than vitamins which you may not absorb properly.

It is highly recommended to avoid non-organic fruit and vegetables, especially root vegetables which absorb toxins in the soil. Non-organic fruit and veg should never be blended because this would concentrate the chemical fertilisers and herbicides which would be very harmful, and work against your body’s curative process. Having learnt this today, I had a good think about what I eat. It is mostly organic, but with some non-organic produce too. It is going to be expensive, but I think it will be a worthwhile investment to go 100% organic, so I have decided to, from today…I’ll let you know how it goes!

One of Dr Gerson’s most famous recipes is Hippocrates Soup which strengthens and repairs the immune system; pretty useful if you have MS, don’t you think?

His therapy involves four main juices;

Green juice – must be taken straight away due to its active nature

Carrot Juice: 4-5 carrots – can be kept refrigerated for up to four hours

Apple/Carrot Juice: three small carrots and one medium green apple (apparently the combination makes a magical healing potion)

Orange (or Grapefruit) Juice – no skin, just the whole fruit

After all the reading I have done around MS, I think that fish,liver and the right oils are essential materials for the regeneration of myelin sheath, and as a result should not be removed from your diet. The rest of one’s diet however should be focused on detoxification and fixing other nutritional deficiencies.

Fiber to Cure Disease

Before I was diagnosed with MS, I suffered quite badly from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). I remember being in pain for hours after eating, especially after dinner, for about a year. I didn’t understand why I was having so much trouble, as I thought I ate quite well, relatively speaking; vegetables as well as a lot of fruit. It was getting really bad. I was living in Mexico at the time and as well as the fruit and veg, eating quite a lot of meat and cheese. Cheese was something which I had never liked (I know, there are not many of us cheese haters out there!) but found a taste for when melted on pizza, in vampiros (the most delicious Mexican taco type snack), quesadillas (melted cheese in tortilla). I also ate a lot of greasy delicious Mexican food, a lot more fat basically, than my body had ever been subjected to before.

On a visit back to the UK I had an endoscopy to see if there was anything serious going on; after which I was diagnosed with IBS and told to use peppermint tea and oil to ease symptoms. I had realised that perhaps the heavy food I was eating was not so good for me, but didn’t really make a change to my diet until I was diagnosed with MS. (Saturated fats need to be reduced drastically in MS to reduce the risk of deterioration, I am also dairy intolerant and allergies are important to avoid if you have MS – see foods to avoid and other diet pages on this blog for more info.) A friend of mine had been on an alternative MS therapy which involved diet and exercise and so I immediately started his diet, took up yoga again as well as swimming, which I had not done for years!

A few months into my MS, after a yoga class my yoga teacher gave us a talk about the digestive system and how problems begun there and spread to other areas of the body. I approached her after the class to ask further questions and she told me about an amazing alternative doctor who gave medical talks and examinations for free every Wednesday evening in Guadalajara, where I was living. So, one Wednesday I went along to see if he had anything to say that could help. He gave you medical advice in front of his thirty or more followers who gathered in a room at his sister’s house once a week. First he explained that all illnesses started in the head – with the way we think. Through constant stress, self criticism, depression and so on, our bodies eventually develop problems with the digestive system. After which, more serious problems took place elsewhere in the body. In my case, the nervous system. His reasoning seemed very logical to me, and on dealing with my case directly he showed me, and his loyal followers the external signs which pointed to disease, as well as talking me through events in my past that may have triggered the problems in my head, how they then manifested themselves in my IBS and eventually MS. This doctor’s answer was “stop taking the steroids and fix the problems in your head”. This was the push I had been waiting for; already suffering from horrible Interferon side effects and having already decided to stop taking them.

As for the problem with the way we think, the thing that actually helped me make a big positive change was A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. However, I think that diet is also an extremely important part of the curing process and one you must consider in dealing with MS.

A problem that most of us have with the digestion of food is the elimination of what our body does not need: “poor bowel management lies at the root of most people’s health problems.” Dr Bernard Jensen (Green for Life – Victoria Boutenko)

Ideally we should have bowel movements at least twice a day. Who can say that they go as regularly as that? The toxins that build up in the colon come from so many sources. They build up from dust in the air, and food we have not digested properly, as well as metals and pollutants that we ingest. They also come from our dead cells: “70-100 pounds of dead cells per year, or more, should be passing out of our system. If they don’t [they] can be one of the most toxic kinds of waste because they begin to rot right away” (Green for Life – Victoria Boutenko). Boutenko explains that when your body cannot eliminate the way it is supposed to, it does so less efficiently through the skin which becomes rough and bumpy, through mucus in our eyes, throat and nose.

It is impossible to eliminate without fiber – this is missing from a lot of people’s diets. There are two types of fiber – soluble (pectin in apples, guar gums in chia seeds, oatmeal, legumes and mangos*) and insoluble (greens, peels, nuts, seeds, beans skins of grain) Soluble fiber sticks to cholesterol in the small intenstines to take it out of the body. Insoluble fiber is able to absorb much more toxin than its own volume and remove it from the body. Linseed is both soluable and insoluble fiber: I recommend adding it to you diet, especially if you have MS. It is important to ensure that you are giving your body the right amount. Victoria Boutenko has come to the conclusion that 50 to 70 grams a day or more are what we need, but that we shouldn’t suddenly increase it drastically, but gradually.

Fiber is magical, it can:

fight diabetes, high cholesterol, bowel problems, excess estrogen

prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, gallstones ulcers, stabilise blood-sugar levels

maintain the immune system, heart health, promote intestinal bacteria, help with weight loss

*The soluble fibers mentioned slow the release of sugar in food, reducing the risk of diabetes.

Going Green

I am not doing too well at the moment as I overdid it again. I tried to take on more than I should have because I was feeling energetic, and basically forgot I had MS altogether! I stopped going to bed early, didn’t sleep enough hours, skipped HBO therapy and stopped swimming and it has left me exhausted. Still, at least I know why I feel like this. My body has given me a serious wake-up call and I am already on the road to recovery.

Anyway, during one of my long rests, I read Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko. It is about the importance of greens in our diet. She explains that not all green vegetables can be considered ‘greens’. Greens contain amino acids – they are proteins as well as antioxidants, and so make a pretty complete food. The human jaw is no longer able to break them down sufficiently and so she recommends blending them into a smoothie, combined with fruit for a nice taste. Not just any blender though, she swears by Vitamix because of its high speed motor. A normal blender will blend the greens down only while its blades are sharp. Because of the speed of this specific blender, the sharpness of its blades are unimportant.

So, as if by fate, the second I mentioned to my partner that I’d done a search on amazon and it was so expensive he checked ebay and found a new one for much cheaper in the last two minutes of bidding! Now this wasn’t so much an impulse buy as it sounds as good friends of mine have been raving about this blender and telling me I should get one. Victoria Boutenko’s book pushed me to do it for real. I really recommend you read her book, it is eye-opening. She tells of how she, her family and many others have cured themselves of their illnesses with a green smoothie everyday. If you are thinking about going on a raw diet, or just trying to improve your health, this book will be very helpful. I who thought my diet was perfect, am about to make it even better!

So here begins my journey with green smoothies, I am just waiting for the arrival of my Vitamix to start. I might gradually stop taking the vitamins I take in the hope that my body is going to absorb them easily through these smoothies. I will keep you updated on how I get on as I go.