Twelve Rivers Blog

My science festival overdose, measure for measure

June 13th, 2013

In an effort to broaden my horizons I took the decision to attend five events at this year’s Cheltenham science festival. The programme was excellent, although from experience it is always a case of hit and miss at these things and, as so often is the way, high expectations are met with disappointment and chance picks turn out to stimulate and engage for months to come.

My high expectation this year was Shakespeare’s medicine cabinet. Here among the dry world of measurability was an effort to combine art and science – a commendable addition to the programme and, quite frankly, an attractive way to end my visit, my mind having been variously blown apart by its brushes with astrophysics, epigenetics and the complex and incredible diagnostic tool that is magnetic resonance imaging. So as I settled into my seat I prepared to be entertained by the artistic partner in this medley, fully expecting a balanced consideration of the history of medicine. On this occasion I didn’t leave disappointed. I left incensed. In the interval.

It has to be said I feel slightly sheepish passing judgement on an event I didn’t see through to the end. But I am fairly confident from the rigid structure that it would have continued in a similar style and the general air of arrogance that framed the first half would have continued with gusto in the second. I am of course open to challenge on this one. Perhaps there was an intention that went, like many things at this festival, over my small twenty first century head.

What puzzles me more than anything about the scientific community – and in particular the medical community – is their unfaltering belief that we occupy a place far in advance of any other in history. That we are at the top of our game, far wiser and knowledgeable than our predecessors. We know it all – even to the point of having a very good idea of what we don’t know. Of course this is true in many respects, but it is not true per se. I think I hoped that the art side of this promising combo might question – as I feel art must – the truth and validity contained in our modern world view. As it happened the art turned out to be nothing more than some token interruptions to the lecture and the context of Elizabethan England and its knowledge of medicine was overwhelmingly portrayed as ridiculous.

I cannot entirely blame the lecturer (Pharmacologist Rod Flower) for this – the audience were smug from the start. But by the way that they chortled I assumed the point of telling us that the main herbalist of the time had plagiarised a dutch contemporary was to point out that he wasn’t to be trusted – that nothing he said had any validity. Even when plants and afflictions mentioned in his plays turned out to have a modern evidence base there was never any hint of respect for what the Elizabethans did know (and without the invention of evidence-based medicine and the randomised controlled trial too. Good golly gosh!). Nor, for that matter, did Flower really want to acknowledge the Elizabethan age as part of modern medicine’s lineage. Medicines produced today based on plants in use in the sixteenth century were generally relegated to the supplement shop (the mention of which encouraged another chortle from the audience) whereas ‘real’ medicine used plants where the exact same active compounds were found in much higher proportions. Bravo.

If the lecture’s point was to say “Oh look at those poor ignorant Elizabethans, aren’t they silly” then surely a comic approach would have been more suitable. I mean, come on, this lecture was given in a theatre and the creative potential of the subject was huge. But in this case the only evidence of humour was born of the blind arrogance I so detest and comic genius was sadly, entirely absent. Scientists, it seems, take themselves far too seriously for there to be a happy union here.

During the interval the audience was invited to sup some pansy tea and be sure to let the organisers know if they experienced any of the aphrodisiac effects alluded to in Midsummer night’s dream (you’ve guessed it, another chortle). Pansies clearly have some potentially active compounds or we wouldn’t have been told to avoid it if we were pregnant or if we suffered from certain conditions.  But we weren’t informed at that stage what they are. The emphasis here wasn’t to look at what led the Elizabethan’s to believe in the power of pansies to pep up the procreative hormones – or whether this belief was already outdated by the time Shakespeare referred to it. Of course, we know everything now, so they quite simply must have been very, very silly indeed. In my view if would have been far funnier to look at why the Elizabethans came to see Pansies as an aphrodisiac…go on fellas, this is art, you can play with that one surely?!

So, wallowing in the disappointing absence of stimulating theatre and fresh off the heels of a lecture on Epigenetics I found my grey matter percolating away beneath its virgin scientist’s cap. You see, I had learnt that day all about how lifestyle factors can affect our health and well being by literally changing our genes – or the bit of the gene that can switch on and off (the epigenome). These changes can then be passed down at least two generations. Whilst good quality studies might be restricted to random historic events such as populations in utero during famine, the study of epigenetics suggests that a range of these ‘environmental insults’ as Anne Ferguson Smith refers to them – including psychological trauma – could change the way the body functions in the face of certain stimuli, including diet. This , of course, isn’t a surprise to acupuncturists.

Now, I may be clutching at straws here, but I am wondering if this fairly new area of science doesn’t pose issues for scientific smugness across the board. If famine can cause subsequent generations to exhibit statistically significant levels of metabolic diseases when they are exposed to normal diet doesn’t this suggest that any hormone reaction can be affected by the epigenome? If this is the case then we cannot assume we know everything there is to know about a population living over 400 years ago who may have been exposed to a very different set of environmental insults. The assumption ‘Pansies were once thought to be an aphrodisiac’ should be backed up by evidence based on the populations that assumed this – not, as they are, on modern populations. Given the scientific community’s obsession with evidence, I am wondering if this will filter through, or whether smugness will prevail.

Thankfully there were other things going on at the festival where arrogance was in short supply. Professor Rees’ lecture on surviving the century, for example, looked at how we might deal with the potential catastrophe that is population growth. Professor Rees was balanced in his view of the potential for technological advances to both help and hinder our survival. Rees quite rightly pointed out that 20 years ago an iphone would have belonged in science fiction. Considering the unprecedented developments in technology in the last 20 years it is difficult to predict where we might be 20 years from now. Thinking 450 years down the line is simply impossible. But I can’t help wondering  if the science festival will still be going by then, and if so, whether the audience at its token art-science lecture will be chortling away about an oh so very silly morning sickness drug that caused babies to be born with severe defects. If we are still human, I expect so.

 

Healing Kitchen: Simple ‘comfort’ stew with gluten free dumplings

March 14th, 2013

What a relief to see that long lost yellow orb in the sky…but hasn’t it been chilly? It definatley calls for something nourishing and filling. I was chatting to a patient of mine the other week about finding comfort foods when bread and cakes are off the menu for health reasons. So I told her I would blog my dumpling recipe…OK its not a quick fix meal but hey, its nearly the weekend so you have the perfect reason to try it…

My new course in food energetics Feeling your food (starts 30th May) will explore some creative ways of comfort eating for health – and this recipe I came up with is one of my favourites. You can use any herb combinations in the dumplings really…hardy ones work best. I spotted some wild garlic shoots this morning and I thought how nice these would be with wild garlic and thyme…yum! I’ll let you know in a few weeks.

Oven: 180
Time until you can eat: 1 1/2 hours
Serves: 3-4
 
For the stew:
1 large clove garlic, peeled & sliced
2 onions, peeled & chopped
2 leeks, washed, trimmed & chopped
1 Butternut, peeled & cubed
1 swede, peeled & cubed
2 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
2-3 Sprigs fresh oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper
1/2 pint vegetable or chicken stock
Variations: for a meat version seal some rice flour coated & seasoned chicken thighs in the casserole dish, remove, then add back in before putting in the oven
 
For the dumplings:
1/2 cup of brown rice flour
1/2 cup of millet
2 tbsp chopped oregano or sage
1 tbsp chopped rosemary
1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 small onion, finely diced
 
Instructions
Put oven on. Heat some olive oil in a casserole dish and add the garlic, onion and leek. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 5-10 minutes until starting to soften. Add the other vegetables, cumin and oregano. Season. Stir over the heat for a few minutes then add the stock and bring to a simmer. Once it is simmering put the lid on and pop the dish in the oven and set the timer to 1 hour. Take out to stir a couple of times over the next hour. Meanwhile prepare the dumplings.
 
Line a baking tray with parchment. Put all the dumlping ingredients except for the brown rice flour in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer on low with a lid on for 15 minutes until the millet has absorbed the water but isn’t quite cooked. Go and put your feet up while it is cooking!
 
Remove the millet from the heat. Put 1 tbsp of the rice flour in a deep round breakfast bowl or similar and stir the rest into the millet mixture with a spatula or wooden spoon. It will be very sticky but keep mixing! Once you have a consistent mixture, season the flour in the breakfast bowl and using two dessert spoons form a tangerine sized blob of millet mixture and place in the bowl with the seasoned flour. Using the two spoons roll the blob in the bowl to coat in flour and form into a nice ball. Once it is well coated it will stick less to the spoons and can more easily be handled. Place it on the baking tray. The mixture should make 12-14 dumplings – depending on the size you go for. You may need to add more brown rice flour to your breakfast bowl.
 
When you have used up all the mixture pop the tray in the oven with the stew and turn the temperature up to 200. Remove the stew when the timer goes off and check the dumplings. If they aren’t hard/crusty on the outside yet, leave them for a little longer. The stew will stay warm in the casserole dish.
 
Serve the stew in large bowls topped with dumplings and chopped parsley. Mm mmmm….
 
If you are interested in the Feeling your Food course please drop me an e-mail and I will send you some details/course outline. It starts on 30th May in Cheltenham at the Isbourne Centre. Thursday nights for 8 weeks.
 
Stay warm 🙂
 
 
 

 

Kate’s healing kitchen: a new adventure

February 16th, 2013

Hi everyone,

Many of you will know that I have a passion for healing through food. Coupled with acupuncture it has been a powerful way of life for me…allowing me to feel well without the use of western medications. So, I thought it about time I put this passion into action and start sharing some of my knowledge of food energetics so that I can help guide people to make choices that work for them. We are all different after all. The beauty of chinese medicine is its understanding that we are unique…and chinese nutrition is exactly the same as acupuncture in that it is tailored to the individual.

Eating healthily isn’t about judgement and feeling guilty – its about observing and understanding your relationship to food. This is an ongoing journey. If its a journey you are already on or one you want to embark on then look out for details of my new HEALING KITCHEN course Feeling your food.

I’m currently putting together the course content and am very excited because the overall thems is injecting joy and creativity into healthy eating. My hope is that people attending the course (8 weekly sessions starting in April) will learn enough to start making some changes in their lives that enhance their health and well being on all levels. We will be looking at the energetics of food according to ancient principles of Chinese medicine and making it relevant to both our unique systems as well as the modern world. I will post a sneak preview of the course in my next blog…

All the best

Kate

Thank you all!

February 11th, 2013

I’ve been so busy with new clients since you all got busy on my internet pages that the winter newsletter hasn’t even materialised – so whilst the spring one is on its way I thought some of you might be wondering where my total had got to!  I had 32 likes on my facebook page, 2 recommendations and 8 comments on my blog. By my reckoning that is £22. I’m going to double it in view of lots more comments to come! Thanks everyone who has taken part…I really appreciate it and I know MoxAfrica will too…

50 ways to love your liver: how to eat (part 2)

January 26th, 2013

Pay attention to posture: Eating at our desks or on our laps in front of the TV doesn’t really help our digestive systems work at their best. If you have any digestive issues at all then these habits need to go. It is no different to putting a chink in a hose pipe. Sitting straight gives our stomach, small intestine, liver and gallbladder room to do their work and sufficient oxygen will be available to assist them.

Learn how to breathe: It’s amazing how something we can’t live without is done so badly by so many! Take time to notice how you are breathing – are you breathing into the top of the lungs only, or are your breaths like those of someone who has just run somewhere because stress you are stressed? Taking the breath into the diaphragm might not be easy for everyone – but it will help to ensure that there are no blockages here – a key place for digestive issues. Taking 5 or so deep diaphragmatic breaths will actually improve the metabolism – very important if you are trying to lose weight but equally important for general health and well being.

Pay attention to how food makes you feel: Take some time to notice how you feel about food – both before and after. As a rule if the idea of a food makes you feel good but eating it makes you feel sluggish afterwards then it isn’t beneficial to your system. I think this is probably one of the hardest lessons to learn when changing a diet – quite often we don’t really feel like the healthy option – yet after we have eaten it we actually feel better. No regrets! The complete opposite of what happens when we go for the unhealthy option.  Taking time to notice how you feel after food will eventually help you to start focusing on this benefit before you eat – rather than getting consumed by the thought of taste pleasures.

I hope these tips are useful!

Kate

50 ways to love your liver: dandelion coffee (and other drinks)

January 24th, 2013

One of the best natural remedies for the liver is dandelion – both the leaves and the root. Its benefits are too wide ranging to list here, but weight loss and constipation are two of the more commonly cited. Dandelion coffee is dried and you can buy it in the form of Dandelion Coffee from a health food shop. It is nothing like real coffee although I suppose they share a bitter taste…I find it has a slight hint of chocolate flavour, but I can’t guarantee everyone will think that! 

I had a packet of it in my cupboard for about six months before I finally got round to buying a cheap coffee grinder so that I could actually make a drink with it. I kept thinking about all that it entailed and deciding it wasn’t something that could find its way into my lifestyle. How wrong I was! It has become an after dinner ritual this month – although I did nearly ruin a pan the other night when I forgot about it, so putting a timer on is recommended.

I grind up enough for three or four cups and store in a tupperware pot. I put 1-2 tsp in a pan with a couple of mugs of water and bring to simmer, then I just leave it on very low for half an hour and strain through a tea seive. I serve mine with rice milk but it can be taken plain or with other milk/milk substitutes.

If you are struggling to find replacements for tea and coffee because you’ve given up caffeine some other ideas are:

  • Green Tea (decaffeinated is available in some outlets) is a powerful antioxidant
  • Carrot Juice is full of vitamin A and Beta Carotene which are beneficial to the liver (add aloe vera juice for a powerful liver juice – or if you are constpitated)
  • Lemongrass tea or fennel tea aid digestion
  • Nettle tea is a powerful blood cleanser – its a bit early for fresh nettles but come the spring get picking!

It might take time to get used to these drinks but just think about how you are benefiting your system!

Happy drinking

Kate

50 ways to love your liver: Getting started

January 15th, 2013

Detox is a difficult subject to advise on because everybody will have different diets to start with and different levels of commitment. Also, because detoxing can cause symptoms you may need to see a nutritionist for advice on what supplements to take. I believe that too much too soon can cause quite a big stress to the system so it is best to do things in stages.  If you are having acupuncture treatment with me I can advise on what is best for you, based on my understanding of your constitution within Chinese medicine.

On the whole, in Chinese nutrition we look at removing excess yin and excess yang foods from the diet to enable it to heal. These mostly correspond with modern detox diets which generally see these foods as more difficult to digest, nutritionally pointless or toxic. If what the body has to process is easy to digest, healing can take place in the liver. Here are the foods to think about removing:-

  • Sugar, including honey and syrups
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Dairy products (butter, milk, cream, yoghurt) and other mouldy/damp foods such as peanuts, dried fruit, dried herbs. If you want to keep some dairy in the diet make it natural goat’s yoghurt. When reintroducing try to use yoghurt more than the others.
  • White bread and white flour products (or all gluten based grains if you are gluten free)
  • Red meat (and for a proper detox also remove chicken and eggs for a while)

A diet based on wholesome grains, fish, vegatables and fruit is what forms the bulk of most detox diets. But for some people this is a huge amount of change to implement. I would suggest choosing one or two items to get started. If you are game for helping your liver even more, add another two a fortnight later and so on.

The ideal would be to work towards going without the majority of any of these products for a period of 2-5 weeks – but even 3 days would be better than nothing. And a ten week period without one of these will help you liver more than doing nothing at all!

If you are going to choose a couple of these to start with there are two ways you can go – the easy way or the hard way. Of course the hard way will be better for you! You may have heard that we crave things that are particularly bad for us because going without it initiates a detox response (craving the substance the body is addicted to). So if there is something on this list that you think you absolutely cannot live without then the chances are this is doing your system more harm than any of the others. This is optimum one to remove from the diet!

Happy detoxing!

Kate

50 ways to love your liver: how to eat (part I)

January 7th, 2013

Before you even go down the road of adjusting your diet I think it’s really important to look at how you eat. The liver plays a central role in digestion and there are many things you can do to ease the digestive processes and boost the quality of the blood that is produced in your system.

Here are three top tips that you can put into action right now. If you want to also look at what to eat stay tuned for more 50 ways blogs…

ENGAGE THE SENSES

You may find Nigella Lawson completely over the top, but she does have something right in that food should be a sensual experience. In Chinese medicine the stomach channel starts at the eye, before travelling around the nose and mouth, down the neck and into the stomach itself. Too often we eat without even looking at our food (eating a sandwich whilst driving for example). If we eat things out of a packet we don’t really smell the food either. If we eat processed food this reduces our ability to taste healthy things like vegetables properly – and then we just crave salty, sugary things instead. If we don’t engage the senses we are bypassing important aspects of the digestive system.

RELAX

All stress (even good stress) is seen as stress by the body and when it is in flight or fight mode digestion will be compromised. My colleagues at Pure Body Balance say that you wouldn’t stop to pick and eat an apple if you were running away from danger. So true! If the body is in flight or fight mode the digestion suddenly gets less attention. If you have a stressful job or a stressful life just spend a few minutes relaxing before you eat. This can be as simple as just sitting quietly for 2 minutes and taking a few deep breaths.

JUST EAT

We digest at all levels – mentally we digest information and physically we digest our food. If you are working or reading whilst eating you are digesting at the mental level and this will take energy away from the physical act of digestion. Try to give time specifically to eating – just like you give time to filling your car up at the petrol station.

50 ways to love your liver: symptom checker

January 3rd, 2013

Because the liver is responsible for detoxifying the system, many symptoms people experience are a result of this process being compromised. If the liver can’t do its job, it starts asking other parts of the body to do it for it. For example, spots and acne will be a way in which the skin can release toxins to help the liver. Weight gain is a way of the body storing toxins in a safe way – when the liver is unable to fully detoxify them.

Other symptoms that can be related to the liver include:

  • Menstrual problems, including painful periods and PMS
  • Fertility problems
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Headaches and migraine
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Being unable to deal with stress
  • Angry outbursts, feelings of frustration
  • Digestive complaints
  • Sinus congestion
  • Food allergies

This list isn’t exhaustive but includes those I most commonly see in the Twelve Rivers clinics. I would include support to the liver in most treatment plans if these symptoms were presenting – in addition to constitutional support.

If you would like any more information, please feel free to contact me

All the best

Kate

There must be 50 ways to love your liver…

January 2nd, 2013

Wooohooo! It’s love your liver month – time to make a new plan stan!

I’m so excited because after ten days of relative excess I am devouring brown rice, fish and vegetables and it feels GREAT!

It isn’t just traditionally detox time because the shops don’t know what else to plug at this time of year and the majority of us have consumed too much over the festive period but also because this is the most important time seasonally to love your liver. This is something the Chinese have known for thousands of years – before we ever fully understood the scientific processes at work in the organ with chief responsibility for detoxifying the system.

This is because the liver gives us our capacity for action (think about how far you move on a bad hangover) and is associated with the season of action – spring. If the liver is nice and healthy you will be able to move into the yang of spring more easily than you will if the liver is taxed. All of our energy will necessarily have to step up a notch as spring arrives and loving your liver for the next few weeks will make all the difference to the spring in your step…

So, I’m going to find 50 ways to love your liver this month…

Before I begin looking at how to eat and what to eat over the next few weeks there is a very simple thing you can start with right now. Buy some organic lemons and when you get up tomorrow morning have warm water and a slice of lemon – before you do anything else. If you are feeling particularly toxic you can replace some of those cups of tea with hot water and lemon throughout the day. If you are quite a cold person add some ginger too…

Whilst many people think of lemon as being acidic it is actually alkalising for the liver. You may find this drink causes some reflux and belching – but this is the body starting to move stagnant energy. The less stagnation and blockages, the better everything flows in the system…and the better you will feel.

Try and it and see…

Kate

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