Nutrition: A problem of supply and demand

A core concept to understand in maximising health is that our bodies are constantly managing supply and demand.

We have evolved to expect continual change and be ready for both the best and the worst which requires the ability to predict future demand. This is as true for energy as it is for other nutrients like vitamins and minerals. All nutrients are dangerous in too high a quantity and our bodies are designed to store and use them within certain limits. Thus a fine balance is what it aims for along with the ability to manage the situation if too much or too little is taken up. These cases require buffer systems to ensure no major problems occur.

The impact of this was highlighted to me when I learnt about a study that looked into the effects of both supply and demand on nutrients. In this case it was vitamin D.

The overall concept is about balance. Creating demand within the body is critical for it to make proper use of the supply. Good supply is not enough it even risks flooding your body with nutrients it’s unable to properly manage. Leading to damage and side effects.


Caffeine and migraine: Report: Today it has made me nervous!!!

Just a quick report.

Yesterday I tried having two teaspoons of coffee instead of one. Not a huge change for most people but a lot for me. Oh, and it was normal coffee not decaf. I’ve moved on a long way in my tolerance this past year.

I can’t help but notice how tense I have been since yesterday. Totally abnormal for me. This has been a really relaxing weekend with the Australian Open on just sorting out the house and chilling.

My pulse is faster than normal, my stomach feels like it almost has a knot in it. No matter what I do to relax the feeling is still there. I’ve tried a little meditation, seen a film at the cinema and also distracted myself with house stuff. Normally that’s plenty to let me relax. Even a nice lay in this morning had no effect.

I also felt more tired than normal by the evening yesterday. Needing a little cola to perk me up. That is not me at all. I rarely flag later in the day unless I have a really busy day and at the end of a busy week. I shouldn’t feel like that this weekend, it’s been particularly relaxing and stress free.

Though the feelings I have been having are common when I have when I have more caffeine than usual and are why I want to build up my tolerance. I just felt I should record this to compare with next time and see if it’s a trend. These symptoms reflect what I hear caffeine though I may have misunderstood or remembered the symptoms of excess caffeine incorrectly so I want to check my facts. Overall I want to understand what good and bad things caffeine can do.

I see it as a tool to train your nervous system. Overload it, but it isn’t without risks and I’m not in favour of using chemicals to achieve results. So often the risks out weight the benefits. I build my tolerance to caffeine so that it doesn’t affect me like it is right now. Though I don’t want to increase my dose forever. I just want to find out the balance that’s right for me.


Nurturing The Brain – Part I, Caffeine: A useful summary of what caffeine is and how it effects the brain.


Make christmas work for you!!!

So the festival is upon us. How much fun we will have. What I like to do is make the fun work for me, making me healthier not heavier. It took a long time to learn but now it has just become part of the normal day.

I’m no expert I just do it for fun. I’ve learnt most things for other people. It’s always amazing how many fun ideas you can learn. So I just thought I would pay it forward, share some simple tips, see if they help anyone.

Quality over quantity

Since there is so much food around I often start getting picky. Most of the year I’m a gannet. That’s still true at christmas but I get a lot more tactical. I could just eat a lot. That’s easy to do but I have learnt that when I eat a lot then I don’t really appreciate the actual food as it goes down. I don’t really enjoy the process.

If I am going to get fatter that’s fine I know plenty about losing it later on but I’d rather enjoy the process. Be able to look at each extra inch and remember the fun it represents. My answer is to make each mouthful special. Sometimes by choosing the most expensive or indulgent food but most often its about keeping things interesting and responding to the spur of the moment and embracing variety.

This is the theme running through these tips. Being healthy should be fun. This is how I make it so.


This time of year there are so many different types of food around I play with combining them it is much more fun to eat the same food in different ways. A simple example is mince pies. I love them but having three in a row is enough. I lose the taste for them. But if I vary what I have with them then each time its a different taste and exciting and interesting again. So I have one pie with cream, the other creme fraiche, the next yoghurt, then custard. I might add herbs and spices as well like mint or cinnamon and finally I might even pair it simply with a little fruit like a satsuma or apple.

It totally depends how I feel but each time I can match the food with my mood.  Making a simple pie into something wholly indulgent or light and satisfying or whatever I really feel like. Finding food combinations is easy. I just experiment, google and try all sorts of ideas from the cooking books and sites out there. It’s work but it’s fun too once you get the hang of it.

There are lots of ideas out there. for a little inspiration here are some recipes to give you ideas. don’t get hung up on the whole recipe, the concept what makes it fun is what is important


I wasn’t raised to combine fruit with meat. The one exception was apple sauce for lamb but I’ve noticed more and more cultures happily mix the two. This is a great option because you can mix the indulgence of the meat with the fruit making the whole essentially lighter and better for you. At the same time the flavour combinations can be quite simply divine. So you can focus on taste and quality while reducing your calories so it’s a win win situation. 
Obvious combinations are pork and either orange or apple along with duck and orange but as I investigated I found a lot more combinations are used. I’ve seen banana, obviously pineapple works with ham or cheese, in fact cheese is perfect with fruit, I mentioned mince pies before and I find it cuts through lots of indulgent desserts. There is also fish. Lemon and orange can work with various seafood. 
The point being that these are natural culinary combinations which really bring out the flavours of food. The fruit juices are great on their own with food or as part of sauces like gravies, custards or creams. Once I got thinking of this I started having loads of fun.


Rather than eat all the time I start to pace myself. I might skip breakfast or lunch. Not something I normally do christmas is the peak of the food year. So now it makes the most sense. Since I often eat double in one meal I then miss the next to balance it out. It’s always a personal decision. I just find that I feel much less bloated. I’m ready for each meal instead of full before I even start. 
I judge when to skip a meal often when I start to feel the fat running through my veins. Everything starts to feel slow.It’s been a while so I forget the exact feeling but I can tell my body has fed so well that it doesn’t need any food for a while. 
There you have it. I haven’t shared everything. There hasn’t been time. Like I say I’ve learnt it all from others who were having fun. I hope it helps you get even more out of christmas too. 

What factors make us kick the bucket?

I hear so much about what risk factors there are to make us die sooner and all the things we should do or not do but because I like to research both sides of the story I always find things that contradict each other.

I’m coming round to the view that the overall risk really depends on where we are in our lives at any particular time. I don’t know if I can put this concept across well enough but I’ll try. (more…)

Gluten free Yes or No?

I don’t know enough about the gluten free debate which is the food trend de jour but I have experienced my fair share of fads. Not to say that Coeliac disease is a fad. Quite the opposite. That is a clear definable disease. I’m talking about people diagnosing themselves without due care. Making extreme and sudden changes to their diet without any real consideration for the wider implications on a previously stable and healthy ecosystem inside their gut.

It will sound crazy at first but I think these sudden changes we do all too often could actually cause our bodies injury and thus more problems than those we are initially trying to solve.

Injury….. yep injury. How can you injury your stomach? you ask. Good question.

Just like you can injure yourself by taking up exercise and increasing your activity too quickly. Before your bones, muscles and connective tissue can adapt to the increasing demands. Eventually they develop weaknesses and something breaks and you get injured. The same can happen with your stomach. Your stomach is like any other part of your body. It is built for the recent demands of your lifestyle, your diet and its contents being those demands. It will have developed the required bacteria and disposal methods and know how to handle correctly the food and drink you eat.

Change your diet drastically and suddenly the stomach won’t be fit for purpose. The bacteria won’t break everything down correctly, there will be waste it can’t deal with. If it doesn’t get broken down properly then it won’t pass through your gut in a normal way. This can mean pain and things getting stuck and the stomach itself being hurt because it isn’t ready for what’s happening.

If you had changed your diet slowly the stomach could have managed the process better. Adapting it’s content of bacteria to handle the new foods and learning how to deal with their waste. Making sure nothing gets stuck and excess, gas, liquid or whatever is dealt with properly. The same goes for your stomach lining. It is built for purpose. Change what you ask of it and it needs time to adapt. If you don’t give it enough time it may simply not be able to adjust fast enough and get hurt in the process. An injury.

Most injuries need time to heal. A drastic change in diet is very likely to prevent healing, at least for a while until the stomach learns to deal with the new diet. If it doesn’t heal properly or at all you will eventually notice new problems. Though you are very unlikely to realise that changing your diet so drastically was the cause. Your stomach doesn’t have any pain receptors so it can’t tell you if it’s injured. That’s why you have to learn to understand the signs of it working well and it being injured.

You are free to agree or disagree with this concept. It is just my opinion which reflects my experience and knowledge. It works well for me and helps me take care of my stomach and ensures I get what I need from my diet.

I came across a very balanced review of the gluten free debate and I wanted to get you thinking critically about how you treat your stomach before reading it. The point is that the gluten debate is just the current food debate. These are ongoing and will never stop. So it’s worth stepping back and thinking more about how your body actually works and how you work with it instead of just making a huge decision without really understanding how your stomach gets the job done.

Have a read through The great gluten-free scam and let me know what you think. I found it a balanced article. You can easily switch the topic of gluten in its words to any of the other ideas we’ve been told about over the last few decades and the article would still read the same and have the same message. The reality is that life isn’t really changing and neither is the food industry.

Simple lunches: Avocado, cherry tomatoes and pasta

My personal challenge. Find meals with vegetables as the main attraction that you want to eat time and again. This is my simple attempt. Inspired by Nigel Slater and others. A friend introduced me to Avocado and I’ve been using it ever since. I took the photo heading this post of my lunch. The beauty was just picking this out of the fridge and throwing it together. a Little fresh basil from the window ledge and a little seasoning.

There is something for me about the creamyness of avocado that accentuates every dish it is in. It is not a heavy feeling but light and fresh. The taste is very subtle but it lifts everything. In this dish brings out the strong flavour of the cherry tomatoes.

I’m always looking for ideas. If you have a simple meal like this let me know in the comments below.

Feast and Famine: Is that what our bodies expect?

I was in the Open University library a couple of weeks back. I had the urged to pop down the human biology section and see what caught my eye. I know I shouldn’t admit to that because it’s far too sad, but that’s how much this stuff fascinates me.

Anyway I picked up a book named ‘Human Biology and Health: An evolutionary approach‘ and I was hooked at the first. I can’t remember every detail but basically began forming a few theories based on what I have already read. I also used other references but can’t for the life of me find them. So I’ll just have to launch in.

What does it do?

The theory I was working on is basically a way toxins can build up in the body and how they can be got rid of. With this knowledge we can adjust our lifestyles to take advantage of this. Eliminating toxins from our body should be a great way of minimising their bad effects. Much like taking out the trash.

How does it work?

The way this works is because the body has certain mechanisms in place to get energy from cells that aren’t needed by the body or are marked as dangerous. This mechanism is not used if you eat plenty. Thus those who eat less than others are more likely to use it and thus get rid of bad things from their body. I think I’ve held off putting this out there in case anyone reads this too literally. You still need to eat enough high quality food to thrive. My approach is through using intermittent fasting so I flush my body with great food regularly so I’m always healthy. Then when I think it’s full of nutrients I fast for a day or so to encourage my body to break up the bad cells for food and get rid of their contents.

More detail please!!!

Ok, here I’ll explain this in a little more depth.

From human biology and health I came across a possible explanation why people who eat little could live longer.  The theory began with how toxins build up in the liver and ultimately cause it to fail. The process would work like so:

  • Toxins in food get absorbed in the gut and sent to the liver.
  • The liver doesn’t get rid of toxins so they get more concentrated.
  • Toxin build up causes problems and these mount up.
  • Organs start failing.
  • Then you die.

Then I came across research that showed that our body actually obtains energy from devouring its own cells. It’s also not a random act. The immune system is constantly patrolling our body through killer B and T cells. Any bad cells that can’t be devoured on the spot are marked for deletion. Since we’ve normally lived in periods of feast and famine you body seems to assume that during the next period of famine these cells will be lost and the body will be cleaned.

The main problem these days in western societies is that few of us have problems getting enough to eat all year round. Thus it’s entirely possible that we’re all slowly building up bad pollutants and cells in our bodies and over time their effects show as all the diseases and problems that affect western society. Before modern times our lifestyles got rid of these toxins. These days they don’t and they build up and cause problems.

What’s the evidence?

Obviously that’s a big claim and I can’t vouch for exactly how much it all stacks up. It does make sense in a logical way though. That our bodies mark up cells for deletion is something I’ve heard a lot before. That they’d be the first to go if we couldn’t get enough food. That makes sense too. That only recently has there been enough food for all. That’s well known. That all those who reach truly exceptional ages over a hundred are all on the thinner side and seem to eat frugally in general. That seems to be the case too.  I have noticed many times that while larger people can be very healthy there seem to be less and less of them that make it to an older age. That said I’m not sure if they just get thinner as they get older so maybe they were larger when younger but not when older.

What also makes sense is that cells that have become cancerous would, in theory, be ejected from the body in this way reducing the likelihood that a cancer could take hold. It also implies that without this mechanism the risk of all related diseases would be higher. That seems to be the case according to health statistics.

I do wonder if our bodies are essentially well adapted for feast and famine and thus our constant feast is something we’re not suited to. If that’s the case then coming up with safe ways to implement a famine (I’d prefer just a simple fast of a morning or a day) could be useful. As long as we’re aware of the risks and don’t get carried away. Don’t forget just living your life according to hunger. That often works for me. If I’m not hungry I don’t eat. If I am I do.

Another easy and useful way to create a famine like situation is being active which helps for two main reasons.

  1. Firstly, moving makes your body work the way it’s supposed to. Exercise creates a demand for energy within the body forcing the food from the famine to be put to use and forcing the cells to use the food properly to get stuff done.
  2. Secondly, being active every day burns a few more calories. It doesn’t mean much in the short term but adds up to a lot over the long term.

This sounds like a very simple answer to a complex problem. The beauty is it that it uses what is currently known to explain how we could survive in the tough conditions we’ve faced over the years. There could easily be a lot that I haven’t thought of or I could have misinterpreted things. Either way I look forward to your comments and seeing if this theory holds water over time.

Learn more about the effect of physical inactivity on disease worldwide and what you can do to help prevent obesityinsulin resistanceheart disease and Diabetesdementia and alzheimers and even Cancer through exercise.
Feast and Famine: Is that what our bodies expect? first appeared on my original blog. Cell Your Sole is my new focus for health posts so I’m re posting relevant articles here.

Blood pressure and salt: A question of balance

Here’s a fascinating insight. High Blood pressure could have some relation to your ability to balance the level of salt in your body.

That’s the advice from Marc Pelletier discussing research on blood pressure on episode 103 of Dr Kiki’s science hour podcast .

Marc explains that his research indicates that high blood pressure could be a problem of salt balance and water balance. The brain having more power to regulate water than the kidneys.

Similarities to Diabetes

My interpretation is that it could be similar to the way sugar regulation is so critical to diabetes. Essentially diabetics have trouble regulating the sugar levels in blood and cells. It is fixed by helping the body regulate sugar. Activity, running around, plays a key role by improving levels of an insulin specific sugar receptor. Diabetes has wider ranging implications just because sugar regulation is faulty. So activity can fix sugar regulation and prevent so many of the negative effects of diabetes.

I’m wondering if salt and high blood pressure could have a similar story. Could activity help in a similar way.

Activity regulates sugar?

The reason activity helps diabetes is because activity forces the body to regulate sugar well. You see this in all sports research on making people run fast or far. The improvements always come from preserving sugar within cells. So obviously each improvement that makes you run further requires that your body be better at storing and preserving cell sugar. So a fit person can’t have diabetes, type II at least, because they are opposites. The take home lesson Diabetics can’t control their cell sugar levels well while fit people can.

Could activity regulate salt?

So could the same be true for high blood pressure. Activity forces the body to regulate salt. Because salt is key in being good at sports. It makes your nerves work properly, encourages the right type of chemical reactions and basically makes the body work properly. Low salt might also be one of the causes of cramps. So you need salt to be in the right places in the right amounts through out your body to be fit and perform well when running around.

Exercise is known to lower high blood pressure. It makes sense that this could be one of the ways it works. The idea being that someone who runs around a lot and pushes themselves physically will be able to regulate salt in their blood and cells very well and blood pressure will be normal. At the same time those people who don’t run around often develop high blood pressure because their bodies aren’t being pushed to regulate their salt well. So the blood and cell salt levels aren’t controlled and bad things happen.

That’s the theory I take from this. I hope it makes sense. Now I can look at investigating it.

I have just found another clue to the question why salt raises blood pressure. The explanation is that salt triggers adrenaline which constricts blood vessels and raises blood pressure. Similar results are found in pubmed and thankfully this all backs up the concept that to regulate your salt levels is to regulate your blood pressure.