I spend an awful lot of time thinking about food. From what treats I might whip up for a friend’s birthday to how I can use up an obscene quantity of [insert fruit here] that I bought discounted at closing time, cooking and eating are sacred pursuits in my books. My idea of downtime consists of attempting a recipe that’s been on my radar and thus far remained out of reach. A creative challenge, if you will. Or a stroll around the farmer’s market scouting out the freshest and juiciest. And to me, the best part of family time is the pot-luck style weekends we spend together where we each prepare and share something with the clan. Food is life and life is glorious.

There’s an additional set of rules that I play by though, as well as navigating a never-ending sea of deliciousness. They are as follows: sustainability is key and maintaining excellent health paramount. The non-compromisables are:

  1. Ingredients purchased must be naked or housed in minimal/recyclable packaging
  2. Ingredients purchased must be organic and/or local wherever possible; ideally both
  3. No meat, no dairy

I straddle the fence on:

  1. Honey: I’ll allow it if it’s local and/or organic
  2. Eggs: I’ll eat them occasionally if they’re from chickens who live in my neighbourhood, such as those that belong to a friend
  3. Sugar: I am a baker through and through, so I don’t treat it like the devil. I simply keep a check on how much I consume because I’m also trying to heal my endocrine system post-HBC

But something has been on my mind lately; something that worries me so. As I scrutenise the faddy food vibes of the times, I realise that there’s an undeniable impetus in our collective gravitation towards ‘clean eating’ or ‘superfoods’ as if they alone will be our saviours. As I’ve just mentioned – I have rules too, sure. But I worry when I see and hear food being treated as something that has a defined good and bad side. As if devouring a donut is akin to dancing with the devil.

An obsession with healthy eating (formally known as orthorexia) is an interesting one. Give it a cursory glance and you might wonder how on earth it could be a bad thing, but take a closer look and you see that it’s an addiction no better than any other. How can you expect food to save you if your entire body is riddled with anxiety swimming around every mouthful?

Have you seen that coconut oil is now considered akin to poison by Harvard scientist, Karin Michels? I mean, the statement is a little attention-grabbing in my opinion, but Michels highlights the important point that coconut oil does indeed contain 86% saturated fat, which is approximately 1/3 more than butter. And what do we know about consumption of saturated fats? They increase our risk of heart disease and stroke. The word butter is synonymous with obesity these days and coconut oil, well: the lean, mean millenial. But really, when you break it down chemically, it’s all much of a muchness, yet coconut oil has a remarkable cachet that fools consumers into believing that it can do no wrong.

These findings conflict with earlier studies that suggested that coconut oil may lower the risk of heart disease. We also known that it boasts antimicrobial properties which are excellent for the body. But to be treated as a panacea? That’s where things start to fall apart. Why is it that we’re so credulous?

Just as we want our skincare to miraculously perfect us, so too do we want our meals to cure all ailments and help us achieve the kind of perfection that we are exposed to every day via social media, television and the occasional glossy magazine. Unachievable perfection is the thing to strive for. We’re told that it’s real and well within our reach, if only we juice one more jug of greens.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I am a firm believer in the healing powers of food. A big vegetable soup sorts a cold right out and a homemade pesto pizza offers soul food not quite like anything else. But it’s foolish of us to think that eating well can compensate for other areas of our lives that need changing. It will also not help heal of all the inflammation one experiences by panicking that one too many grams of fat or sugar might have been consumed that day. All that stress, all that cortisol in the body, well….no amount of avocado-quinoa-kale salads are going to counteract that.

Optimal health is a multi-faceted state of being that depends upon adequate nutrition, but also mental and physical wellbeing. We know that stress leads to disease. Our lives are busy and they always will be. But if we’re not allowing meal times to be enjoyable and indulgent experiences because we’re too worried that what we’re eating might verge on dirty, we’re missing what’s there; what’s sacred: an opportunity to relax and enjoy ourselves, hopefully in good company.

I also wonder this: why is food getting all the attention? Am I the only one that thinks it’s just a little bit silly that we see no issues with continuing to pollute our seas with ton after ton of plastic and our air with an array of noxious fumes, cut down our rainforests and flood our coastlines and somehow focus all of our attention on what we eat as though it will somehow rectify the deeply unhappy state that we – as part of a collective organism that is life on Planet Earth – find ourselves in? Woah, took a dark turn, right? I don’t beat around no bush. If that’s what you’re after, probably better to go check out one of those clean-eating bloggers who will tell you that green juices are the answers to all of your problems.

Holistic health is the only approach to our wellbeing. True wellbeing. And part of what we need is an environment that is clean and supportive. In its current state, it is blighted; on bowed legs and desperately in need of the respect it deserves. As long as we continue to exploit it as we do, we continue to hurt our health. Yes, no matter the amount of fad foods that we force-feed ourselves. Glyphosate, a decline in bees, air pollution from all the VOCs, microplastics, light pollution, noise pollution…and we think that the quinoa will save us? It’s time to wake up and take a look around. If we spent half as much time on environmental preservation as we do obsessing about our daily juice, we might have a real shot at saving ourselves.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

 

 

Thank you to everyone who read my last post on nasty hormonal birth control. I had some wonderful feedback from several like-minded ladies who either quit some time ago or needed that extra push to make the decision to do so now. It seems I’ve had conversations in every avenue of my life about HBC and I’m genuinely convinced that the uterus revolution is happening.

I wanted to make this more of an informative post. If you’re feeling the need to throw your pills away, but likening the ‘afterlife’ to standing on the edge of a deep abyss, worry not, I’ve got you covered. I’d like to talk about 4 books today that have utterly changed my life and I’m hoping they can do the same for you. The first two are eye-opening, anger-inducing and damn right essentials that any woman (or girl!) must read if considering HBC. For anyone umming and ahhing, or for someone who’s quit but toying with the idea of crawling back – read these before you do. The other two reads are informative with constructive, concrete steps in maintaining healthy menstrual cycles and using the Fertility Awareness Method either for contraception, conception or simply living more in tune with your body. So, without further ado.

The Pill: Are You Sure It’s For You? By Jane Bennett & Alexandra Pope – I wolfed this down in a couple days and readily thrust it at every girlfriend I can, akin to a grandma trying to carb-load her offspring. Incredibly well-written and full of some pretty horrifying facts, this book discusses recognising the side-effects of HBC, both in the physical and emotional realms. It talks about libido, depression, migraines, cancer, heart disease and the importance of having and accepting your menstrual cycle. It’s a health indicator, after all, and one that can tell us a plethora of important information about how we’re doing from month to month.

Sweetening The Pill (Or How We Got Hooked On Hormonal Birth Control) By Holly Grigg-Spall – This is one that will make you angry, all right! Devoured within days again, this looks at how the pill was created and how it’s become ‘the norm’ for so many women in today’s world. It discusses the approach to contraception in different communities and cultures and highlights the worrying truth that girls as young as 13 are terrified into taking the pill (or other long-term contraception like the implant or IUD) because they’re told they’re walking baby machines. This simply isn’t the case and it puts forth the question of why a male version of the pill was quickly rejected due to ‘potentially harmful side effects’, yet many women live with these unquestioned. A fascinating insight into the world of the pharmaceutical industry and western medicine and how it’s more sinister that you might initially think.

Womancode: Perfect Your Cycle, Amplify Your Fertility, Supercharge Your Sex Drive and Become A Power Source By Alisa Vitti – OK, so the anger has subsided and you’re thirsty for knowledge. You know the pill has been terrible for you and you’ve learned about the importance of having your menstrual cycle month to month. What can you do from here? How can you get back normal cycles after years of having suppressed them? What can you do to have regular cycles so that you can use the Fertility Awareness Method as a form of contraception or conception if trying to have a baby? Womancode is an excellent source of information about how to have a regular cycle and heal conditions like PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, painful periods, infertility etc. It discusses nutrition, exercise and lifestyle factors that you should consider. It’s a bit of a bible that you’ll want to keep handy and refer to often.

Taking Charge Of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler – The mother of all books on the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), Weschler’s book has been cited countless times and the principles within it adopted by everyone using FAM today. Use this to educate yourself in how to use FAM as a tool for either avoiding or planning baby-making and fling at your friend who says, “oh man, you’re not doing that stupid rhythm method, are you?” This is a book that should be given to every pubescent female as a “period textbook” of sorts so she can track her cycles, learn about her body and use as a form of contraception when she’s ready, avoiding all the nasty side effects of hormonal interference.

I would love to read your recommendations if you’re on a similar journey yourself. What’s been catching your attention? What are your thoughts on HBC?

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miso soup

For some reason, when I hear the word fermented, I think of it as being synonymous with festering. It’s not. That’s such a putrid, incorrect association that was so unfortunately formed in one of my synapses. But there we go. No, fermentation is actually the chemical breakdown of a substance by one or more microorganisms that convert sugars to acids, gases or alcohol. And when it comes to foods, fermentation makes things better (not like festering, which means something gets worse…). I’ve just finished a course of antibiotics and I believe that stuffing my face full of fermented foods has made all the difference. The usual side-effects that I get were not to be seen, so they clearly did something! And I’ll definitely be carrying on with having them in my diet for numerous other reasons.

Fermented foods include the likes of sauerkraut, kimchee, miso, kombucha, probiotic yoghurt, natto, tempeh, and so many others that you may not have heard of. They’re pungent, acquired-taste-required foods that I feel are losing the battle to the more bland and processed foods on the market. Sure, they’ve got a noticeable taste, but adjust your palette and you’ll be loving them in no time. Especially when you think about all the good that they can do for your body.

When you hear about fermented foods being described as those that are full of bacteria, I realise how that might make you wince. But make no mistake – these are good bacteria. Not the kind that will make you ill. They are species that aid our bodily functions. These include aiding digestion, boosting the immune system, keeping our, ahem, downstairs regions free of nasties like thrush and UTIs, boosting healthier skin, and increasing energy levels. You see, pumping your system full of good bacteria forces out the bad bacteria and yeast that can otherwise take over. The good outcompetes the bad. And these common species fall within two genera: Bifidobacterium spp. and Lactobacillus spp,.

Bifidobacterium spp. are natural inhabitants of our gut, vagina and mouth. Treatments where Bifidobacterium was given to those suffering from colitis was found to reduce inflammation in patients and improve rates of remission. That’s pretty astounding when you think about it. But it doesn’t have to be limited to those suffering from a terrible bowl condition. It reduces inflammation caused by any irritating foods and will combat nasty bloating. There’s also evidence for it helping IBS sufferers, so if you’re one of the many, definitely start consuming.

Then there’s Lactobacillus spp. Lactobacillus acidophilus is one of the most popular for its ability to prevent thrush caused by candida, as well as helping with the gut. It creates by-products that include lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide when it metabolises the foods in our body. These kill off candida yeast. Candida are found naturally in our body and in low numbers do no harm. In fact, they even aid functions like digestion. But when we consume too many sugary carbohydrates, they proliferate. When this happens, it’s bad news. They make us feel tired, cause various autoimmune diseases, cause vaginal infections, make us irritable and make us crave yet more sugary food.

Probiotics are a healthy addition to the diet of anyone at any time, but they really come into their own for those on antibiotics or those having eaten irritating, processed foods. I’ve just been dealing with the former, unfortunately. And I can say from first-hand experience that they have done me the world of good. I’ve had to take antibiotics a good few times in my twenty-six years and every time I do I am met with nausea and thrush. Every. Single. Time. And it sucks. But it’s normal. If you’ve suffered from the same thing, I’m here to tell you that you are not alone! Nausea is listed as a common side effect, but I read about thrush being this ‘very rare’ potential side effect and I’m like, ‘but everyone I know who takes antibiotics gets thrush?’ *bewildered shrug*.

Antibiotics kill off all the bacteria in your body. The aim is to kill what’s made you sick, but a negative side effect is killing everything else off in the process. This includes the healthy, wonderful helpers that keep our bodily functioning nice and efficiently. Combating these side effects can be done by consuming probiotics, whether that’s in food form or in a pill. I put sauerkraut on everything I could this past week, ate a bowl of miso soup every day and took an L. acidophilus capsule daily with a meal. The trick, however, is to try to consume these as far apart from your antibiotics doses as possible, to minimise how many are killed by the antibiotic. I took my first antibiotic when I woke up, but didn’t take my second until 3-4pm, so lunch around midday was a great time to get the probiotics in my system. The same thing occurred for dinner. My last dose of antibiotics was around 10pm, so dinner around 6 or 7pm gave me another opportunity to get my fill. The result? I suffered no negative side effects. Pretty incredible, considering what I’ve experienced in the past.

While I love the strong flavours of kimchi and sauerkraut, they’re obviously not the kinds of foods I’ll be eating every day for the rest of my life now that I’m off the meds. However, I now think of them as delicious medicines, in a weird way. If I’m going to have a veggie dog in a white bread roll, a sauerkraut topping will definitely help the digestion along. Or if I ever have a heavy lunch of pizza and dough balls, an afternoon miso soup will do wonders.

No one likes the bloat, or feeling like their body is heavy and holding on to all that processed, difficult-to-digest material. Do yourself a favour and introduce probiotics as a way of helping yourself along. I know I certainly will be. Now to go make myself some kimchi, because ohmygodit’sthebest. Recipe might follow soon on that one, hmm…

Probiotics! What are your thoughts?!

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