Monday, 26 January 2015

What does my midweek shopping trolley / cart look like?

So what can I eat on a low carbohydrate,natural food or paleo diet?

Here's my cart from today, now I'm the only one in my family that is paleo-ish/ natural foods / low carbohydrate. So the organic brown bread isn't for me nor are the bananas. But I will have some of the organic potatoes when I'm carb backloading or having a carb refeed day.

So there is some healthy vegetables - sprouts, cauliflour, mushrooms, parsnips, carrots and potatoes.

Some salmon and beef for a dinner or two, as well as some high quality full fat greek style yogurt. Cheese and Ham for snacks for the children and myself.

Not to mention the obligatory bacon and liver. Which is what I'm tucking into now as I'm writing this evening.

All in all, not a bad shopping cart for anyone interested in healthy eating. (minus the bread).

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Magnesium - Importance, deficiency and what to do about it.

It's not new news to you that Magnesium is a very important mineral for our body.
Magnesium has been found to be used in over 350 known biochemical processes. A normal healthy adult has about 25 grams in their body and it is stored mainly in deep tissue and bones.

Magnesium has a relationship with calcium and vitamin D in the body as well.
For example if you have a severe magnesium deficiency then you will also be deficient in calcium. However if you supplement with calcium you won't increase your body's levels of calcium without increasing magnesium levels first.
If you increase your magnesium levels alone though your calcium levels will also increase.

If you have hypocalcemia (hypo - for low or lacking and hyper- for too much) also supplement with magnesium. Often calcium supplements also contain magnesium but it is often quite small amounts of the RDA.

If you have a magnesium deficiency then you may suffer from the following:

  • seizures
  • headaches
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • vertigo
  • vision changes
  • insomnia
  • unrefreshed sleep
  • mental fatigue
  • aches and pains
  • disorientation
  • anxiety
  • hyperactivity
  • constipation
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • jitters
  • pins and needles
  • muscle pain
  • tooth decay
  • carbohydrate intolerance
  • extreme thirst
  • dry itchy skin
and the list goes on and on. Suffice to say that if anything is wrong, there's a good chance that magnesium might be playing a role in it. 

Magnesium deficiency - How does it happen?

Well it's not as simple as saying that we don't eat a magnesium rich diet. In fact we don't. The WHO estimate that 75% of Americans have a magnesium intake that falls below the RDA. 
The RDA for men is 420mg.

We don't eat enough magnesium is a fact. But it's not as simple.
We need to understand the absorption or lack of, retention and elimination of magnesium in the body.

Here are some of the main sources of magnesium in the diet. It can be hard to remember all the sources of magnesium but in most instances foods that are high in fiber are also higher in magnesium.

Dark leafy greens such as spinach: 1 cooked cup provides 157mg
Nuts and seeds: 1/2 cup 600mg
1 Avacado: 15% of RDA

Here is an article with detailed amounts of magnesium per food types and it's worth checking if a few simple changes in foods eaten could help. Perhaps adding fish to your evening meal or an Avacado for a snack during the day. There is no doubt that the best way to get all our vitamins including magnesium is from our food. But in most cases it just isn't possible to get all our nutrients that way. That's where deficiency comes in and the need for some supplementation or very deliberate food choices every day.

If you have magnesium deficiency the RDA might not be enough for you. You may even need to take up to double the RDA because you are lacking and below what the RDA was based on.
The RDA recommendations are based on a "normal" person whose magnesium levels aren't deficient.

The use of Magnesium in our body depends on it's Absorption, Retention and Elimination.


Like all things that we consume there is always some particles that are left undigested and therefore not absorbed. The same is true of magnesium. Some supplements are barely absorbed, and even the highly absorbable forms can lack effectiveness if we are not in a good place to accept them. Here's why.
Everything we digest goes into our gut. The gut is also known as the microbiome.  A destinct home of micro organisms / bacteria that breaks down our food. In some ways we are a walking bag of bacteria. They outnumber the cells in our body 10:1!

If our gut home is out of order, lacking or damaged in some way, then it's ability to extract all the goodness from foods and nutrients is deminished and malabsorption will occur.

The gut can become damaged or leaky if it is irritated or inflamed, this can happen because of gut overgrowths like candida, or from foods that we are in some way allergic to.
The lining of the gut becomes inflamed and then the gut itself can leak and we poison ourselves to a degree and have a poorly performing digestive system.
So it is important to make sure that we don't have a leaky gut that is being damaged by gluten or some other allergen that we can't cope with.

But there are several tools to make absorption better in the gut. It may be improved by the use of prebiotics and probiotics.
Prebiotics and probiotics can help to feed the good bacteria within our gut.

Another method of absorption is the use of topical magnesium solutions. Epsom salts baths are magnesium baths. The Epsom Salt Council recommends soaking 3 times week for at least 12 minutes in standard warm water bathtub with 2 cups of Epsom Salt added. However even though beneficial, absorption rates differ from person to person and as a result quantification of levels is difficult. It's a good excuse for a hot relaxing bath though!


Research has shown that a deficiency of vitamin B6 and taurine causes a greater lack of retention of magnesium.
Vigourous exercise also increases losses of magnesium along with the usual alcohol, caffeine, sugar and foods high in oxalates.

Choosing supplementation

That's where supplementation comes into play. But for the best results it's best to choose your magnesium wisely. There are many forms that magnesium comes in, and what is important is the packing agents used and the bioavailability of the magnesium. Basically how much of it will be absorbable and how much will just pass through your system and out the other end?
A full explaination of all magnesium types is explained in this link!

Magnesium chloride and amino acid chelates offer 80-90% availability, on the other hand cheaper magnesium oxide capsules only offer 4%!
Experts also say to take magnesium by itself and not with calcium or other vitamins because of their complex inter-relationships.
It is also recommended to supplement only 350-400mg per day. Magnesium is important but overdosing on magnesium can be dangerous. If you feel that you are very deficient it is best to seek medical advice and even to have blood testing to verify levels before increasing levels beyond the RDA. Saying that, there is no harm in taking the RDA plus lots of healthy magnesium rich foods.

Antiobiotics also are resticted in their use when magnesium is taken, so if you are very sick and are taking antibiotics then perhaps reduce the amount of supplementation until your treatment has finished. Remembering all the while that antibiotic use effects the good gut bacteria in the microbiome and repeated use will cause damage and thus malabsorption of nutrients and minerals.

A comprehensive list of the RDA for men, women and children of different ages can be seen on a chart here from the WebMD website.


Heidi Collins MD EDS Syndrome

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Choose Your Fuel

You might not realize but your body is a hybrid engine. There are advantages to using both types of fuel that it can burn.
Your body in its amazing wisdom can burn glucose or amino fatty acids or fat for fuel!
The glucose that our body makes from burning carbohydrates is like burning petrol, its highly explosive and gives a strong and intense burn. This is excellent for some sharp burst exercise. The only thing is that the fuel doesn't last as long and leaves you in a slump for more. When you eat carbohydrates your body uses this first as a fuel and uses this in metabolism. So by eating carbs we chose the fuel we want our body to burn.

However when you don't need that explosive ability there is a better and more sustainable fuel, that of burning fatty acids.
Fatty acids or fat burning produces a slower burn, and this happens only in the absence of carbohydrates. The metabolism also has to adapt to the ability to burn fat.
This can take a week or so of eating low carbohydrate and high fat. During this time your body adapts to using fat for fuel. Eating a lower carbohydrate diet isn't always easy, but there are some benefits to being a hybrid engine.

Easier fat burning. When your body utilized fat for fuel you also open the gateway to using fat stores from the body. Everyone wants to access stored body fat. Most of us have upwards of 40k calories of stored energy right on our hips! (Well everywhere).

Because the body can use digested fat or body fat your hardly ever hungry.
You always have a food source! As a result you can go for longer without feeling hungry. I can eat my evening meal at 6pm and go through to the following lunchtime without the slightest hint of hunger. Even after that it’s easier to go through to 6pm if there’s no chance to eat. As a result you can eat negative calories that you use and burn the rest from your body.

When you use fat for fuel you have a constant and fairly level blood sugar level.
This benefits the body in various ways from preventing diabetes to cancer.

Mood stabilization. Some have described the feeling of hangry when they get near the next meal. It’s a mix of hungry and angry! I've felt like this loads of times, you'll just go and eat into the entire fridge and you’re angry about it!
While burning the fat fuel though your body doesn't spike and trough to the same extent. As a result mood stabilization occurs. That's good for you and your family :)

How much carbohydrates and when?!!
Well initially to get adapted to burning fat you must cut down on carbohydrates and increase your fat intake. Cutting down on carbs during this time means cutting out bread, sugar, pasta and other grains. Instead replacing them with fats and so release carbohydrates such as vegetables. It is also important to have enough protein at this stage. Protein is needed and also excellent at warding off hunger.
So dinners should be high fat, medium protein and low carbohydrate.
By doing this for a number of weeks the body becomes fat adapted!!

It’s quite a healthy way of eating too! You can get your fat from some of your meat, delicious butter over your food or even olive oil. Many like coconut oil also and cook their foods in it. Coconut oil is excellent as it is a MCT and converts to fatty acid fuel quickly. It can boost your body into fat adaptation.

Carbohydrate sources should be from vegetables, especially non starchy vegetables such as coli-flour, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and carrots. These are dense in nutrients armed at helping the body, and yet the carbohydrates that they contain are slowed down by the fibre.

Protein helps builds the body, meat protein sources always contain some amount of fat also. Protein keeps hunger away for longer and is vital in cell formation.
When we eat too much protein though, and you do have to eat some amount, then the body converts the excess into glucose by gluconeogenesis. So even though protein is needed it’s good not to go too mad!

By a few simple steps you can choose the fuel that your body chooses. Will it be the explosive rush and quick action of carbohydrates? Or will it be the slow release and stability of the fat burn? You choose.