I was very fortunate to have a great mentor in my final year of study. He wasn’t the type of practitioner that allowed students to sit with him, but ‘through a friend of a friend who owed someone a favour’ I managed to get six months clinic time with someone who changed the way I viewed illness. Admittedly, initially I was totally intimidated by him – and it takes a lot for me to feel this way about someone. I’m rarely frazzled in someone’s presence; however this practitioner managed to overawe me in many ways. His knowledge astounded me, his techniques were unusual and his bedside manner was…well…it could definitely improve. But his knowledge was like no one I had known before. However I know I must have left a good impression, as to this day, he keeps in contact with me regularly to see how I’m going and how my life is progressing. Though, I really do miss the daily lunches we would have to discuss patient cases and general life dialogues there were some amazing discussions I will never forget. One that I think about every Tuesday when I see my patients is...
“Vicky, there’s something key in all patients – something amazing happens when you realise that their emotions run their health. I have never seen a happy person be sick. Never. Remember that. It’s pretty important.” Now, at the time of hearing this, I was reflecting on all the unwell people I knew and all the patients we had been working with and realised ‘Shiz, this guy is right. None of them are happy.’
But is it enough to be happy? I mean, what the heck is happy? Who is happy? When I think of happy I think of balloons, fairies and cupcakes. Yeah, they make me happy. But it’s not really sustainable. I think there has to be more than being happy. There has to be meaning in our lives. The best way I can explain this is – I have kids, they give me purpose, they give me meaning. I get up to ‘serve’ them (in the crudest possible description) – am I happy that I have to get up to serve them? No. Am I happy that I had to give up an amazing career and lifestyle filled with travel and fun? No. But…and here’s the big but – I have meaning in my life. That’s what ultimately makes me happy. WEIRD! To give myself and be completely selfless (and I can’t believe I’m going to say this), makes me happy. ARGHHHHHH!!! Giving makes me happy. I used to think that ‘taking’ things made me happy. Having more things – money, bags, shoes, holidays, electronic gadgets, blah blah blah (okay, I still love shoes). But I wasn’t happy. I had a lot, but I can honestly say, I wasn’t really happy. I was striving to be happy. Now, I’m striving just to get 8 hours sleep. Somehow giving my life, time, knowledge and love to other people makes me feel so happy. Have I been sick in this time? Prior to having kids, I would get sick every year, and one year was quite serious. Since having children, I may get a little cough, but nothing that a good sleep couldn’t fix. I guess there’s no time to feel sick, I am too busy thinking about my purpose that I recover so quickly and get on with it.
Let’s go back to my mentor’s philosophy about happiness and illness. If you have meaning in your life, there’s little room for chasing the ideology of happiness. There’s no time to feel sad trying to be happy, there’s no time to get sick. You have purpose, you have meaning, and you’re busy being busy. Surely there’s a research paper substantiating my claims….*takes 10 minutes to scour scholar.google.com*
…Yup, there are quite a lot of articles that suggest that someone’s happiness reflects their state of health. But is it sustainable? If someone takes a way your job which makes you happy, you ultimately become unhappy and therefore get sick? Possibly. Then there’s the theory that people get sick when they take annual leave. Is it because they have no meaning during their holiday time there’s ‘time’ to get sick? What about the universal law of parenting? Mothers can never get sick. I’m becoming more and more inclined to believe that it’s not just happiness that dictates our emotions, but our sense of meaning in our life. Next month I’m having lunch with my mentor. I can’t wait to discuss my new theory. One of two things will happen, he will applaud me for my thinking or…he won’t remember that conversation we had 8 years ago and think I’m weird. Either way, I’m happy.
I have what one might call a split personality when it comes to bacteria. One half of me hates the little critters. There’s no way I would invite salmonella for a play date with my kids. Yet on the other hand lactobacillus is always welcome in our home. Every night before dinner my kids will ravage half a cup of plain yogurt with some extra probiotics. But there is no way I would let my kids come home from anywhere without washing their hands or starting a meal without lathering up. Yup, slightly obsessive. Moving right along…
There are so many products on the market targeted at germaphobe freaks like me. Everything from soap, under arm deodorant, body washes, toothpastes, sanitisers, wipes, cutting boards, sponges, shaving cream, clothes, mattresses and so on. All claiming to be antibacterial, odour-fighting and better for our immunity. Well, I’m not so sure. You see, I’m old school. I don’t believe in toothpaste giving me “12 hour protection”. I don’t care for a deodorant that “keeps me fresh for up to 24 hours”. What I care about is not disrupting the balance in nature. The active ingredient that claims the entire germ fighting properties is known as triclosan or triclocarbon. And here is the dilemma I have with this nasty chemical. Triclosan isn’t bacteria specific. It kills the bad guys and the good guys. It’s disrupting the law of nature. Why are we made to believe that we need to eradicate the bad guys? Surely, by now people realise that what we are in fact doing is making the bad ones even worse. Ugly, even. These bacteria are not dumb. They are clever little critters. They know how to mutate and become stronger. Eventually they will be resistant to triclosan. Just as what is happening with antibiotics. And now, we are doing the same with triclosan. So they become resistant, then what? We create another chemical that will kill the strong ones…only to repeat everything again? No thanks.
What if, we just brushed our teeth with regular toothpaste, and ate food that was natural and low in sugar? What if we didn’t use deodorant at all? What if we didn’t feel the need to scrub our hands with anything but standard soap and water? Well interesting fact, new research has proven that triclosan is no more effective at cleaning hands than standard soap and water.
However my real concern starts here – triclosan and triclobcarbon have been linked to hormonal disruption (specifically infertility), elevated risk of allergic responses (asthma, food allergies) and altered thyroid function. With all the hype on keeping things ‘clean’ we are not allowing our own immunity have a chance at strengthening. That’s not to say I won’t wash my hands when I come home from being out all day. But I have never and will never wash my hands with triclosan.
So far, only one town in the whole world is taking action to ban this nasty substance. In 2015, the governor of Minnesota signed a bill to ensure that triclosan be banned from all consumer products sold. Well I didn’t wait for my government to take action. Four years ago, I threw out everything that contained triclosan in our home. I have eradicated it from my parents and my in-laws home also. Look for triclosan/triclocarbon ingredient next time you purchase your hygiene products – think twice before succumbing to the marketing hype. After all, it’s important to understand that we need the good, the bad but not the ugly.
I don’t know if it’s been the alignment of the stars or just sheer coincidence, but this past week every second patient presented with constipation. Usually treating constipation is straight forward, but these cases were hard ones (no pun intended). Each case was unique but each revolved around the issue of fibre, be it the lack of or consuming the wrong type of fibre.
Adult suggested intake of fibre is about 30gm a day. That’s equivalent to 10 apples a day.
In a typical diet it would equate to the list below, and to be honest I don’t know anyone that would have a diet this wonderful…
2 slices rye bread
1 cup brown rice
½ cup of lentils
½ cup broccoli
A handful of nuts
For children aged 4-8years it is suggested to consume 18gms/day, aged 8-13yrs 22g/day and 14-18yrs about 25g/day.
Scientific evidence links fibre intake to a plethora of health benefits, including treating and preventing constipation, haemorrhoids, and diverticulitis; decreasing blood cholesterol levels, which protects against certain forms of cancer; and increasing satiety to help control weight. However recent research suggests that fibre has an important role in immune health. We know that cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity have underlying inflammatory processes. Dietary fibre may play a role to modulate the immune system and therefore produce a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.
There is consumer interest in fibre, but the real challenge is getting people to comply. Most people complain about flatulence. For most, the frequent gastric distress will go away. The other difficulty is most people don’t consume the different types of fibre. Many whole plant foods are rich in different types of dietary fibre, such as pectin, gum, mucilage, cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, and soluble fibre. Consuming a variety of fibres is suggested to gain the maximum benefits of a high-fibre diet. The trend in food for food technologists is determining how to incorporate fibre in our everyday products. There’s a trend in adding fibre to yogurt, chocolate, infant formula…the list goes on. And yet, there is a much easier way to get extra fibre in your diet. I will set a challenge for a fortnight. Fourteen days of getting 30gms of fibre in my diet. Even on my 5:2 days. How?
On my non 5:2 days some mixture of the below that will add up to 30g in addition to a strong protein intake.
1 apple (4g)
1 pear (6g)
Porridge (Bob’s Red Mill) (10g) PLUS one teaspoon chia seeds (6g)
2 x kiwi (6g)
1 cup Broccoli (6g)
½c Brussell sprouts (6g)
½c Cabbage (5g)
1 medium orange (4g)
½ c kale (3g)
1 cup cooked Quinoa/brown rice/barley/pasta/buckwheat noodles (5-7g)
Fermented foods (sauerkraut, kim chi, etc.)
On my 5:2 days
Healthy Bake Khorasan and linseed bread x 1 piece (4g)
Pear (6g) + kiwi fruit (3g)
Dhal (lentil w curry) (18g)
There it is, I am starting this tomorrow (which happens to be a 5:2 day). I will keep track of my weight, mood, tummy troubles and energy levels (hunger pangs), cravings and whatever else comes to mind as I progress through the days. I am hoping that by the end of the 14 days I will be more conscious of my fibre intake and less likely to abandon a high fibre diet. I am not interested in cheating by having fibre supplements but I will use my Thermomix and Nutribullet to mulch my juices with all the fibre intact.
Ultimately, I am wishing that anyone reading this would take the challenge too. I really believe it’s about time Australians improved their fibre intake. It’s such a simple dietary change that we would benefit from. And if, like me, you have kids, start the habit of high fibre foods for them. It baffles me that a parent would greet their child from school with junk food. Whatever happened to simple healthy nutritious food choices? Why do parents feel the need to load their kids up on rubbish as a form of reward? If a child is hungry, believe me, they will eat whatever you give them. An apple is sweet, nutritious, easy to eat and refreshing. As is a carrot, pear, apricot, watermelon and so on. With that in mind, I am going to prepare a fruit platter for my husband and I to enjoy as we watch Jerry Maguire.
I'm a lover of fine food, amazing cheese and sharing with people I love.