By Lee Holmes

Good nutrition and what you put into your body is the foundation for good health. “Food is Medicine” is a term which was originally coined by Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine; it was his belief that eating wholesome food is the basis for good health.  Hippocrates said almost 2500 years ago “Leave your drugs in the chemist’s pot if you can heal the patient with food.”
Centuries ago the earliest known doctors and health practitioners across the world imparted the benefits of using food as medicine to heal the body and now based on research it is clearly evident that food plays a major role in health and how you feel on a day to day basis.

Hippocrates believed that illness stemmed from inadequate nutrition and bad eating habits and that if people were to learn good eating habits then optimum health would be restored.  Long before doctors and medicine was commonly used, wise tribal elders would seek out healing herbs and plants for their community and food would be applied prescriptively to bring about healing.  Slowly through the years man has moved away from the healing power of nature and towards prescribing packaged synthetic drugs and artificial remedies to deal with illness.
The reality is that because we have shifted away from natural remedies and many of us rely on a diet of processed, fatty and sugar-laden food the consequences are that rates of obesity and disease have increased significantly.

If food has the power to prevent much of the chronic illness we experience today then it makes sense to alter our diets to use it to our own advantage to not only heal and restore the body but also to prevent illness.  Although taking pharmaceutical drugs for ailments may be useful, they often come with short and long term side effects and contribute to the toxic build up in our bodies.  While drugs are important in life threatening situations, if long term conditions can be managed with diet and lifestyle changes then using food as medicine must be considered as a initial way of tackling the issue and preventing future health problems.

Health practitioners and scientists are now uncovering the benefits of Nutrigenomics and the whole notion that food is information that speaks to our genes and triggers messages that create health or disease. There are many factors that culminate to bring about disease such as stress, nutrition, hormone balance, the health of our gut, and the importance of detoxification and food.
Thinking about what is at the end of your fork can help you to avoid specific illnesses that arise due to years of unhealthy eating. The good news is that these can be reversed with the help of a good diet. Even if you live on takeaway you can make healthier choices.  More and more food services, restaurants, and other institutions are recognizing the healing power of food and are including healing foods as part of their menus so nutritious food is not as hard to find as it once was.

Being healthy means putting the right fuel into your body and having your internal engine run smoothly. Every meal that you consume influences the way that you feel one way or another so the more nutritious foods you choose, the healthier you will be. Whole foods act as medicine to heal and protect your body and give the immune system a break from dealing with toxins, preservatives, additives and chemicals that are included in so many of today’s processed foods.

If you are eating junk food everyday with little or no nutrition, your body will not be receiving all of the nutrients it needs to function properly and health issues can arise. All that your body can operate on are the foods that you choose to put into it. Healthy nutrient-rich and alive foods help to heal the body at cellular level and build strong defenses enabling you to combat illness and environmental toxins.

The first thing to think about if you’re planning on giving your diet an overhaul is to ensure that you have a healthy digestive system. This is a vital ingredient and essential to guarantee that you’re efficiently burning your food and effectively extracting the nutrients from it. Diseases are often associated with vitamin and mineral deficiencies or food senstivities so having healthy digestion and knowing what foods work for you is really important.

You may want to consider a food elimination diet to find out which foods you may have a sensitivity or allergy too.  For some people raw food although perceived as healthy, is way too hard on their inflamed and delicate digestive systems and they may need to begin by incorporating a liquid diet such as juicing and eating soups and easily digestible foods until their gut heals. Fish oil is a great way to naturally combat inflammation too.

Numerous foods have specific healing properties such as garlic and onions which include antibiotic and antifungal properties.  Particular chronic conditions such as arthritis and celiac disease benefit from a specialized diet and avoiding particular foods. There are foods which reduce inflammation and ones that help lower cholesterol such as fish and omega 3 fatty acids. Doctors recommend eating at least two servings of fish a week. It’s always good to try and get the nutritional benefits from your food and not rely on synthetic supplements.
Fuelling up on super foods is a great way to provide the body with nutrients and not over eat. Individual foods have their own unique set of nutrients to meet the needs of your body so eating a wide variety of foods ensures that you are getting a diverse range if nutrients vitamins and minerals that you need.

Incorporating the seasons into your menu planning will benefit you so that you can enjoy fresh and in the moment foods that are abundantly available.  There is also a cost saving when you buy in season.  Shop at local growers markets or co-ops and talk to the sellers about what’s in season.

When it comes to buying healthily the best way to shop is to think about where the food you are buying actually came from, is it traceable, fresh and at its best? Or is it housed beneath layers of packaging? Even though it takes a little longer when shopping get used to reading labels and finding out exactly what is in the food.  If it has more than six ingredients it’s probably not going to be that good for you.

Shop in season and choose foods which are as close to their natural state as possible. Remember that your body will love you for it!


Banana and Mango Smoothie

By Lee Holmes

Now is a great time to look at the health of your gut, especially after ongoing January festivities where holiday over-eating may have left you feeling a little worse for wear.
Gut health is by far the best way to nudge off a few excess kilos gained during the over-indulgent festive season.

If you haven’t already tried it or seen it in stores, my Heal Your Gut powder, which is all natural and made from naturopathic grade, organic and fresh water diatomaceous earth is the perfect antidote to seasonal weight creep and will get you back on track.

This all natural food based ingredient will give your gut that little daily spring clean it craves, particularly after a long-winded holiday eating splurge that seems to run for the best part of the new year and beyond.

It’s not just our cupboards that need a bit of tender loving care, our hard working colons do too!

Diatomaceous earth is the superfine fossilised remains of fresh water diatoms, a natural type of hard-shelled algae. For hundreds of years our ancient ancestors recognised algae as an incredible food source, holding magnificent health benefits. But for some reason it has taken us a long time to reap those benefits.

The wonders of algae lie in the silicon makeup. Silica provides an abundance of health benefits, from boosting hair growth, to easing skin problems such as redness, acne and eczema. Slowing down the degenerative break down of connective tissue, to increasing calcium deposits to bone.

Getting sufficient amounts of this super mineral is essential. However, it’s not all in the mineral composition, diatomaceous earth holds many other benefits as it’s anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-any nasties in the form of parasites. It helps with increased nutrient absorption, better immunity and improved waste removal.

Due to the texture of this natural sediment, it very gently exfoliates the intestine wall, sweeping away all impurities that sit in your gut.

These unwanted toxins block our bodies from absorbing vital nutrients, and therefore decreasing our general well being, energy and happiness.

Once the junk has been removed from your trunk, you will nourish and glow from the inside out.  It’s easy to take and tasteless too without any additives. It’s also suitable for vegans and is gluten and GMO free.

Simply add a tablespoon to water, juice or a smoothie twice a day before meals and scroll down for my favourite gut soothing smoothie.

Serves one
• 1 frozen banana
• ½ cup frozen mango chunks
• 1 cup almond milk or milk of choice
• 1 tsp Heal Your Gut powder
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder or extract
• Pinch cinnamon
• Pinch nutmeg
• 1/2 tsp turmeric
• Place all ingredients to a high-speed blender and whizz until combined and smooth
• Pour into a tall glass
You can also spice up your mornings by adding this fine powder to one of the gut healing drinks from my Heal Your Gut recipe book.

By Lee Holmes http://www.superchargedfood.com/shop/heal-your-gut-print-book/

Gut feeling

Fortunately, there are researchers who believe they may have found a very safe alternative to treating anxiety and depression… and it all starts in your gut.

It is a known fact that a diet rich in probiotics — which support the growth of “healthy” bacteria in the gut — boosts digestive health and can even improve your immune system.

In recent years, mounting evidence has shown that gut bacteria have a significant effect on brain function and mental health.

A new study at Leiden University in the Netherlands, published in the journal Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity, further supports this idea: the researchers found that among 40 healthy subjects, participants who took probiotic supplements for four weeks showed a decrease in negative thoughts and feelings.

For the study, the researchers administered a multistrain probiotic — meaning that it contained different types of bacteria — to 20 healthy participants every day for four weeks. The other 20 participants received a placebo. At the outset of the study and then again after the month had gone by, the participants filled out a questionnaire assessing sensitivity to depression.

Participants who took the probiotics were significantly less reactive to sad moods. Improving the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut seemed to have a protective effect against the blues and the type of obsessive negative thinking that is often characteristic of depression.

Commenting on the findings, lead researcher, Oxford neurobiologist Dr. Philip Burnet, said: “It is likely that these compounds will help to manage mental illness. They may also be used when there are metabolic and/or nutritional complications in mental illness, which may be caused by long-term use of current drugs.”

AgoraHealth article reviewed by Barbara Beinart

Yoga for Mental Illness


Yoga classes usually come with an unspoken promise: If you breathe and stretch, if you follow instructions and tune in to your body, you’ll come out feeling better. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that most people do feel some level of relief physical, spiritual, mental, or otherwise after a yoga practice, most of the time. But what happens when there’s something serious troubling one of your students for example, if they are struggling with ongoing psychological issues such as depression. Can yoga help them do more than just feel a little bit better? Can it heal their mental illness?

The short answer, according to experts in the fields of yoga and psychotherapy, is yes. But though they give yoga the nod as a potential mental health panacea, practitioners warn that for certain ailments, including depression, it’s typically best to combine yoga with intensive supervision by a trained therapist to ward against the possibility of negative effects.

Asanas for Emotions
Yoga has long been seen as a tool for improving mental health, although concepts of what that entails have shifted over time and are distinct in different cultures. Today in the U.S., many therapists incorporate yoga and other body-focused practices in their therapeutic work. There are several schools of yoga that focus specifically on the intersections between asana practice and emotional health, and a growing body of studies indicates that yoga is often an excellent tool to treat the troubled mind.
How does it work? According to Dr. Eleanor Criswell, a licensed psychotherapist who has taught courses in the psychology of yoga at California’s Sonoma State University since 1969, “Yoga is incredible in terms of stress management. It brings a person back to homeostasis [or equilibrium]. For people who have anxieties of many kinds, yoga helps lower their basic physiological arousal level.”
Criswell is on the advisory board of the International Association of Yoga Therapists and is also the author of How Yoga Works: Introduction to Somatic Yoga. She points out that “for the general person, yoga greatly enhances mental health: mood, sense of self, motivation, sense of inner direction and purpose, as well as physical health and physical health is so important for mental health.” In the therapeutic context, adds Criswell, yoga “lowers the ego boundaries, so you are more receptive to other people’s input, including the therapist’s. The person becomes more somatically comfortable, so they can actually hear what’s being said and can reflect on it. It also enhances sleep and increases contact with dreams,” which can be useful tools in therapy.

Criswell’s experience is borne out in dozens of small studies on the effects of yoga on mood changes. Dr. David Shapiro, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, has overseen several such studies. In his research, he’s repeatedly seen negative emotions drop while positive emotions rise. Even more encouraging, students dealing with more severe depression saw a greater increase in positive moods than other students.

Reverse Effects
Dr. Sophia Reinders, a Jungian-oriented psychotherapist based in San Francisco, emphasizes the importance of working closely with a therapist attuned to body-centered emotional healing. “An emotional release during the practice of asanas can lead to an unexpected experience of joy and ease or it can bring up fear, sadness, or other difficult feelings,” she explains. “If we get frightened by what is coming up, we might push it back down, which means back into the body.”

Reinders, who is also a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher and an adjunct faculty member at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, adds that a therapist’s guidance through the process of dredging up emotions helps patients settle into a new sense of themselves, as they begin to let go of old hurts and bad patterns. “Before we can shift out of an imbalance, since we have used the imbalance to feel safe, we need to find a new way to feel safe, a new place to dwell. And for this, it is important to first find or create a sense of empowerment somewhere in the body.”

Extra Help Required
For any person, this can be a delicate process. For those dealing with mental illness, there’s at least some potential for yoga to be harmful if it’s not monitored. “Without proper supervision, a student can have increased sadness or suicidal ideation, so you’d want to be really on top of whether the yoga experience is beneficial or not,” says Criswell. “Sometimes the higher sense of alertness enables acting on bad impulses … depressed people can feel more depressed with relaxation.” That doesn’t mean yoga is inappropriate, Criswell insists. It’s just that those with imbalances should embark carefully on a practice that can open up a person so deeply.

The same, Criswell says, is true for post-traumatic stress sufferers, people with psychotic tendencies, or manic-depressives. “Sometimes yoga can increase the manic state,” she says. “Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes it’s not. In general, what you see in yoga class is people becoming happier but it needs to be within a manageable range.”

While the idea of helping a student through serious mental health challenges is probably overwhelming to new teachers, remember that you don’t have to do it yourself. Keep a referral list of body-aware therapists on hand, and keep a watchful eye on any students who have confided in you about their mental health status. If they seem to be withdrawing emotionally or socially, Criswell advises, offer them your referral list, or suggest they find a therapist of their own.

Stay Positive
Ultimately, the yogic mindset that unpeels psychological worries is the same sort of focus that helps all yogis, whatever their mental health status. Reinders outlines a process of “refining the qualities of attention,” which begins with asking students to become aware of any chronic criticism or devaluing that is part of their habitual thinking. Instead, Reinders says, suggest that they bring a “spacious, loving, curious, playful attention” to their mental and physical state (through yoga or psychotherapy)—and positive change will occur.

What Happens to Our Brains During Exercise and Why it Makes Us Happier

By Leo Widrich

Most of us are aware of what happens to the body when we exercise. We build more muscle or more stamina. We feel how daily activities like climbing stairs becomes easier if we exercise regularly. When it comes to our brain and mood though, the connection isn’t so clear.

What triggers happiness in our brain when we exercise?
“Yes, yes, I know all about it, that’s the thing with the endorphins, that makes you feel good and why we should exercise and stuff, right?” is what I can hear myself say to someone bringing this up. I would pick up things here and there, yet really digging into the connection of exercise and how it effects us has never been something I’ve done. The line around our “endorphins are released” is more something I throw around to sound smart, without really knowing what it means.
Here is what actually happens:

If you start exercising, your brain recognizes this as a moment of stress. As your heart pressure increases, the brain thinks you are either fighting the enemy or fleeing from it. To protect yourself and your brain from stress, you release a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). This BDNF has a protective and also reparative element to your memory neurons and acts as a reset switch. That’s why we often feel so at ease and like things are clear after exercising.

At the same time, endorphins, another chemical to fight stress, are released in your brain. Your endorphins main purpose are this, writes researcher MK McGovern:

“These endorphins tend to minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain, and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria.”

There is a lot going on inside our brain and it is oftentimes a lot more active than when we are just sitting down or actually concentrating mentally:

So, BDNF and endorphins are the reasons exercise makes us feel so good. The somewhat scary part is that they have a very similar and addictive behavior like morphine, heroin, or nicotine. The only difference? Well, it’s actually good for us.

Don’t do more, but focus on when
Now here is where it all gets interesting. We know the basic foundations of why exercising makes us happy and what happens inside our brain cells. The most important part to uncover now is, of how we can trigger this in an optimal and longer lasting way?
A recent study from Penn State shed some light on the matter and the results are more than surprising. They found that to be more productive and happier on a given work day, it doesn’t matter so much, if you work-out regularly, that you haven’t worked out on that particular day:

“Those who had exercised during the preceding month but not on the day of testing generally did better on the memory test than those who had been sedentary, but did not perform nearly as well as those who had worked out that morning.”

New York Times bestselling author Gretchen Reynolds wrote a whole book about the subject matter called The First 20 Minutes. To get the highest level of happiness and benefits for health, the key is not to become a professional athlete. On the contrary, a much smaller amount is needed to reach the level where happiness and productivity in every day life peaks:

“The first 20 minutes of moving around, if someone has been really sedentary, provide most of the health benefits. You get prolonged life, reduced disease risk – all of those things come in in the first 20 minutes of being active.”
So really, you can relax and don’t have to be on the lookout for the next killer work out. All you have to do is get a focused 20 minutes in to get the full happiness boost every day:

“On exercise days, people’s mood significantly improved after exercising. Mood stayed about the same on days they didn’t, with the exception of people’s sense of calm which deteriorated.”(University of Bristol)

Make it a habit
Starting to exercise regularly or even daily is still easier said than done. At end of the day, there is quite a lot of focus required to get into the habit of exercising daily. The most important part to note is that exercise is a keystone habit. This means that daily exercise can pave the way not only for happiness, but also growth in all other areas of your life.

In a recent post from my colleague Joel, he wrote about the power of daily exercise for his every day life. Coincidentally, he follows the above rules very accurately and exercises daily before doing anything else. He writes:
“By 9:30am, I’ve done an hour of coding on the most important task I have right now on Buffer, I’ve been to the gym and had a great session, and I’ve done 30 minutes of emails. It’s only 9:30am and I’ve already succeeded, and I feel fantastic.”

I’ve spoken lots to Joel about his habit of exercising and here are some of the most important things to do in order to set yourself up for success and make your daily exercise fun:

Put your gym clothes right over your alarm clock or phone when you go to bed: This technique sounds rather simple, but has been one of the most powerful ones. If you put everything the way you want it for the gym before you go to sleep and put your alarm under your gym clothes, you will have a much easier time to convince yourself to put your gym clothes on.

Track your exercises and log them at the same time after every exercise: When you try to exercise regularly, the key is to make it a habit. One way to achieve this is to create a so called “reward”, that will remind you of the good feelings you get from exercising. In our big list of top web apps, we have a full section on fitness apps that might be handy. Try out Fitocracy or RunKeeper to log your work outs. Try to have a very clear logging process in place. Log your work out just before you go into the shower or exactly when you walk out of the gym.

Think about starting small and then start even smaller: Here is a little secret. When I first started exercising, I did it with 5 minutes per day, 3 times a week. Can you imagine that? 5 minutes of timed exercise, 3 times a week? That’s nothing you might be thinking. And you are right, because the task is so easy and anyone can succeed with it, you can really start to make a habit out of it. Try no more than 5 or 10 minutes if you are getting started.

The highest level of happiness happens at the beginning
As a quick last fact, exercise, the increase of the BDNF proteins in your brain acts as a mood enhancer. The effects are similar to drug addiction one study found. So when you start exercising, the feeling of euphoria is the highest:

“The release of endorphins has an addictive effect, and more exercise is needed to achieve the same level of euphoria over time.” (McGovern)

So, if you have never exercised before (or not for a long time), your happiness gains will be the highest if you start now.

Leo Widrich, co-founder of social media sharing app Buffer, set out to uncover the connection between feeling happy and exercising regularly.


Ways to cook Kale

Buy kale that has a nice, dark green color and doesn’t feel too floppy. Wash it thoroughly in your kitchen sink. If your kale is especially large, you may want to cut out the thick stems. Otherwise, just chop the kale into large pieces. You can steam the kale on the stove or in the microwave.

Steaming Kale on the Stove:
Place the chopped kale in a steamer basket. Bring 1-2 inches of water to a boil in a large pot then carefully place the steamer basket into the pot. Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes, until kale is just wilted.

Steaming Kale in the Microwave:
If you don’t have a steamer basket, put the kale in a microwave-safe bowl with about 1 teaspoon of water (the water in the kale itself will be enough to do most of the steaming). Cover the bowl with a paper towel or microwave-safe plastic wrap. If using plastic wrap, make a little hole in the top to allow some of the steam to escape. Microwave on high for about 2 minutes for every 2 cups of kale. (Cook time may need to be adjusted based on your kale and/or microwave.) Cook until kale is just wilted then drain off the water.

Spending time walking on streets lined with trees

Spending time walking on streets lined with trees, bushwalking or in gardens boosts wellbeing according to researchers in Toronto. People who share their lives with trees enjoy multiple benefits including better mental health, reduced incidence of asthma and improves health perception in ways comparable to being ‘seven years younger’, the study stated.

Researchers looked specifically at how exposure to trees affects health variables such as health perception and conditions including hypertension, obesity, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Mental health issues like major depression, anxiety, and addiction were also assessed.

The findings state, “ people who live in areas with higher street tree density report better health perception and fewer cardio-metabolic conditions compared with their peers living in areas with lower street tree density.” Residing in a tree-lined street provided benefits the equivalent to being seven years younger.

Some of the positive effects were found to be partly related to the mere visual exposure to trees and to the dry deposition of air pollutants.

That has to be enough to get moving.

Water: How much should you drink every day?

Water: How much should you drink every day?

Water is essential to good health, yet needs vary by individual.

These guidelines can help ensure you drink enough fluids.

How much water should you drink each day?
It’s a simple question with no easy answers. Studies have produced varying recommendations over the years, but in truth, your water needs depend on many factors, including your health, how active you are and where you live.
Although no single formula fits everyone, knowing more about your body’s need for fluids will help you estimate how much water to drink each day.

Health benefits of water
Water is your body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells, and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues.

Lack of water can lead to dehydration, a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired.

How much water do you need?
Every day you lose water through your breath, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. For your body to function properly, you must replenish its water supply by consuming beverages and foods that contain water.

So how much fluid does the average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate need?
The adequate intake for men is roughly Three litres of total beverages a day. The AI for women is about Two and a half litres of total beverages a day.