We hear the word “stress” a lot.
What exactly is it?
Stress is the body’s physical, mental or emotional reaction to any change that requires an adjustment.
Whilst short bursts of stress can act as a positive stimulating driving factor if it becomes chronic it is one of the most damaging things we can do to our body lowering our immune system and undermining our ability to repair and cope with our environment often leading the way to serious dis-ease.
Finding ways to manage it with foods and natural supplements is the answer.
The best foods for helping your body cope with stress are called adaptogens.
These support your adrenal system and stave off fatigue and weight gain (due to increased cortisol).
Having had glandular fever and ME when I was younger I know what it feels like to have a stressed out low energy body and finding foods that can help you cope both physically and emotionally are key.
I thought I would share my tried and tested favourites which are:
Chaga mushroom is a type of fungus that grows mainly on the bark of birch trees in cold climates.
It can be purchased as a powder or whole pieces. I usually simmer up the powder for 10-15 mins, strain and drink. It is not unpleasant to drink and I find it very restorative and supportive.
Whilst an acquired taste for some over the years of adding it to homemade chai I have got used to it and don’t mind chewing it raw.
Helps to regulate hormones like cortisol helping your body cope.
Highly anti-inflammatory and excellent for leaky gut something a lot of people suffer with unknowingly.
Nettle is super nourishing for anyone experiencing stress or burnout.
Contains antioxidants great for reducing stress related inflammation.
Vitamin B complex and iron help support energy levels.
I dry the tops and powder them down. Add fresh tops to smoothies or collect the seeds and have them on my porridge or munch on them when out walking.
The goji berry is known to harmonize and increase the Jing energy of the adrenals resulting in enhanced stamina and strength and I was prescribed these mixed with raisins as a tea to drink daily by a Tibetan herbalist. I found it very effective and drink it a lot just because I love the taste!
Is known as arctic or golden root.
You can take this as a supplement and I would recommend this alongside supporting your system with the foods above.
It has a positive effect on the immune system and helps with depression.
So let that stress go! Take a deep a breath and try some of the above and let me know how you get on x
How often do you think about the effect your gut is having on your brain?
The link between our gut and our brain was an unknown in the mainstream for years but recent studies show conclusive evidence between the health of our colon and the state of our mental health as well as our skin.
Did you know the very thought of eating releases digestive juices into your gut?
The “ butterflies” we feel in our stomach when we are nervous or the sick feeling we have when we are anxious should all send alarm bells that our thoughts and our bowel are intrinsically connected.
Jeroen Raes of the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology drew on medical tests and GP records to look for links between depression, quality of life and microbes lurking in the faeces of more than 1,000 people. He found that two kinds of bugs, namely Faecalibacterium and Coprococcus, were both more common in people who claimed to enjoy a high mental quality of life. Meanwhile, those with depression had lower than average levels of Coprococcus and Dialister.
Probiotics are a type of bacteria found in your gut that play an integral role in almost every aspect of our health.
So how can we support these good bacteria?
I have a few suggestions for you below that are simple to incorporate into everyday life and support your friendly bacteria.
Kefir is made by adding a culture of milk grains to milk and letting it for ferment in a warm place.
My preferred choice for a ready made version of this is a goat based kefir called Chuckling goat which you can find online.
This is a fermented carbonated drink made from water kefir grains. Unlike the milk kefir it is made by combining water, grains and sugar together for 48 hours until fermentation occurs. You can buy the grains easily online.
Kvasse is a traditional fermented beverage originating from the Ukraine commonly made from stale bread or beetroots. It is a great support for the liver.
Try making it with beetroots!
Kombucha is a fermented tea that has been around for thousands of years, first brewed in China. The ingredients are yeast (usually from a scoby), sugar and black tea left to ferment for a week.
Saurkraut is fermented cabbage thought to have originated in China as a way of preserving food so as to not spoil but now more popular with germans.
Sauerkraut fermentation is the process of microorganisms on the cabbage digesting its natural sugars and converting them into carbon dioxide and organic acids.
Kimchi is a fermented vegetable dish most familiarly made with cabbage and spices. Kimchi is often mixed with other vegetables like radish, onion and garlic.
Because the vegetables in Saurkraut and Kimchi are fermented they have excellent probiotic qualities.
Probiotics in fermented drinks and food reduce inflammation in the gut, aid digestion, support the liver and immune system. If you can do one thing for your health by advice is to love your gut!
The positive effect of improving your gut health on your mental health was shown in a study documented by the BMJ.
“Overall, 11 of the 21 studies showed a positive effect on anxiety symptoms by regulating intestinal microbiota, meaning that more than half (52%) of the studies showed this approach to be effective, although some studies that had used this approach did not find it worked.”
The start of the year and the start of a great many good intentions for so many of us but lets not make it all so hard that we crack in the first 48 hours!
I find getting back into the groove as hard as anyone else so I thought I would share a few of the things I do and the products I use to get the year off to a great start.
Exercise takes many forms but for me during the winter months he least offensive of them all is walking.
I love walking outdoors across Dorset fields and up a good hill with Isla the whippet.
I have a circuit I do each morning, which gets the heart pumping enough to make me sweat whilst taking in the views.
Walking has been shown to increase cardiovascular fitness and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke whilst managing diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Simple yet effective stuff.
I encourage you to find a 30 minute walk you like with a decent bit of incline on part of it and make it part of your daily ritual.
My favourite kind of exercise! You don’t have to move, its social and you feel amazing afterwards.
The Swedes swear by it and so do I.
The quickest way to detoxify your body and get the blood moving round your system is by a sauna. It increases metabolism and has been shown to reduce pain, reduce stress and improve immune function.
I mix in 3 cold showers during my 15 minute sauna sessions down on the Dorset coast which is amazing for the circulation.
Make sure you bring a 2 litre bottle of water with you for afterwards to flush out your system and rehydrate.
Find your nearest health club and add a weekly sauna to your routine and really feel the difference in your energy levels and notice the glow of your skin.
Detoxing and inoffensive, replace your ribena or fruit juice for something a bit more cleansing such as birch syrup. It is loaded with a number of amino acids, enzymes and antioxidants and its easy to add to a glass of water.
It will help with hydration and act as a diuretic flushing out acids in the body.
As a knock on effect it supports immune function.
Grab a bottle and add a dash to your January routine.
If you look carefully in the hedgerows and backsides you will see the first shoots of spring represented in the nettle tops. It feels earlier than ever!
They support all the organs of elimination in the body – liver, kidney and skin and help remove uric acid build up which can cause arthritis. They are also a great support for those suffering from allergies or anaemia due to their iron content.
A great way to stay hydrated and detoxify.
Make a pot of nettle tea every morning on waking as part of your daily ritual.
I leave you with a quote:
“Only you have the power to effect change in your life”
Wishing you a happy and vital New Year x
I love Christmas time. The warm air from the open fire moving the smell of the pine needles on my Christmas tree through the house, and cosy creative evenings with Michael Buble playing in the background.
However I do find it sad to know that 6 million Christmas decorations are thrown away each year and a staggering 14% of people even throw away their artificial Christmas trees each year rather than reusing the next.
The worst offenders are Christmas cards. Each year the average household discards 24 Christmas cards once the festive period is over. It takes 1 tree to make 3,000 Christmas cards. Using the first estimate, 1 tree is only enough for 176 people to send cards to their loved ones. This then means that 1 billion Christmas Cards will end up in bins – the equivalent of 33 million trees!
So how can we combat this shameful waste?
- Buy Christmas trees that still have their roots so you can plant them out the rest of the year and bring them back in next December.
- Send digital Christmas cards or hand made ones made from paper/card waste.
- Avoid plastic Christmas decorations and make your own
Making Christmas decorations from natural or waste items is very satisfying and something I love to do.
My favourite is to use old music paper. You can usually find it in charity shops, if not in your attic. Here are a couple of ideas of what to do with it.
Music paper hearts
Cut out a heart shape and hole punch at the top to thread some ribbon and form a bow. Then use some hemp string or yarn to form a loop for hanging.
- Wet a regular tea bag and run it over the pages of music paper you want to use. You will get 6-8 decorations per sheet.
- Cut out perfect squares with 5 or 6 cm edges.
- Use a lighter to scorch the edges and roll them like a scroll so the music paper is on the outside.
- Tie with a bit of ribbon or coloured rope washed up on the beach as I have used!
Enjoy exploring your creativity! x
It’s October. A month that for me, seems to feel the effects of the whirlwind that is September where we have jumped back into that work mode after some slower paced summer months. If you are not conscious to find those moments of calm and clarity it can leave you feeling a little frazzled. Putting those important immune systems under pressure.
A good way to support your body during this time and keep those winter colds at bay is by incorporating a few easily accessible herbs and remedies into your diet.
Being a forager and living in the countryside I appreciate a few of these may be less accessible for some, but I’d be surprised if you weren’t able to forage them in a large local park.
A few of my favourites are:
Whether you make your own (recipe on our blog) or buy it from the health food store, elderberry syrup is a real friend to get you through the winter months.
Packed full of Vitamins C and antioxidants, it’s a super tonic for the respiratory system supporting your body in cases of coughs and more serious bronchial complaints.
If you don’t have a herb garden but you have some space for one or even a few pots I encourage you to plant some thyme.
During the winter months this is one herb I would not be without.
Thyme contains high levels of thymol, which gives thyme its antimicrobial properties against bacteria and fungi. This is why it’s a first rate immune boosting food! High in antioxidants, thyme has been shown to prevent oxidative damage to DNA in human lymphocytes.
Add it to as much of your cooking as possible and infuse with hot water for a soothing tea.
As you drive through the country lanes you can’t help but see flashes of red in the hedgerow from September till December.These are the Rosehips. Containing one of the highest concentrations of Vitamin C, they truly count as a UK superfood! I like to infuse the whole berries in boiling water as a tea or simmer with other winter berries such as blackberries, sloes and hawthorns to make a more concentrated stock.
Alternatively you can remove the outer skin from each rosehip (the inner hairs inside irritate) and eat them simply by themselves.
Also referred to by its latin name Auricularia auricula-judae. This is the fungus that you will often see growing on Elder trees.
In China the medicinal properties of the Jelly ear have been recognized for centuries: They are believed to be another excellent remedy for colds and flu by lowering body temperature.
In Africa it is used as a blood tonic and in the UK we have used it to heal everything from jaundice to sore throats.
I like to infuse with hot water as a tea or alternatively slice up thinly and add to stir-fry’s with tamari and toasted sesame.
Being predominantly wild herbs please make sure you have correctly identified the above before eating them. Consult and expert if necessary.
There are a lot of wild food courses available and I encourage you to sign up for one in the spring to learn more about our native superfoods.
“If you eat standing up death looks over your shoulder”
In the last 20 years the common sight of families sitting down to eat breakfast together has become somewhat rare.
Despite developments in technologies that help us to do more, more quickly we still seem to be out of time to commit to this daily ritual preferring to eat breakfast “on the go” or not at all as is the case for over 50% of Brits.
Whilst I am going to discuss the health implications of not sitting down to eat a meal I think it is important to look at the social effect the loss of this precious time in our day has on family structure and togetherness.
Eating together is a unifier and creates a place of community where families have the opportunity to share and talk about things outside of work that are meaningful and important to them. It allows for a regimented “checking in” – making sure the people you love are ok.
I believe sharing meals also creates a feeling of equality and helps maintain a healthy perspective on life.
Worryingly studies in the US have shown that children who don’t eat meals with their families are 30% more likely to be disruptive at school and 40% are more likely to be overweight compared to those that do.
Why is it bad for our body?
In our body we have a sympathetic and para-sympathethic nervous system.
The former is our fight or flight response which is triggered when you are under stress.
When you are standing up you are in a sympathetic nervous system – your body is providing you with energy and blood flow to stand up.
You body cannot digest food well in the sympathetic mode – it puts pressure on your body and increases the likelihood of indigestion, bloating and gas.
Post stress the body kicks into the parasympathetic response, which helps our body relax. The parasympathetic response also triggers your digestive juices and enzyme activity.
Parasympathetic is the best mode to be eating. Your body is in a relaxed state, like when you are sitting or lying down.
Traditionally we would bless the food at our table before we ate it.
Blessing food before a meal brings your awareness to the moment for eating and that way prepares your physiological body to digest the meal by increasing salivation, digestion enzymes.
If you are on the move, your body cannot register you are having a complete meal and therefore does not sufficiently prepare.
For health and happiness I believe food should be consumed in a joyful and relaxed state full of gratitude for the meal you have in front of you.
At Primrose’s Kitchen our passion is for British made and wherever possible British sourced.
We take great care to find the best quality organic produce grown by passionate farmers and producers like us.
Being a muesli and granola producer we use a LOT of oats.
Being a key ingredient it is important we don’t use just any oats. Our oats our sourced from two different family farms which are both certified gluten free. Our porridge oats are milled the same way they have been since the 1800s using a flat-bed kiln and water powered mill.
Non-organic Oats and wheat contain one of the highest number of pesticide residues of all produce tested (PAN UK) which is why we feel it is so important to be organic. In our opinion no level of residues is the only safe level. This is not only for our health but also to protect the declining insect populations, which play a valuable role in our holistic ecosystem.
Our Vegetable muesli was designed to help you get more fresh vegetables into you diet. We support British growers in Norfolk for our organic carrots and beetroot that grow so well in the UK and our full of great nutrition.
Apples have been grown in the UK since the Neolithic.
Our supplier Charlie took over the family farm in Kent from his father who was already making juice decided to diversify into apple drying and now supplies us with our dried apple and pear pieces.
Orchards in the UK provide a valuable range of food, shelter and breeding sites for lots of species. Dead and decaying wood provides an important place for the growth of fungi and invertebrates. Rotting fruit provides a food source to all kinds of birds such as thrushes and fieldfares not to mention the mammals such as hedgehogs and badgers.
Because it is difficult to get large heavy machinery in to churn up the soil in an orchard much of the soil is undisturbed and rich in life.
In fragmented landscapes orchards increase the habitat connectivity, the loss of which is a threat to many 1000’s of species.
Important reasons to support our orchards.
There is a diverse web of connections when it comes to the production of our food but I think two valid steps that will help reduce the impact we have on our wildlife and the planet as a whole is moving back to British and supporting Organic.
Hippocrates said “Let Food by thy medicine and Medicine be thy food” and I agree with him. Food should nourish and strengthen us with its vitamins, antioxidants and fibre.
At Primrose’s Kitchen we talk about Living in line with Nature. For me this is eating uncontaminated foods, breathing in clean air, taking regular exercise and living passionately doing work that inspires you, surrounded by people who support you.
When we get this combination right “dis-ease” can no longer take a hold on our body as our vital force is optimized and keeps things that don’t resonate with this higher frequency at bay- we are truly Living in line with our nature.
The BBC Trust me I am a doctor did tests on non organic and organic vegetables and found:
“Non-organic food did contain ‘trace amounts’ of pesticides….
But, these are considered to be levels, which are safe for human consumption. And so really you shouldn’t be worried at all.”
I don’t believe any of the food we eat should contain residues of substances that are designed to kill insects as it stands to reason they will have a detrimental effect on us of some kind or another. Eating poison is generally not advised…
Pan UK published a report “Food for Thought” in order to bring to our attention the levels of pesticides supplied to four to six-year olds in England under the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme (SFVS). They found unacceptable levels of pesticides present – 123 pesticides in total!
They also highlighted the effects of these pesticides as being a kin to “poisons” in our system with acute symptom examples being: respiratory tract irritation, sore throat and/or cough, allergic sensitization, eye and skin irritation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headache, loss of consciousness, extreme weakness, seizures and/or death
Due impart to the heavy metals such as lead and copper long term pesticide exposure has been linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease; asthma; depression and anxiety; cancer, including leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma; and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Should any level of a poison be deemed safe for human consumption? and has the government legislation that says it is been highly questioned? These are the key questions we need to ask.
At Primrose’s Kitchen we are Organic because we believe that in an increasingly toxic world and an ever-pressurized ill health system organic is a step in the right direction.
Whether organic or non organic I don’t believe the nutritional benefits (aside from the lack of pesticides) are very different in the conventional supermarket consumer purchase chain. Nutritional content decreases the moment something is picked so in order to get the best nutrition from organic vegetables we should be encouraging organic pick your own, organic growing your own at home and on allotments or air drying once picked like we do with our vegetable muesli.
As well as contributing to species decline and decline in our health chemical fertilizers and pesticides are also contributing to the decline of our soil quality with a recent report saying that 16% of UK fields tested showed an absence of deep burrowing worms”. This clearly has a knock on effect on bird life who rely on worms for food too which is the studies are also showing.
Although price is often the obstacle to buying organic, I think we need to ask the question, what is the true price for our body, the planet and humanity as a whole if we don’t?
For further information on this subject I recommend watching a film called The Worm is Turning (link below)
Do you often say you have a ‘sweet tooth’ and can’t go a single meal without something sweet to finish off with?
It’s all too easy to give into the 4 pm slump, reach for a coffee and a few digestive biscuits, just to get some quick energy and sweetness to get you through the day.
If this sounds like you, chances are the sugar trap has got you.
Here are a few of my favourite hacks to avoid excess sugar, beat sugar cravings and get control of your health, moods and mental health.
- Have breakfast
Never skip meals and especially breakfast, as this is the foundation of daily balance. If you notice yourself overeating through the day- this might be why. Stick to a hearty, filling breakfast that will keep you energized and ready for the day. Choose oats for slow released energy, sprinkled with nuts and berries for vitamins, antioxidants and beneficial fats that also boost your focus and mood.
- Experiment with spices
As excess sugar can alter your palate, experimenting with different spices, such as coriander, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom can help you get your taste buds back. They are all naturally sweet and help curb cravings. If sugar cravings are getting intense, try out cinnamon tea, add cinnamon to coffee or morning porridge, as it has been proven to have a major positive effect on blood sugar balance. Often cravings can also result from boredom with regular foods or a lack of certain nutrients, so keep on experimenting.
- Snack on fats
Ever wonder why you could drink a whole bottle of a fizzy drink and still feel hungry, but couldn’t drink the same amount of Greek yoghurt? Fat is what curbs the craving for sweet stuff and keeps us satisfied for longer. So if you’ve been opting for ‘low-fat’ options, don’t hesitate to make the change. Fill up your cupboards with nuts, olives and dips for quick go-to options.
- Watch your caffeine intake
Caffeine boosts your stress hormones whether you’re resting or already rushed off your feet. So if you’re feeling particularly stressed, lay off the caffeine as it will no doubt cause the sugar cravings. You might be surprised with the alternatives available. Switch to a green tea or my favourite matcha for a caffeine kick, that’s beneficial for the mind or try out lemon balm tea for more calming effects. Often cravings are a direct result of dehydration, so also check you H2O levels.
- Get busy
Cravings only last for 10 mins, therefore if experiencing intense cravings although you’ve just eating, you know it’s not real hunger. Focus on distracting yourself for 10 mins. Try brushing your teeth, watching funny cat videos (perhaps not so much if you’re at work), doing some stretching or going for a walk. If cravings hit after a certain time (4pm slump or after lunch), schedule some jobs that require your full attention and focus. Perhaps get that report finally done, go to the post office or clean the cupboards.
- Eat your greens (and reds, oranges and yellows)
The truth is that your gut flora requires a lot of different fibre, vitamins and antioxidants to keep us healthy and well. These are the good guys that are linked to smooth digestion, illness resilience and even our mental health. If our gut flora is out of balance, chances are that we’re experiencing intense sugar cravings. So make sure you have at least 5 portions of veg and maximum 2 portions of fruit per day to keep your gut happy (and craving-free).
Milda DipNT mBANT rCNHC helps women overcome emotional eating, ditch sugar addiction and create food habits that empower. She believes in the healing power of nature and in her practice focuses on the body as a whole, addressing the body, mind and emotions. Download a FREE 7 day Meal plan to ‘Curb the crave’ here (https://www.nutritionpath.uk/crave)
Guest Blog by Alexandra Parren, Sundried
If you’re a runner, staying strong and supple are very important for both your performance and to prevent injury. I think most of us are guilty of not stretching enough, even though we know that it is imperative for improving flexibility, range of motion, and helping us stay pain-free. There are other lesser known benefits to stretching too, such as improved balance, as stretching can help with fine muscle coordination. You only need to find around 10-15 minutes a day to dedicate to this important training supplement, and you’ll be feeling the benefits all day!
Yoga and running go hand in hand for a number of reasons, and you can use the two to really complement each other. Focus on each element and see how you can use yoga to improve your running.
There are many yoga poses which will target your core strength and help you switch it on while you’re running. The side plank pose is useful for really engaging your abdominal muscles and also strengthening your obliques which are the muscles on the sides of your torso. To perform a side plank, lie on your side on the floor and place your hand on the floor directly under your shoulder. Straighten your legs and stack your feet on top of each other. When you’re ready, use your core muscles to lift your torso up of the floor and make sure your hips are high. Raise your other arm straight up into the air and squeeze your core in tight and keep your entire body aligned. Hold the pose for around 30 seconds before switching to the other side. This is a tough exercise but you’ll feel the benefits instantly! Having a strong core while running is important as it will prevent your legs and back from overcompensating and therefore getting injured.
This may seem like an obvious one, but having strong legs is key to a successful run. Running can feel very natural, so you may not realise just how much pressure and strain is being put on your legs. Having strong leg muscles is crucial in protecting your knees, hips, and ankles from exerting too much pressure and getting injured. The warrior pose is perfect for building endurance in your leg muscles as well as your glutes. From a standing pose, step one leg out sideways and bend the knee so that you are almost in a lunge. Turn the foot at a 45 degree angle so that it faces away from you and turn your body so that it faces the same way. Slowly stretch your arms out, lift your ribcage, and then lean into the front leg. You should start to feel a burn in the quad! Hold this pose for as long as you can, while keeping your breathing slow and controlled.
One of the biggest elements of yoga is breathing. Every pose has a set breathing pattern and you should be very aware of your inhalations and exhalations every time you move. This translates very well into running as breathing can become laboured which can in turn cause you to lose your concentration. One of the worst things is becoming too aware of your breathing and it becoming strained! But if you control it properly, you can really use it to your advantage. The formal practice of controlling your breath in yoga is called Pranayama and there are many different techniques you can try. Start by closing your eyes and tune into your natural breathing rhythm. Notice the length of the inhalations and exhalations. When you’re ready, start to consciously alter your breathing my making the intake longer; count to 4 while breathing in, and the same on the way out. Your breathing should be audible to you, but not to anyone around you; it should be soft and relaxed. Try to apply this practice while you are running, particularly if you find yourself at a point in the run where you are struggling.
Finally, your mind plays a big role when you are running. Especially if you do not listen to music while running, it’s a long time to be alone with nothing but your thoughts! If you focus too much on how much your legs hurt and how out of breath you are then any run will become long and arduous. Meditating is a common practice which is not just bound to yoga, but knowing how to meditate effectively may really help you during those long and unrelenting miles. Meditating has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as helping in dealing with pain (which is something runners know all too much about!) Before you set off on your run, sit quietly for a few minutes and practice Pranayama. While you are running, make a mental list of all the things that you are seeing around you. You can also incorporate other senses so that you list the things you are feeling and hearing too, for example “I can hear a dog barking, my skin feels hot..” Finally, focus on loosening and relaxing your entire body. Your jaw, your shoulders, your arms, even your hands. These body parts can become very tense when you are running, so it’s important to make a conscious effort to relax and just try to enjoy the run!