Category Archives: Health

Spring Cleansing Diet

springgreensWith the weather currently warm and enlivening now is the time to consider a good spring clean inside.

Here are some suggestions which are almost universally helpful for giving energy, clearing the liver and getting rid of dull winter skin and joint aches.

For 7-14 days: drink plenty of water and

  • Eat salads with French dressing, with eggs, meat or fish if desired
  • Eat at least five steamed leafy vegetables with chicken or fish
  • Fried breakfast with no bread or potatoes, or scrambled, boiled or omeletted eggs
  • Try spring soup: chicken (or vegetable) stock with whizzed-up greens kale, spinach, celery, chard, nettles, leeks, flavoured to taste:
  • Greek salad: feta, tomatoes, avocado, olives, basil in olive oil
  • Lightly steamed kale tossed in yoghourt, coconut, garlic and bacon
  • Egg flan made with chestnut or chickpea flour, with salad
  • Cauliflower gratinee: lightly cooked then grilled with cheese on top

Cut out

  • tea, coffee, alcohol and chocolate
  • dairy and sugar
  • root vegetables, fruits and grains

As always, this isn’t medical advice, but if you research you’ll find most modern sensible diet advisers work along much the same lines as these (or you can go along and see your local friendly naturopath/homeopath for personal guidance.)

Stella Berg on Dean 834851

Introduction to Spices

Most spices have considerable health benefits, and have been used for centuries in their original cultures for healing as well as for their delicious taste. Contrary to what many people are led to believe, spicy food is usually NOT hot! But it should be very tasty, and learning about a few basic spices can add greatly to your cooking while being inexpensive to use.


Easily grown in England, this can be used as a leafy addition to food or as seeds, or seed powder. Coriander is a great source of potassium, iron, vitamin A, K and C, folic acid, magnesium and calcium. The leaves have a distinctive slightly lemony taste which goes well with stews and curries, and is often chopped into yogurt to make a refreshing dip.The seeds can be used whole or crushed and added to any sort of soups and stews, where its delicate flavour adds a depth without dominating the taste of the meal

Its health benefits are very highly regarded in the East: it’s good for diabetes, menstrual problems, anaemia, skin disorders, and has antibacterial properties as well as helping thicken hair growth. Well worth using in your daily diet!


Ginger is a hugely useful spice, and can be used for sweet foods as well as savoury, and many people know crystallised or chocolate coated ginger from Christmas feasts. Many people know its common use for feeling sick, either in pregnancy or sea sickness.

Its uses in health are very extensive (1). It contains a little vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and copper. It reduces high blood pressure, is an anti inflammatory (good for putting on arthritic joints), seems to help fight cancer and is, surprisingly, very helpful for the digestion.

To use in food, you can either chop fresh root or use ginger powder, and it adds warmth rather than heat to a dish, so that used in small quantities – if you aren’t used to it – you don’t have too much of its pungent flavour..

Externally, because its warming, you can mince it and put it, warmed gently, on any sore place to draw out heat and swelling; it’s excellent for sprains, bruising and arthritic knees.


This incredibly useful spice is related to ginger and has a woody warm taste. Indian people give it to their children in milk for coughs, and it in antiseptic(2), helps wound healing and internally it boosts the immune system, slows down many chronic diseases, supports the heart and lungs.

It is usually available in a bright yellow powder, and can be added to soups and stews, ond as you get used to the taste there are many lovely vegetable recipes, such as cauliflower in turmeric, that are delicious as well as very nutritious.



Cumin is a good source of Iron, Manganese, and other vitamins and minerals. Some research shows that cumin can stimulate the production of pancreatic enzymes and help digestion. One study found that cumin was protective against memory loss and the damaging effects of stress on the body(3).

in traditional herbal medicine, cumin is used as a diuretic and to treat stomach upset and flatulence. It is thought to promote a healthy digestive system, stimulates menstruation, and also can be added to gargles to treat laryngitis. Poultices of cumin are used to treat swellings of the breasts or testicles.

In cooking you can use it as seed or powder, and it really adds a lovely slightly musky flavour to any sauce, and is part of the traditional flavour or many Moroccan and Indian dishes.


Now try these recipes:

Dhal and Rice: This is a daily meal for many Indian families, very nutritious and very cheap.

Vegetable Stew: A very easy and delicious meal.

Moroccan Lamb Tagine: This is a lovely, cheap, traditional dish which everyone loves, as it’s tender and sweet.





Gluten Intolerance

gltuenSomeone said recently that the cause of the Industrial Revolution was changing our staple food from grains to potatoes. You can see the point: instead of all that threshing, grinding and baking, all you have to do is wash and boil it, freeing up plenty of time for inventing machinery and leisure activities.

It does make anyone wonder, though, why grain has been the foundation of farming civilisations, and perhaps the answer is that it began by being fed to animals. It’s a curious foodstuff for humans, because most of the animals who eat grasses have more than one stomach, or specialised micro organisms to break down the indigestible parts. We have neither, and evidence of the undesirability of a grain rich diet is overwhelming and universal.

If you consider the history of grain use in Europe, only the Italian pasta belt ate wheat – durum, which is low in gluten. In southern Italy the grain was rice, in Eastern Europe rye, in Scotland oats and in England, barley; only the rich ate wheaten bread here. And although all these grains except rice contain gluten, the amounts are low.

However during the last war our low gluten wheat flour supplies from Europe were cut off and instead we bought up the entire Canadian harvest year after year, and have continued doing so until now, substituting a moderately indigestible grain with a ‘strong’ or high gluten product which is highly allergenic and also quite addictive, causing a surprising variety of health problems.

Basically gluten – a Latin word meaning ‘glue’ – congeals in our gut, preventing the absorption of most nutrients (except the smallest molecule, sugar – hence the cravings that result for chocolate and sweet things), and damages the villi which causes coeliac-like symptoms. Often our bodies can’t wait to push the stuff out, and so we get symptom of an irritable bowel. We get dehydrated, demineralised, tired, muzzy, everything is running on a dead battery and we feel generally unwell.

Common signs:

  • Gastrointestinal effects. Symptoms such as intense bloating, diarrhea and constipation are sure signs of gluten intolerance.
  • Malabsorption of vitamins. If a person is gluten sensitive or intolerant, their stomach lining can no longer absorb essential nutrients from food. Low iron is a common indicator of gluten intolerance.
  • Skin rash. Keratosis pilaris and dermatitis herpetiformis are two skin conditions with direct connections to gluten exposure. Both of these are extremely itchy skin rashes that appear on your arms, torso, face, buttocks, elbows and hairline. Other skin irritations that mimic eczema might signal a gluten contamination.
  • Migraines. Or muzzy head. Headaches are symptoms of so many medical problems.Migraines that are combined with daily diarrhoea, a low iron count and a skin rash paint a different picture. And if your migraine starts within an hour or two of ingesting food that contains gluten, it’s highly indicative of a gluten sensitivity.
  • Joint pain. Gluten contamination causes an inflammatory response in the body. That inflammation will make itself known in various ways. Joint pain, often misdiagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis, is a very common symptom of gluten intolerance. This is the symptom that surprised me the most. After I eliminated gluten, I was shocked at how much joint pain I had been having. When it resurfaced within hours of a gluten contamination, it was almost unbearable.
  • Lactose intolerance. If you already have problems digesting foods containing lactose, chances are you’re having problems with gluten. If gluten has compromised the stomach lining and lactase, you will experience symptoms aligned with lactose intolerance. If you’re already lactose intolerant and have other symptoms on this list, it may be smart to consider eliminating gluten.
  • Chronic fatigue. Like migraines, chronic fatigue alone is not a strong indicator of gluten intolerance. It’s become a clearer symptom when combined with gastrointestinal problems,especially frequent diarrhoea. If the body is not absorbing nutrients and essential vitamins, fatigue is sure to take over.
  • Fibromyalgia. Some medical experts believe fibromyalgia is a symptom, not a disease. Inflammation of the connective tissue is one of the strongest symptoms of a gluten intolerance. Essentially, the body thinks gluten is an enemy and will send out antibodies to destroy it. Those antibodies destroy the lining of the stomach and intestines. Just like with joint pain, the inflammation could present itself in any part
  • Intractable Dandruff
  • Pins and Needles: yet more nutrient deficiency symptoms
  • Attention Deficits: it’s surprising how often kids with ADDH and suchlike improve at once when the gluten is removed.
  • Depression, Anxiety and Irritability mostly these are caused by the blocking of nutrients from the gut, resulting in low levels of energy and well being
  • Thrush – possibly the commonest symptom of all. This is usually caused by ‘leaky gut syndrome’, where the bowel has been damaged by the gluten protein, allowing it to pervade the bloodstream and affect other parts of the body.

Anything that causes such a wide range of symptoms should NOT be a major part of our diets, and well over 70% of people who try out a gluten free fortnight feel enormously benefited by it. Many of those give up gluten permanently because they feel that the gluten is poisoning them.

If you feel you may be one of the great majority of people who are gluten intolerant, give yourself a fortnight of no grains at all, eating lovely fry ups (no sausages or toast), soups, salads and cooked meals, and see if you feel the difference. Expect, though to get cravings and/or headaches over the first few days. If unsure how to organise it, consult a dietary therapist for support.

Stella Berg is a Homoeopathic Healthcare Practitioner based in the Forest of Dean. She is also a lively and passionate contributor to the Food Hub. You can find out more about Stella and her work at

Health Matters

Anyone who grows food has come across the advice to use NPK on their soil: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, to make their plants grow well.

Think about that. If you grow sunflower seeds containing zinc, and use the NPK formula on the plants, after a few years there won’t be any further zinc and therefore the seeds won’t have any.

This demonstrates one of the fundamental problems with ‘conventional’ food growing. An interesting report (1) current crops showed a shocking loss of nutrient content, for which the NPK myth is largely responsible. Most people are nutrient deficient, and many common ailments such as low energy, poor immune function, arthritis and chronic fatigue are largely the result of bodies trying to function without the essential nutrients that power them.

There are a number of good ways to restore nutrients to the soil, and you can use one or all of them, and the benefits for the microorganisms results in stronger, healthier plants and later any animals in turn who eat them. Here are some ideas:

1) Growing perennial crops. These have time to grow deeper roots so they can bring up nutrients from the subsoil.(2) Nettles, comfrey and horseradish are but three examples, and the plants can be used as green manure or made into green tea and diluted as a top dressing.

2) Pasturing animals on perennial meadow – the old fashioned way. Give your animals a good green diet and then use their manure on your veg patch, and everything benefits.

3) Volcanic rock dust is unbelievably rich in nutrients, that’s why farmers always return to living under active volcanoes. You can buy VRD locally from the very knowledgeable David Wilkin at Pinetum Products in Highnam, and 18 months later you should see very satisfactory results.

4) Biochar – very trendy but nonetheless effective. Make charcoal, soak with nettle tea then spread. The results last for years, and you can keep adding until roses will grow on brickdust, wonderful! Or I just put all my winter veg offcuts in the oven, grind them up and spread everywhere, which has good results.

These are all natural ways to increase the amount of trace elements in plants, and then when people eat them they feel and function better. However, that isn’t the end of the story. We all are the descendants of hunter/gatherer tribes – very recently, really, from the point of view of our bodies, and we are accustomed to eat a very wide variety of meats and vegetables. Within recorded history this diet changed to the much more limited range of foods that we grew, and the number of food varieties has continued to contract until now the average child’s diet in UK consists of around 80% THREE foods: wheat, dairy foods and sugar. On such a diet there is no possibility of being entirely healthy. Without sufficient vitamin D, rickets is coming back, all of us in alternative health are seeing scurvy now (bleeding gums, tiredness, easy bleeding, painful joints); weakness and weariness often appear from lack of the B vitamins. We do little better with the minerals, and a surprisingly large proportion of modern diseases are simply curable by restoring desperately needed nutrients levels to the body.

There’s an interesting ‘urban myth’ that the original advice for diet issued to the Government was to eat not five but twelve portions of fruit and vegetables daily (Japan still recommends 13-17 portions a day), sadly but inevitably watered down in case people felt it would be too difficult, and of course the supermarket lobby group would not find such advice acceptable.

It’s actually not hugely expensive to eat a nourishing diet. It begins with forsaking the supermarkets and ready meals, boxed cereals and takeaways for fresh and nutritious organic food, and learning which minerals your family need to become and stay lively, energetic and well. Even severe problems like diabetes and arthritis are largely nutrient deficiency diseases, and usually respond to a wholesome diet. If you have ever wondered why we have so many chronic diseases in our sophisticated society, look at the wheat, the coke, chocolate, ready meals and other highly processed and denatured foods we are offered, and consider whether your great grandparents ate them. Good food is the first and best medicine, and it takes less than a week usually to demonstrate the difference. Try it and see!

Stella Berg is a Homoeopathic Healthcare Practitioner based in the Forest of Dean. She is also a lively and passionate contributor to the Food Hub. You can find out more about Stella and her work at


2The Carbon Fields, Graham Harvey

Obesity: the new malnourishment

Obesity: the new malnourishment

We’re used to hearing about nations suffering from malnourishment and even starvation, but the world is now officially obese.

Unlikely as this may sound, you can check these statistics in real time.

At the time of writing this post the following statistics hold true:

  • 896,186,711 people are undernourished in the world right now
  • 1,582,787,880 overweight people
  • 527,595,966 people are clinically obese


So, can we say that obesity is the ‘new starvation’? Many would say yes, but how did this situation occur?

Well, much of it is partly down to the increasing consumption of processed foods. Certain ingredients and food stuffs have also been earmarked as culprits, including:

  • Monosodium glutamate
  • High fructose corn syrup (known as glucose-fructose syrup in the UK)
  • Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners
  • Trans fats

Isn’t this just an American problem?

No, as global corporations spread their tentacles worldwide offering processed food to a wider audience, the problem is worsening and people worldwide are getting fatter.

The NHS statistics for the UK alone are alarming.

Now, we are told that we can gauge whether someone is a healthy weight by their body mass index. A healthy body mass would be between 18.5 and 25. Nevertheless, in 2011 only 39% of women and 34% of men fell into the healthy range!

Obesity rates are also growing and we can see the extent of this since 1993:

  • Back in 1993 16% of women and 13% of men were classed as obese, with a body mass index of 30 or more
  • This rose by 2011 to 2012 to 26% of women and 24% of men falling into the obese category

As you can see, it’s a ‘growing’ concern if you’ll pardon the pun! Unfortunately, it’s also a trend that on the rise.

Obesity is undernourishment

So, are all these Brits of a portly stature because they have been feasting on the finest food? Of course not! The driving force behind the epidemic is the abundance of cheap, high calorie processed foods which are laden with fat and sugar.

Unfortunately, our biology also plays a part in this and we can partly thank our cavemen ancestors for this. We evolved in an environment where we never knew whether to expect feast or famine. Seeking out high calorie and fatty foods, as science suggests, is hardwired into us! The problem is that now these foods are abundant, easily accessible and we eat as much of them as we like.

The issue is that many of these processed junk foods have little in the way of nutritional value. So, whilst people munch on junk, a paradoxical set of events starts to occur. They get fatter, yet their bodies are literally being starved of nutrients. Some experts have even suggested that their state of malnutrition is actually driving them to consume even more.

Where does exercise come into this?

Well, we all know how important it is for maintaining good health, yet it’s still possible for gym bunnies to gain weight. There is an expression famous amongst body builders “Abs are made in the kitchen.”

What this means is that diet is the key factor when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, although nobody denies that exercise is important!

How do we reverse this trend?

Well, for a start, just look at the deals in your local supermarket. You’ll see that most are on multipacks of snacks, biscuits and other empty calories.

What people can do is to seek out local produce and start to eat more seasonal vegetables and fruit, whole and unprocessed foods. Proper cuts of meat that originate from farms with high standards of animal welfare are far healthier than any processed meat products you’ll find on a supermarket shelf.

Is it a question of education?

Well, this is tricky and I credit most adults with enough intelligence to know what constitutes a healthy diet!

Personally, I think it’s a case of creating a new food culture based on affordable and accessible healthy food for all.

Becca Cobham is an experienced blogger and content manager. She is passionate about real local food and how it can benefit health and vitality. We’re stoked to have her as part of the Food Hub team.