we need a new, functional way


This post will mainly be about how the folk in white coats aren’t always going to be aware of the best direction for us to go in so we’d best make ourselves aware of our options. This was in the news in July. It questions how equipped doctors are for reading results of tests they’ve suggested for their patients and their ability to assess their patient’s risk in choosing action or inaction in light of them.

Apart from a small minority of adult patients most of us are compliant with what our healthcare providers suggest. Although the internet has made it possible for that minority who have decided to investigate their own health and treat themselves to communicate with one another and draw support from their ‘go it alone’ peers.

The men in white coats are the experts – they’re trained in this stuff  ‘all I know is my body isn’t working as I’d like it to – they’re expert, they MUST know more than me?’

We need only consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to understand why and how this situation arises. When one of our foundations is rocked (health) we revert to feeling as we did as a child; surrounded by grownups who obviously know more than us. We’ll happily listen to any medical professional in the strong hope that they are the experts we’ve been brought up to believe live in those white coats. When they’re on the scene we can safely be the child that lets the grownups make decisions on their behalf.

Experts don’t appear to be in ready supply for a range of chronic conditions. The clue is in the name. These conditions are considered chronic/long term because no one has yet found a cure.

I’ve just been sent a link to this site which highlights the foods we’ve been taught to believe are bad for us in reality (and moderation) are in fact pretty good for us.

Times they are a changing!

Functional medicine works with how our bodies are right now. Here is a site that takes a functional approach to exercise. For people who are short on energy we choose to conserve it for the important things (exercise, let’s be honest, is rarely one of those things). Making best use of remaining energy is the smart person’s choice. we must also keep in the back of our mind that as we move less we will become less able to move.

Medical professionals aren’t at present set up to look at the body’s fuel: out of approximately 7 year’s worth of gp training they spend not much more than a week on nutrition!

There are some out there like NHS Dr Marios Hadjivassiliou who runs the ataxia clinic in Sheffield who acknowledge that the fuel we run our bodies with has an effect on our performance. He cites gluten as a problem protein for the body to digest and it’s ill effects have the potential to cause trouble in more than just the digestive tract (celiac disease).

There are enough suggestions of nutritional approaches all over the web so I’ll point you toward a resource that has links to reliable research into alternative ways of treating a poorly functioning body.

 I’ll use cognitive dysfunction to account for the scattered nature of this post. All the links on this page really go to show that healthcare is not a binary thing. there isn’t one way to make things better. it sounds horrifically West Coast but Instead we need to love ourselves and those around us enough to want to find ways of making life better for ourselves.

This is a frightening proposition, but only at first. Further into your selfcare journey you’ll come across posts and sites perhaps like this one and be able to critically think about the worth of what’s being suggested!


Happy travels!


Learning for life


Until we have a need to access professionals who can ‘fix’ us, healthcare’s all a bit fuzzy and indistinct in our minds. We’re built to not spend time on things that aren’t immediately concerning to our continued existence. We imagine if at all, everything will be working in our favour. Caregivers at all levels from consultants to care assistants are there primarily for our benefit. This article from the American Academy of Neurology explains why that may not always be the case.

It’s heartening to see this acknowledgement from a trusted player in the field. Some of the ground troops of various chronic conditions have had questions along these lines for a good few years.

One of our foundations in life is no longer the reliable anchor we once assumed it was. We have spent perhaps decades taking our health for granted. We are now calling on the skills of others to help us however they see fit.

We can choose to take a passive role in our functioning day-to-day but we are now given the opportunity to think differently by learning lots of new stuff. A lot of stuff we assumed was safe as houses we have now learnt, isn’t. Post 2008, is not the time or place to question that particular truism.

Here is one TED talk that highlights the vested interests involved in developed nations’ unquestionable truths about human nutrition.

Reading for ourselves is different now we’re not at school (honestly). For a start, we don’t have to do any of it if we don’t want to. We don’t have to hand our books in to be marked. No one is asking us to do it, we are doing it for the benefit of ourselves.

Doing this sort of activity luckily, is very good for our brains. In this 11 minute talk, Sandra Chapman PhD highlights how our brains relish and thrive on feeling challenged. When given something to get its teeth into our brain will do its best to rise to that challenge and become smarter and more effective which ultimately ends up benefitting us (Sudoku it seems isn’t the answer).

Here is another TED talk giving a refreshing, scientifically backed up way to look at how to change behaviour. It’s not suggested we rely on willpower rather, research has been undertaken to look into methods which allow us to be more aware of ourselves. In it Zoe Chance, a tutor at Yale University in the US lists the 5 qualities an activity needs to possess to have a chance at becoming habit forming. We are all works in progress so if we want to change something about ourselves, we can.

TED talks are great for taking (usually) less than half an hour of our life to tell us stuff we didn’t know and may well help make life a little better. I have a link to this particular TED talk somewhere else on this site. It’s such an important and relatively easily addressed area of our lives. Getting better sleep to reap a better experience of life is within most of our grasps. It all depends on how much we want it.


Homemade Fermented Veg

Does having Ukrainian great grandparents mean I have homemade fermented veg in my blood?

I don’t know but it is a really easy process, becoming a little bit organised has been one of its happy side effects.

A search on homemade fermented vegetables will deliver many youtube clips on how to make sauerkraut, kimchi or get pickling to your heart’s content. They can show you better than I can describe the process of making our own, cheap alternative to probiotics. A lot of them show making industrial quantities but have a go yourself with smaller amounts first to see if it’s a habit that you want to get into.

The reason I started making my own sauerkraut apart from reading about its benefits online was it keeps you regular (this doesn’t present a problem for people who have delightful insides you could set your clock by but, if you haven’t got regularity you’ll know how miserable it can be and you’ll have a go at anything that might help!) and it looked a lot cheaper than regular probiotic supplementation.


I use the biggest, widest necked glass jars i can get (big jars of black olives from the supermarket have a good shape)

Fairly finely chop/shred

  • A red cabbage (peel off the outer two leaves before you start chopping and put to one side)
  • Bulb or two of fennel
  • 2 or 3 sticks of celery

Any veg that’s quite firm and holds a lot of water (but not potatoes) I’ve tried mushrooms and lettuce and courgette but they were too soft/water filled, I think and went to mush quickly

I find white cabbage a bit too sulphurous,

Leek gives a really zingy taste but after a week or two squashed in a jar outside the fridge its sulphurous smell is not for the fainthearted!

  • Beetroot (grated or sliced thinly)
  • Grated carrot is something to try chucking in: i think it and beetroot might be quite high in sugars (I’m guessing this is why they turned to a sticky mush on their own?) so probably they shouldn’t make up the majority of the chopped veg mix.
  • a bit of grated ginger or chopped fresh chilli adds another dimension!

Once the veg is chopped I use a big, ceramic cake mixing bowl and scatter over a good teaspoon of seasalt or Himalayan rock salt  (both hold more trace minerals which is a good thing apparently and are much better than table salt I’m told. The salt will stop nasties proliferating and draw water out of the veg. Perhaps also a teaspoon of caraway seeds (if you like that sort of thing)

After 24 hours of the veg sitting weighted down (I’ve inherited a big pestle and mortar but before that I was using bags of water which are quite heavy) it’s time to pack the jars up to an inch below the top.

Various places online suggest treating the jars as you would if you were making jam  ie putting the empty jars in boiling water or in a hot oven to kill off germs I did this once but, being one for the easier life I figured we’re after bacteria why does it matter if these jars are super, squeaky clean?

It is worth giving the jars a good wash tho!

Remember the outer cabbage leaves you put to one side?

Tear the leaves up to fit comfortably over the top of the veg and tuck the sides down the insides of the jar. You want to try and keep everything below the eventual waterline (mould can’t grow underwater). I’ve had a couple of furry tops of jars now and then and that’s when stuff has risen during fermentation and stuck out above the water. I’ve gotten rid of the first couple of inches of contents and the bottom half of the jar has been fine. You can gauge the consistency of the veg for yourself and decide when it looks like you might want to try eating it… or throwing it out!

It should taste sour (the bacteria already present on the veg make acetic acid) but the veg should still keep a crunch and should not go slimy.

My partner is far less gung ho than me when it comes to eating ‘off’ food so I appreciate this might not be everyone’s cup of tea but the only thing you can lose is a bit of time* so, why not give it a try?

Most of take advantage of the fermentation process when we eat, cheese, salami or yoghurt and drink wine or beer

In cooler weather (not necessary in the warmth of summer) you can try splitting up a probiotic capsule and mix it with water. I’ve used a kefir starter which has bacteria in as does VSL#3 the NHS approved probiotic (well, my mum got a prescription for it a while back). You’re going to top up to half an inch below the top of the tightly packed, veg filled jar (between half and one pint of water as a rough guide). I use filter water and the liquid from the last jar (this liquor also makes interesting vinegar for salad dressing). I imagine tap’d be fine too.

I get two jars at a time or thereabouts from a head of cabbage and assorted extra veg.

The addition of friendly bacteria from a capsule gets the fermentation process underway and the jars could be ready to eat in less than a month. Don’t forget to hold them in something that will catch any drips. We’ve created a living thing so the jars will breathe and ooze for want of a better word!

The benefits of cruciferous veg coupled with fermented food and the smug feeling we get for homemaking a ‘thing’ makes this activity worthwhile, for me. I’ve seen suggestions out there to not eat this straight from the jar as we harbour lots of pathogenic bacteria in our mouths that we probably don’t want to multiply. Keep the jar in the fridge once opened (it will still ferment but at a much slower rate).

I try to have at least a couple ‘brewing’ in the cupboard under the stairs at  at any one time.

*Go gently at this new way of eating veg, it’s undoubtedly good for us (please see my candida posts to rule out if you are one of the people that should avoid too much fermented food until you’ve rebalanced your gut bacteria). The microbes in our tums may need a little time to get used to all their new friends.

A wider group of friends for your gut microbiota can have positive effects on the body as a whole but especially so for the brain (microbes themselves are microbiota whereas microbiome describes their genes)