October Blog 2011


By Clive Lindley-Jones | October 19, 2011 11:03 am

Don’t eat anything with a mother or a face!

Want to avoid the No1 killer in the western world? Bill Clinton did. But not until he had had one  heart attack and a stent put in to hold his coronary artery open against the build up of gloop. Getting that close to the end, can sometimes encourage one to change life-long habits, in order to make sure that your life is a little longer.

It is interesting to see the power of name recognition. And who has greater name recognition, in the western world, than past or present US presidents? What has been known for a considerable time becomes news again when someone famous, such as Clinton, adopts this approach and along the way, as a by product, looses 24 lbs. (or if you did go metric in 1971,  that is the far more sensible, 10.88kg) so more  vital changes on the inside can be partially mirrored  from without, in the weight that has come off. We will often do more to lose weight and look good than we will to really get healthy. The kind of healthy, that is, that keeps your heart pumping for a few more decades than it was planning on, when you kept bombarding it with goop.

Clinton, like Bush Jr. was famous for going out running with his secret service agents when president. But he had a tendency to want to run into a fast food chain on the run home. Perhaps, this was clever politics, to show he was a good-old-boy, or perhaps, bizarrely,  just because he liked the stuff.  He would munch into  a hamburger in full view of the press. These days if he had lit a cigarette, as Obama likes to do in private, he would, rightly, be in trouble for setting a bad example. However it tells us something, at least about the attitudes of the 1990’s, that hamburger eating in public was not, and is still not in most circles, considered bad form, in setting a poor example as a role model for the young.

So Clinton’s dietary volt face hits the headlines and CNN do a nice little feature on it interviewing both Clinton and the sources of the research, Dr.’s Esselstyn and Ornish on plant based diets and their powerful effect on reversing chronic illness like heart disease. So much so that Clinton, who may be economic with the truth, but is clearly a smart guy, (we can claim him a bit for our own here in Oxford as an old Rhodes scholar) decided, as he wanted to live, to avoid the succession of stent operations that might lead eventually to another heart attack, with a little research he could find that 82% of people who adopt a largely plant based diet can reverse their heart disease.

So again, being smart, he did what few of us do, he decided to change the single most influential thing anyone can change and get the maximum benefit from it, and that is…. his diet.

As Dr.’s Esselstyn and Ornish – Drs. Esselstyn and Ornish interview about Bill Clinton going Vegan – YouTube. say, heart disease is really a toothless paper tiger, even though it kills 42% of us.

It was already apparent when autopsies were done on very young men killed in the Korean and Vietnam wars that these 18-30 year olds were already suffering from considerable amounts of coronary artery disease. Yet such is the power of the status quo and the food lobby that nothing was really done about it then, accept invent new drugs to try and tackle the problem.

However, far, far more powerful, effective and permanent than any drug, food is rarely seen as a medicine. How can it be when we have such an intimate daily contact with it and take it for granted. Could it be that all these years millions have been dying when we already knew the cure for them. Yep!

Food is the most powerful tool you have to change not only your body but your brain. (I know this is also part of your body, but sometimes we forget that, to our peril). Food contains calories and  energy it is true, but more important still it contains information that talks to your genes, turning them on or off and affecting their function moment to moment.

One nice analogue I like, that puts it rather well, is to think of your genes like the software that runs everything in your body. Like your computer software it just does what you instruct it to do with the stroke of your keyboard.  You can then see food is like the keystrokes that send messages to your genes telling them what to do, so creating health and disease. You could think of your gut as  a one cell thick layer of about the size of a tennis court, with its own brain and a direct line to our other brain, and 60% of our immune system sat right behind it. Is it any wonder then that, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, if we consume  a dodge set of food/commands that then wash over these genes, we get some kind of software breakdown or worse a nasty malware popping up on our screen/body?

Something to think about.

The Gut, the Brain and all good things.

And while we are on the subject of the gut, spare a thought for those trillions of bacteria cells working away down there in the dark, often helping you make some useful stuff like vitamins. Almost every day in the practice I see people suffering from poor digestion, often given the rather catch all term, irritable bowel. One of the many tools in my armoury of helpful things to give people to get them working down there effectively and efficiently again is to re-innoculate the gut with good bacteria via the wonders of things called probiotics. Once mysterious and rarely understood these wonderful little helps are much sold in yoghurt and other drinks.

The term “probiotics” refers to friendly bacteria that, when consumed, beneficially affect the balance of bacteria in your intestines and have positive effects on your health.

Probiotics can be taken with in food or as supplements. Common kinds are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium, while a non -pathogenic yeast that is recognised to have probiotic effects is Saccharomyces boulardii.

While on the plant theme this month, it is worth noting that good sources of prebiotics, those substances that encourage the growth of  probiotics, come not only from fermented dairy foods such as plain yoghurt, which in its quality, unsugared state should be rich in probiotics,  but  come from compounds derived from certain plants in the diet such as artichokes, onions, asparagus, chicory and  leeks. The undigested parts of these plants serves as food for the friendly bacteria inside us and assuming that we have some in there already, these promote the growth of more to our benefit.

Want to get a quick take on the possible state of your own guts supply of healthy probiotic life forms?  Try this quiz.

Yes            No

  • o       Have you ever taken antibiotics?
  • o      Do you use antacids or stomach acid inhibitors?
  • o      Are you often constipated?
  • o      Do you often have diarrhoea or loose stools?
  • o      Do you have intestinal cramping of bloating?
  • o      Do you often have gas?
  • o      Are you prone to vaginal yeast infections?
  • o      Do you have intestinal candidiasis?
  • o      Family history of colon cancer ?
  • o      Are you prone to bladder infections?
  • o      Do you have acne or eczema?
  • o      Are you lactose intolerant?
  • o      Do you get frequent infections?
  • o      Do have colitis or Chron’s disease?
  • o      Do you have irritable bowel syndrome?

If you answered yes to any of these questions you might have an imbalance of intestinal bacteria

Finally on this probiotic theme, I am indebted to Amelia, who helps keep me sane(while I drive her insane) in my office for this interesting piece from the Wall Street Journal on the link between all these bug and your brain. While most investigations of probiotics have focused on their gastrointestinal benefits—the bacteria reduce the symptoms of diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome—this new research explored the effect of probiotics on the brain.

Jonah Lehrer on Yogurt, Gut Feelings and the Mind Body Problem | Head Case – WSJ.com.