The magic of Nigella seeds!

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Nigella seeds are produced by the Nigella sativa plant, a flowering annual of the buttercup family, native to the Middle East. The seeds are high in essential fatty acids and can be pressed produce an oil.

Nigella seeds are also known as black cumin or black onion seeds and are one of five spices that make up the classical Indian ‘panch phoran’ mix used to flavour dhal and curries, delivering a peppery and decidedly aromatic tang.

Over the centuries Nigella seeds have earned both considerable renown and some legendary advocates. Galen, the famous Roman physician recommended Nigella seeds as a failsafe cure for colds, whilst the Islamic prophet Mohammed went further, proclaiming nigella as “good for all ailments except death”. Perhaps as a result, nigella seeds are commonly used throughout the Middle East and Asia both as a food and medicinal herb.

Nigella’s status in the West may have remained unchanged as culinary obscurity except for the growing weight of research that indicates nigella seeds have an extraordinary array of beneficial properties. There are over 600 peer reviewed studies referencing the benefits of nigella in a wide range of conditions including:

Type 2 diabetes: by reducing fasting glucose and insulin resistance.

Stomach ulcers: by treating helicobacter pylori bacteria.

Epilepsy: by reducing seizures especially where standard medications have failed and

High blood pressure: especially in cases of mild hypertension.

here are also promising results suggesting that nigella seeds may be helpful in tackling golden staph or MRSA Infection, reduce the symptoms of asthma and prevent colon cancer.

What stands out about nigella is the breadth of conditions it seems to influence. Traditional herbal folklore describes the action of nigella as an immune ‘normaliser’ with the unusual ability to treat both overactive inflammatory type conditions as well as conditions where there is immune weakness and lack of inflammatory response.

Whether in the hands of an expert herbalist, sprinkled onto a flatbread, or thrown into a curry, Nigella is another of nature's magical gifts to be cherished.

Make an appointment to see Live Well's Herbalist!

Is Non Stick Cookware Safe?

There’s no doubting the ease of cooking with non stick pans but given there are persistent concerns raised about their safety it’s worth understanding the risks.

First a bit of history

Teflon was invented by global chemical giant DuPont in the 1930’s but ran into trouble when it was discovered that perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which is used to make teflon was discovered to be a likely carcinogen (cancer causing substance).

In 2004 DuPont paid $300 million to settle a class action by 50,000 US residents that lived in the water catchment of its West Virginia plant. The residents claimed PFOA contamination of the water supply had caused birth defects and other health hazards. Then in 2005, the US EPA fined DuPont $16.5 million after finding the company knew about the dangers of PFOA’s for decades but kept quiet about it.

Good Riddance to PFOA’s

Further studies into the effect of PFOA’s on animals found it caused cancer, liver damage, growth defects, immune-system damage and death. Consequently under pressure form the EPA DuPont and other companies agreed to phase out the use of PFOA’s in the making of non stick cookware from 2015.

However DuPont maintained that whilst PFOA’s were released in the manufacture of Teflon, use of the finished product by consumers did not result in release of PFOA’s so was considered safe. Nevertheless PFOA’s have been phased out due to their environmental impact and most leading manufacturers now label their non stick cookware as PFOA free. But that’s not the end of the story!

Can’t Stand the Heat

All non-stick cookware if heated above 500 degrees celsius starts to break down and release toxic gases which cause what is know as polymer fume fever or ‘Teflon flu’. Symptoms include temporary intense fever, shivering, sore throat and coughing. Birds are especially susceptible to exposure to polymer fumes with several cases of birds being killed when owners have left non-stick pans on the stove to overheat. Whist the effects of Teflon flu are considered to be temporary in humans no studies have investigated the long term effects of repeated exposure.

So Should I Throw Out My Non-Stick Pans?

The take home message if you love non-stick cookware is that you need to be careful to not let the pan overheat. Heavier pans are better than lightweight ones as the lighter the pan the more quickly it overheats. Non-stick cookware is not suitable for foods that require cooking on high heat for an extended period time. So scrambled eggs and stir fries are considered safe but hamburgers and steak are considered risky. If the surface of your pan is scrached or chipped you should definitely get rid of it as when the surface is damaged its more likely to leach toxic compunds.

At the end of the day non-stick pans have never ben recalled for safety fears. Nevertheless I wouldn't blame anyone for deciding that, despite the convenience, non-stick pans are not worth the risk.

Wes Smith is Live Well's Director and has 20 years experience as a practitioner and wellness educator. He has a special interest in working with chronic immune issues, stressanxiety and depression
Wes is passionate about inspiring and educating people to create and sustain their vitality and wellbeing so they can live life to the full.
Wes also enjoys teaching meditation and is the creator of meditatewithwes.com an online resource for learning how to meditate. es has a B.App.Sc.(Acup), Diploma of Herbal Medicine, a Yoga Teaching Diploma and is an APHRA registered acupuncturist. Learn more about acupunctureherbal medicine and meditation.

Learn more about Wes
Make an appointment with Wes

Why Gelatine is Good for You

You may not have noticed, but gelatine is currently undergoing a makeover. It’s gone from a leading an unheralded life as a gourmet food ingredient in desserts like panna cotta and chocolate mousse to being a pin up star of the paleo movement.

The key to it’s turnaround in fortunes? It’s all to do with the recent explosion in our understanding of the importance of gut health and the integrity of the gut lining to our overall wellbeing. We now know that gelatine can repair leaky gut and soothe and heal the digestion like almost nothing else.

Gelatine has a gritty back story. It’s produced in a process similar to making a traditional stock, by boiling the bones, skin and connective tissue of animals like pigs and cows to yield up to 18 amino acids including glycine and proline. If you have read about the benefits of bone broth then the same applies to gelatine except that in this case the final product is both colourless and odourless and dissolves in water so it can be added to smoothies, soups, or just about any food.

Gut Health

Gelatine restores integrity to the gut lining and heals leaky gut which is often the root cause of food intolerances, allergies and autoimmune diseases. Gelatine also improves gastric secretions and helps with low stomach acid. Additionally, it’s ability to hydrate the bowel aids in promoting good intestinal transit and healthy bowel motions.

Skin and Bones

The amino acids found in gelatine are the building blocks of collagen the protein that gives the skin its elasticity and structure. Gelatine is also known to strengthen joints and soothe inflammation which makes its beneficial for those suffering from arthritis or joint soreness after exercise.

Sleep and Mood

Gelatine can keep you calm and sleeping through the night. The glycine found in gelatine has been found to assist with sleep quality without causing grogginess or side effects. Glycine naturally reduces the uptake of norepinephrine: a stress hormone which triggers feelings of anxiety and panic.

It’s important to get a good quality gelatine made from pasture raised cattle so skip the supermarket gelatine and source some from your local health food shop or trusted online whole foods retailer.

Wes Smith is Live Well's Director and has 20 years experience as a practitioner and wellness educator. He has a special interest in working with chronic immune issues, stressanxiety and depression
Wes is passionate about inspiring and educating people to create and sustain their vitality and wellbeing so they can live life to the full.
Wes also enjoys teaching meditation and is the creator of meditatewithwes.com an online resource for learning how to meditate. es has a B.App.Sc.(Acup), Diploma of Herbal Medicine, a Yoga Teaching Diploma and is an APHRA registered acupuncturist. Learn more about acupunctureherbal medicine and meditation.

Learn more about Wes
Make an appointment to see Wes

Depression and Food for your Mood

Feel-good foods

The foods we eat can be either a completely destabilising cocktail for a healthy mood, accelerating and compounding depression; or an extremely powerful tool for preventing and treating it. So let’s take a look at the kinds of foods we can use in order to boost mood and enhance mental health. At the most basic level, it means eating a nutrient-rich, wholefoods (real foods) diet, and avoiding a handful of offending foods...

As a rule of thumb, try to opt for a SLOW foods diet:

Seasonal (in-season for you and your climate right now)

Local (sourced from close to where you live –Farmer’s Markets are great for this!)

Organic (wherever possible = higher nutrient value, with the added benefit of reducing intake of nasty chemical residues from pesticides)

Whole (foods in their natural state -such as fresh vegetables, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruit, fish and lean, organic, well-fed, raised and sustainably farmed meats)

Wherever possible, try to avoid the packaged, processed, “food-like products” that are high in sugar, additives and unhealthy fats.  I saw a quote I loved recently, which said: “Real foods don’t HAVE ingredients, they ARE ingredients”They also supply your body with an array of nourishing and balancing nutrients that every cell, organ, tissue and body system depends on for good health and functioning.

Eating by these principles, your mood and your body will absolutely notice the difference!

At a glance, you really want to be increasing these specific nutrients in your diet on a daily basis;  so on a whole (pun might be intended!), the major foods to look at are:

Healthy (Omega 3) fats

Essential fatty acids play an important and therapeutic role in depression. The brain needs these fatty acids for both structure and function, as well as being required for serotonin and dopamine transmission, and to stabilise neuronal function.

Healthy fats are highly protective for the brain, neurological system and all body cells; and are necessary for brain chemistry production, amping up feel-good mood transmitters and enhancing their receptivity. They are necessary for hormonal regulation, and play a huge role in reducing inflammation, which is known to play a major role in the pathophysiology of depression, particularly as inflammatory processes degrade and inhibit health neurotransmitter production.

Find healthy, Omega 3 fats  in:

Oily Fish such as Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna, Sardines; Coconut and Olive oil; Avocado; all Nuts & Seeds; Eggs; Tofu.

Protein

The amino acids in protein foods are the raw materials the body needs to make our neurotransmitters for healthy mood; for example, Serotonin (feel good), GABA (relaxing), noradrenalin (motivating). If we are not getting enough quality proteins through the diet, our bodies won’t have the building blocks to synthesise our brain chemistry.

Protein-rich foods include:

Fish; Meat; Eggs; Nuts and Seeds; Legumes; Tofu; Tempeh; Quorn; Wholegrains (e.g. oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, millet..).

B complex vitamins

B vitamins are necessary for optimal functioning of the brain and neurological system; for production of feel-good neurotransmitters and their transmission; as well as for stress support, digestion and absorption of nutrients, and energy.

Find B complex vitamins in:

Dark, leafy greens; Whole grains (e.g. oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, millet..); Nuts & Seeds: Almonds, Brazil, Cashews, Hazelnuts, Pecans, Pine nuts, Pistachios, Walnuts, Sesame seeds/Tahini, Sunflower seeds; Soya beans; Yeast (bakers / dried / spread);Eggs; Kangaroo, Chicken, Turkey; Oily and white fish; Mushrooms.

Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential nutrient required by our bodies for stress, mood and nervous system support; energy production; and numerous cellular functions that play a role in depression and the regulation of neurotransmitters.

Find Magnesium in:

Dark, leafy greens;  Whole grains (e.g. oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, millet..); Legumes; Nuts & Seeds: Almonds, Brazil, Cashews, Hazelnuts, Pecans, Pine nuts, Pistachios, Walnuts, Sesame seeds/Tahini, Sunflower seeds; Yeast (bakers / dried / spread); Licorice (confectionery), Dark Chocolate ; Chilli powder, Curry powder, Mustard powder; Goats milk;  Red meat, Chicken liver, Pork, Chicken, Turkey; Dried fruit: Apple, Apricot, Currants, Date, Figs, Sultana, Prunes; Passionfruit, Bananas, Blackberries, Raspberries.

Zinc

Low levels of zinc in the body are correlated with depression, with studies showing the more deficient the zinc levels are, the worse the depression. Zinc is a co-factor (necessary ingredient) for neurotransmitter production (feel-good brain chemistry) and many other important functions in the body.

Find Zinc in:

Pumpkin seeds; Eggs; Oysters; Nuts: Brazil, Almonds, Cashews, Pine nuts, Walnuts; Tahini, Sesame seeds and Sunflower seeds; Garlic; Green peas; Broad beans, Butter beans;  Spinach and dark leafy greens, including fresh parsley & basil; Mushrooms; Yeast spread; Tomatoes – sundried; Red meats, Chicken, Duck, Turkey; Cheese  (especially hard, yellow & blue cheeses).

Vitamin D

A deficiency of vitamin D is associated with depression and is responsible for modulating several neurotransmitters. Vitamin D  exerts neuroprotective effects, and interestingly, studies show it having a neuroactive hormonal influence as well. So it is a vital nutrient for many functions.

Vitamin D is best sourced by soaking up some sunshine through exposure of the skin to UVB rays (this accounts for approximately 90% of bioavailable D3 in the body) short periods, at non-extreme UV times of day. But you also need to have the correct amounts of magnesium present in order to activate it in your body. Obtaining adequate amounts of vitamin D through diet alone is unlikely, as vitamin D is produced in the body, and relies upon exposure to UVB rays in order to do so.

Find vitamin D in:

Sunshine (direct contact to skin); Oily fish –Salmon, Tuna, Herring, Sardines; Eggs, Beef; Butter; Mushrooms.

And don’t forget these important nutrients:

·    Quality sleep

·    Daily exercise

·    Rest, relaxation and fun

·    Nature (especially fresh air and sunshine)

Taking care to avoid certain things is also really important.

You’ll be doing yourself and your mood a real service by limiting or eschewing the following:

Caffeine

Caffeine has a demonstrated correlation with depression. It’s actually a highly psychoactive substance; and whilst many of us casually use caffeine in our daily diets, it depletes essential nutrients such as B complex vitamins and magnesium - which are vital to our wellbeing, in helping buffer the impact stress has on our nervous system and adrenal glands. Caffeine  also alters neurotransmitter function, for example via its effects on dopamine transmission, and has a  negative impact on  quality of sleep –which is a fundamental pillar for mental health and mood.

Sugar and artificial sweeteners

Studies have implicated sugar intake as a notable causative factor in depression. It can be linked to several actions, including dysregulation of blood sugars (a marked driver of depression); exacerbation of inflammatory processes that impact the brain and mood; and the leeching of important minerals needed for neurotransmitter production and function.

Sugars and high-carbohydrate foods (that rapidly flood the bloodstream with glucose upon ingestion) hit the reward centres of the brain, and act to temporarily boost mood and relieve depression. This can create a cycle of reliance upon the very substances (e.g. chocolate, biscuits, bread and alcohol) further perpetuating the situation.

Alcohol

Whilst it can appear to help temporarily, the fact remains that alcohol is indeed a depressant, especially on the neurological system; and so will have a worsening effect on depression. Alcohol also rapidly uses and depletes those nutrients the body needs to maintain a healthy mood, and causes huge blood sugar spikes and crashes; so it can be a real triple-whammy!

Wheat and dairy

What we know is both wheat and dairy are highly inflammatory and aggravating to A LOT of peoples’ systems. There is much more that could be said on the matter, particularly discussing the link between wheat in the diet and depression (along with other psychiatric conditions!). But if you really want to try a simple, no-nonsense approach with your (mental) health and wellbeing using a nutritional, food-as-medicine-based approach;  try cutting these two “bad boys” down or out of the diet completely (along with reducing or eliminating caffeine, sugar and alcohol –if and where you can) for 3-4 weeks…

Be sure to keep a food and symptom log, either on notebook or on your phone to jot down what you are eating, and also to check in with yourself and how you’re feeling; are you noticing any changes or improvements?  See if you can track the quality of your mood, your energy, clarity and focus, sleep, stress/anxiety, digestion etc. (whatever symptoms and markers are relevant to you). A useful way to do this is to rate your mood and symptoms each day from 1-10. Starting your log a few days to a week before you make any changes will help you to establish a baseline so you can really see your improvements on paper, as well as feel the benefits!

Proper nutrition and nutritional therapy can be a real game-changer…

If you experience depression or other stress and mood-related disturbances, I encourage you to seek the support of a qualified and experienced healthcare professional, such as a Naturopath, for a holistic assessment and specific treatment plan that will be therapeutic for you.

Shanna