Squirrel Sisters: nutty and nice

Round & About

nutrition

We talk to Fulhamites Gracie and Sophie – aka Squirrel Sisters – about their mission to bring their vegan snack bar start-up to the masses.

Q. You’ve both lived in Fulham all your lives – why do you love it here?
“We were born in Richmond but we moved to south-west London after university. Fulham is amazing because it’s so central and well connected with that buzzy London attitude at the same time as having a lovely village feel to it. You get the best of both worlds in Fulham.”

Q. Tell us a bit more about how you went about starting the business…
“Health, wellness, food and how it makes us feel has always been a passion of ours so we started Squirrel Sisters as a blog in 2014. Our blog gained a large following quickly; people connected with our mission and the fact we are two normal girls with a busy lifestyle who want to enjoy life while feeling great.

“With a growing following on our blog we saw an opportunity to turn our blog into a business so after much planning and preparation we launched our snack bars in November 2015, which we already had the recipes for [Gracie used to make them for Sophie due to her gluten intolerance.]

“We wanted to prove that healthy could be delicious and exciting so set off on a mission to help people make better and healthier choices more often. We wanted to help others believe that in treating yourself you can treat your health.”

Q. You’re stocked in an impressive range of places! Have you found it hard to break into the supermarket giants?
“We are extremely proud of our distribution – after two and a half years you can now find our products in more than 1,000 stores across the UK including Waitrose (you can find our cacao brownie and cacao orange flavours stocked in the Waitrose by Parsons Green), Morrisons, Boots, Whole Foods (all our flavours are stocked in the Fulham Whole Foods), Planet Organic, Selfridges, Ocado, Amazon and hundreds of independent delis, cafes and supermarkets.

“Launching into supermarkets is a challenge for a small company, especially if you haven’t had investment. We have won several awards for our bars (including three Great Taste awards) and we have great branding so this really helped with breaking into the bigger supermarkets.”

Q. There are lots of small, independent shops and supermarkets around Fulham. Do you think these are important as well?
“So important! In our first year we focused on all the independents and created good sales case studies that we could show the big supermarkets to prove how popular our bars were. We always make a conscious effort to support the smaller independent stores.”

Q. Which healthy cafes or restaurants do you like to visit in Fulham?
“We love Little H (especially because they stock our bars) on New Kings Road [www.littlehlondon.com], Esquires Coffee (they do the best avocado on toast) just across the bridge in Putney, Megan’s by the Green on Parsons Green Lane and Boy’s N Berry on Fulham Road.”

Q. And what are your plans for the future?
“We have big plans for Squirrel Sisters – we are currently in the process of securing investment, which will really take us to the next level. We want Squirrel Sisters to be accessible to everyone. We want to be a global brand that is known for its real, honest and exciting approach to health.”

Q. Anything else to share with our readers?
“We recently published our first cookbook, Naturally Delicious Snacks & Treats, which is available in all good bookshops and online retailers including Waterstones and Amazon.”

Squirrel Sisters maple bacon popcorn

Recipe: bacon maple syrup

The ultimate sweet and savoury popcorn combo – you’ll make this again and again!

• 2 slices dry-cure smoked streaky (fatty) bacon
• A splash of olive oil
• 50g / 1 3⁄4 oz / 1⁄4 cup popcorn kernels
• 1 tbsp maple syrup
• 1⁄2 tsp sea salt flakes

Put the bacon in a non-stick frying pan (skillet) with a small splash of olive oil. Fry over high heat until crispy and golden all over, turning when needed so that it all browns evenly. Remove the bacon from the pan with tongs and leave to one side to cool.

Tip any fat left from the bacon into a large saucepan with a lid. Add the popcorn kernels and pop the lid on. Heat over high heat until you begin to hear pops. Keep cooking, shaking the pan frequently so that none stick and burn, until the popping subsides. Turn the heat off and leave it for another 30 seconds or so before removing the lid to make sure any late-popping kernels don’t fly out at you. Tip the popcorn into a bowl, discarding any un-popped kernels.

Once the bacon has cooled and hardened a little, put it into a food processor and blitz to a coarse powder.

Drizzle the maple syrup over the popcorn, stirring gently all the time so that it is evenly distributed. Sprinkle in the bacon powder and sea salt flakes, mix well and serve.

We have teamed up with Squirrel Sisters to offer a mixed box of bars and a cookbook to one lucky reader. Click here to enter

How toxic is your world?

Round & About

nutrition

We live in a world that is literally awash with a concoction of untested chemicals. They are in soaps, detergents, cleaning products, furniture, cars, trains, planes, till receipts, plastics, paints, carpets, clothes, cosmetics, drinking water and food… and this is not an exhaustive list! Not only have about 80,000 chemicals been released into the environment since 1945, the majority have never been fully tested. Studies suggest you do not have to be exposed to a high dose to experience harmful effects. We are only now just beginning to see the results of this “experiment”…

Some have been classified as “hormone disruptors”, meaning they interfere with the intricate balance of hormones in humans and wildlife, potentially leading to developmental and reproductive problems. There is concern over the rising number of hormone-related disorders in both humans and wildlife and the results of recent scientific research include thyroid disease, hormonally driven cancers, early puberty, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The United Nations and the World Health Organisation have jointly published a report calling for more research to understand the link. It is unfortunately now impossible to escape being exposed to some extent to toxins, but you can dramatically reduce the total toxic load you are under, by making sensible lifestyle choices when it comes to what you eat, drink, wear and use. For example avoid consuming plastic bottled water (especially carbonated), filter your drinking and bathing water, eat organic foods, buy environmentally friendly/or make your own household detergents/dishwashing/cleaning and laundry products, stop using a fabric conditioner, think carefully about the use of garden chemicals/lawn treatments, use natural soaps/shampoos and reduce the use of personal care products and cosmetics/seek out natural alternatives. Consuming a nutrient-dense diet as well as directly supporting optimal liver and gut health are also key.

Call Mark BSc (Hons) BA (Hons) mBANT CNHC on 0118 321 9533 or visit www.entirewellbeing.com

Stomach acid is crucial for health

Round & About

nutrition

Stomach acid is not a design flaw of the body (which is often how it is portrayed), but is, in fact, crucial for optimal health and wellbeing. Without appropriate levels of stomach acid, the whole digestive process starts off on the wrong foot. Proteins need to be broken down into their component parts (amino acids) for efficient absorption further down the digestive tract and stomach acid is essential for this process to happen efficiently.The efficient absorption of vitamin B12 and minerals is also dependent on sufficient levels of stomach acid. B12 is crucial for energy production, mental/nerve function and cardio-vascular health.Typical symptoms that might suggest less than optimal levels of stomach acid include bloating, cramping, gas/belching shortly after a meal, reflux/heartburn, parasitic and yeast infections, feeling tired after a meal, problems digesting animal protein, nausea, bad breath, skin problems, undigested food in stools, increased susceptibility to food poisoning, rectal itching, IBS, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, food sensitivities and weak fingernails.If you suspect that you might have suboptimal levels of stomach acid, the following actions may well help: consume ginger and sauerkraut, avoid drinking large amounts of fluid just before and after eating a meal, eat smaller meals, consume the largest meal of the day when you are the least stressed, chew your food thoroughly, sit down and take your time to eat and consider taking a ‘food state’ multi vitamin and mineral supplement, using digestive bitters (natural stomach acid stimulants) and the use of very specific stomach acid supplementation. Please note that if you are taking any medications or have any significant health concerns, it is essential that you work with a suitably qualified health practitioner/doctor before taking any supplementation.Call Mark BSc (Hons) BA (Hons) mBANT CNHC on 0118 321 9533 or visit www.entirewellbeing.com

Is a vegan diet healthy?

Round & About

nutrition

Society considers a vegan diet a “healthy” lifestyle choice (both for humans and the environment). But is it? Some of the most severe and chronic health conditions I see are often connected to current or past veganism.

The science is convincing; vegans are far more likely to present with a number of key nutritional deficiencies compared to omnivores, particularly B12, omega 3 essential fats, choline and bioavailable forms of calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin A and D. Our cells require optimal nutrient levels to function. When cells malfunction, we develop disease.

Our digestive system closely resembles other predatory animals’ and is designed to break down animal protein with stomach acid. Herbivores do not produce stomach acid. Plants are difficult to break down, which is why herbivores have a special stomach (a rumen) containing significant quantities of bacteria whose sole purpose is to release nutrients. If you watch a cow eating, you’ll notice grass is regurgitated multiple times – “chewing the cud”. The human digestive system has very few bacteria in the stomach (stomach acid is very hostile to gut bacteria), with the vast majority residing in our version of a rumen, the colon (which is as far away from the stomach as possible) and located after the small intestine, the key part of the digestive system that absorbs nutrients (in herbivores the rumen is before the small intestine). We are designed to absorb the vast majority of our nutrients from foods broken down in the upper digestive systems (animal proteins/fats), with indigestible plant matter passed to the colon, where the gut bacteria get to work and produce a raft of essential metabolic by-products that we have discussed and confer considerable health benefits.

I’m not advocating we eat lots of animal protein; it should be the “garnish” with veg centre stage! I’m pointing out that abstaining from all animal protein is not “healthy”. A vegan diet is essentially a form of fasting.

Call Mark BSc (Hons) BA (Hons) mBANT CNHC on 0118 321 9533 or visit www.entirewellbeing.com

Gluten-related disorders

Round & About

nutrition

If you are presenting with any chronic health or wellbeing conditions that cannot be explained, then a professional assessment should be advised for the following disorders.

Gluten-related disorders (GRDs) are fundamentally caused by the inability of the body to properly digest gluten (the storage protein in grains), typically driven by imbalances in the bacterial species of the gut in combination with genetic predisposition. If identified, eliminate gluten from a diet permanently in order to repair the damage.

Coeliac disease (CD) is the autoimmune variant of GRDs where the immune system attacks and destroys the small intestine reducing the ability of the body to absorb nutrients. CD can be diagnosed using a combination of blood, genetic and physical assessments.

Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) are not an auto-immune disease, but is no less serious. This evidence is based upon results of a large study that reviewed 351,000 intestinal biopsies clearly showing that there was not only just as much inflammation detected with NCGS as with CD, but also that the increased risk of early mortality was 72% with NCGS compared to 39% with CD.

There is also a “new kid on the block” called non-coeliac wheat sensitivity (NCWS), where gluten is not necessarily the trigger, but instead significant immune system reactions are being triggered by other components of wheat. You can start to appreciate that both gluten and wheat can have serious implications on individuals that do not have CD but instead NCGS/NCWS.

Simply eliminating wheat or gluten, in your diet, before you have had a professional assessment is not advised.

Call Mark BSc (Hons) BA (Hons) mBANT CNHC on 0118 321 9533 or visit www.entirewellbeing.com

Food is the most powerful medicine

Round & About

nutrition

We all know that the NHS is under considerable pressure. The cost of diabetes alone to the NHS is over £1.5 million per hour, says Diabetes UK. The conventional medical view on type 2 diabetes (T2D) is that this condition is irreversible and requires long-term medication to control.

T2D typically responds very well to specific dietary and lifestyle interventions. Working in collaboration with their GPs, I have seen, firsthand, clients come off/reduce their diabetic medications by making substantial changes to their diets and lifestyle.

I am therefore somewhat perplexed by the fanfare that has surrounded the results of a very recently published randomised controlled trial in The Lancet, that has concluded that after the participants focused on a weight loss programme for 12 months that ‘almost half achieved remission to a non-diabetic state and off antidiabetic drugs. Remission of type 2 diabetes is a practical target for primary care’. This is great news, but not new news. There is considerable existing evidence to suggest that calorie restriction (in particular carbohydrate restriction) is one of the most beneficial approaches to optimally managing diabetes, which, after all, is an intolerance to carbohydrate. Obviously any such intervention does need to be carefully managed by a suitably, qualified health care practitioner in conjunction with the client’s GP/medical consultants. The reality is that standardising this type of approach, has the potential to save the nation around £7 billion.

It is time to stop simply focussing on how much more money the NHS requires and really start thinking about reducing overall load on the system, by using well-managed dietary and lifestyle interventions that are supported by unbiased science. Food is one of the most powerful medicines known to human kind.

Call Mark BSc (Hons) BA (Hons) mBANT CNHC on 01183 219533 or visit www.entirewellbeing.com

Treating urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Round & About

nutrition

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common, especially in women. It is estimated that one in five women will have a UTI at some point in their lifetime and once you have had one infection you are much more likely to have another. The standard medical treatment is with antibiotics. The problem with antibiotic treatment is that, while it will tend to work in the short term (and is often an essential treatment to avert a more serious infection of the kidneys), there is an increased risk of developing imbalances in the beneficial bacteria (microflora of the gut and urinary tract). Antibiotic resistance has also recently been described as a significant threat to our future health by Professor Dame Sally Davies – England’s Chief Medical Officer).  Microflora disturbance and growing antibiotic resistance mean UTIs often reoccur.

Thankfully numerous clinical studies indicate several natural substances work well to help prevent UTIs and there is also considerable evidence to suggest they can work very effectively even in acute infection scenarios, as long as the intervention is initiated as soon as an infection is suspected.

The best studied natural agent to help with UTIs is D-mannose (a simple sugar, from any good health store), which also helps with infections caused by E.coli bacteria(as is the case with the majority of UTIs). When however E.coli is not the cause, the use of D-mannose is unlikely to help. A number of other bacteria can cause UTIs; often it is possible to find out which bacteria are involved through testing.

Another reason to consider, if natural compounds such as D-mannose do not work, is biofilm issues. Biofilms surround a collection of bacteria that are attached to the body, effectively creating a shield that protects them from being attacked/controlled – this makes this type of infection very difficult to control. The key to breaking this cycle is to therefore disrupt the biofilm, which can be done using specialised enzymes.

Call Mark BSc (Hons) BA (Hons) mBANT CNHC on 01183 219533 or visit www.entirewellbeing.com

Some problems with coeliac disease

Round & About

nutrition

Coeliac disease (CD) is not a minor ‘intolerance’ to gluten, it is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the small intestine, reducing the ability of the body to absorb nutrients from food. If left undetected, CD has the potential to cause significant long-term health complications. CD is one of the most common lifelong disorders in north America and Europe and only one in eight coeliacs are ever diagnosed. These are disturbing facts.

Diagnosis of CD currently requires a positive blood test and then subsequently the detection of damage to the small intestine via an endoscopy. The first problem is that less than 50% of coeliacs are presenting with the classical symptoms of diarrhoea and abdominal cramping. The majority of coeliacs are ‘silent’ in their presentation – no overt digestive symptoms but signs and symptoms including anaemia, osteoporosis, arthritis, neurological degradation, depression, fertility issues, migraines and chronic kidney disease. This is likely to have a significant impact on whether testing for CD is even considered.

The next potential issue is with the blood testing itself. The standard NHS test for CD is good if you are presenting with significant damage to the small intestine and your immune system is functioning properly. We know, however, that damage to the small intestine is gradual and can take years or even decades to manifest; the immune system is often underperforming and the markers measured for are not broad enough. This can lead to very high rates of false negative results (up to 70%), which is dangerous if you are told it is fine to consume gluten when in fact it is not! Remember you have to be eating gluten and not taking any steroid or immune-supressing medication for any blood test to have half a chance of picking up an issue.

Finally, it is possible to have positive blood markers for CD and no small intestine damage – ‘latent’ CD (over and above the fact that the biopsies can often miss ‘damaged’ areas of the small intestine). Is it any wonder CD is such a poorly diagnosed and managed condition?

Call Mark BSc (Hons) BA (Hons) mBANT CNHC on 01183 219533 or visit www.entirewellbeing.com

How to deal with uninvited gas

Round & About

nutrition

The digestive system is about 30ft in length from entrance to exit and consists of the following major sections in order from top down: the mouth, throat, stomach, small intestine (duodenum) and large intestine (colon).

As I have mentioned many times previously, the digestive tract is home to a complex community of bacteria  (approximately 100 trillion), which should not only be in balance for health and well being, but also should have the largest number of bacteria residing in the colon.

Sometimes, the small intestine gets overgrown with bacteria due to conditions such as low stomach acid, pancreatitis, diabetes, diverticulitis and coeliac disease. This is called Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth or SIBO. These bacterial overgrowths produce either hydrogen and/or methane gas.

The small intestine has the surface area of a tennis court and is crucial to the efficient absorption of nutrients from the diet. SIBO disrupts the ability of the small intestine to efficiently absorb nutrients (the bacteria end up competing for the nutrients that the body is trying to absorb) often resulting in a broad range of micronutrient deficiencies (including iron, calcium, and vitamins B12, A, D, E and K) and symptoms including nausea, bloating, vomiting, diarrhoea, malnutrition, weight loss, joint pain, fatigue, acne, eczema, asthma, depression and rosacea.

SIBO is typically treated with antibiotics. Research suggests, however that certain herbal and lifestyle interventions are just as effective at treating SIBO.

In clinic, a multifactorial approach delivers the best results. This typically involves a combination of changing how much and how often you eat, what you are eating, adding in certain strains of probiotics, targeted supplementation, the use of herbs and essential oils and managing stress levels using techniques such as meditation, mindfulness, yoga, tai chi or deep breathing.

Call Mark BSc (Hons) BA (Hons) mBANT CNHC on 01183 219533 or visit www.entirewellbeing.com

Leaky gut

Round & About

nutrition

We will consume between three and seven tonnes of food and drink in our lifetimes, which has to be broken down and then the nutrients absorbed across the gut barrier, before they can be utilised by the body. The size of a tennis court, the gut barrier of the small intestine is made up of a single layer of cells that not only regulate the flow of nutrients and water into the body, but also play a central role in how our immune system responds to the dietary proteins and microbes that are ingested on a daily basis.

Nothing put into the digestive system is, technically speaking, inside the body until it has been absorbed across the gut barrier. It is the gut barrier that decides what to both let in and keep out of systemic circulation.

Research shows that the integrity of the gut barrier is fundamental to health and wellbeing. If the gut barrier is compromised by ‘leaking’ between and/or through the cells (para and/or trans cellular hyperpermeability), unwanted substances might permeate through and provoke unwanted immune responses – fuelling chronic inflammation, which is the route cause of all chronic disease and is a recognised key factor in the development of autoimmunity. Some of the conditions directly associated with ‘leaky gut’ include: coeliac disease, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, spondylitis, Parkinson’s disease, endometriosis, eczema, Crohn’s disease, colitis, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.

Leakiness between the cells of the gut barrier is controlled dynamically by a protein called zonulin. The higher the levels of zonulin, the greater the leakiness between the cells. The zonulin pathway is initiated by either the presence of pathogenic bacteria and/or gluten in the gut. Dysbiosis (imbalances in the micro ecology of the gut) and leaky gut usually co exist.

The presence of either or both of these conditions will drive a state of chronic inflammation. Fortunately, you can repair ‘leaky gut’ and rebalance the micro ecology of the gut, regaining control of health and wellbeing.

Call Mark BSc (Hons) BA (Hons) mBANT CNHC on 01183 219533 or visit www.entirewellbeing.com