HOW TO AVOID HARMFUL PAINKILLERS AND SWITCH TO NATURAL PAIN RELIEF

If you’re a regular user of common painkillers like aspirin or ibuprofen, you might want to hold off on popping another pill before reading this post. Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen are known to cause intestinal bleeding, stomach ulcerations and even perforations, especially at high doses. If you were unaware of these side effects, you’re not alone. Drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin are available without prescription and advertised as safe, convenient pain remedies when really they can be highly damaging to your health.

Chronic pain is a sign of imbalance or dysfunction in your body that needs to be addressed. It’s essential to seek treatment that uncovers the actual cause of the pain to prevent the condition from worsening. For instance, severe menstrual cramps are often a sign of hormonal imbalance. Investigating and treating the cause of the imbalance could eliminate the pain for good and prevent serious, long-term health issues.

Every condition requires different treatment but one powerful remedy that applies to nearly all inflammatory states is fish oil. The omega-3 fats in fish oil are highly effective in blocking inflammatory processes in the body. Daily consumption of high-dose fish oil may significantly reduce symptoms of pain related to inflammation. You can also increase omega-3 fats in your diet through the form of wild salmon, sardines or vegetarian sources like flaxseeds or chia seeds.

Fast-acting, natural treatments for pain relief include heating/cooling patches and ointments, ice packs and the old but effective remedy of a hot water bottle. Patches are generally the most convenient form of pain relief as they can be applied directly to the site of discomfort (on the skin) and offer an immediate heating or cooling effect (from natural herbs) that effectively numbs the pain.

Every drug you put in your body comes with side effects and the more aware you become, the more likely you are to avoid long-term damage to your health. Give your body the treatment and anti-inflammatory nutrients it requires and you might find you don’t need the painkillers after all!

MIRACULOUS HEALTH BENEFITS OF FLAXSEEDS

I’m a little obsessed with flaxseeds (linseeds) and you might be too, once I tell you about their miraculous health benefits. From supporting detoxification to reducing inflammation, stabilising mood and appetite, lowering cholesterol and reducing body fat, flaxseeds have the potential to significantly improve your overall health. Here’s how:

  1. Flaxseeds contain soluble fibre that’s important for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and eliminating toxins. Bile (made from cholesterol) carries toxins from the liver to the gut, where it binds with soluble fibre and is then eliminated through a bowel movement. Soluble fibre therefore ensures this process of transporting toxins out of the body (and using up cholesterol) works effectively.
  2. Flaxseeds are one of the rare sources of vegetarian omega-3 fats. These essential fats provide numerous health benefits – most importantly prevention of inflammatory diseases. They can also prevent depression, boost immunity and support healthy blood pressure.
  3. Flaxseeds are a vegetarian source of protein, supplying important amino acids and keeping you fuller for longer.
  4. Flaxseeds contain lignans (plant compounds) that have been found to lower total body fat mass and reduce the risk of colon cancer.

In their whole form, flaxseeds can often pass undigested through the intestines and be detected in bowel motions. To ensure you are digesting and absorbing the rich nutritional profile of flaxseeds, consume them ground rather than whole. I prefer to grind my own flaxseeds (rather than buy flaxseed meal) because once they are ground they are fragile to heat, light and air. By grinding your own seeds and storing them in a dark, airtight container, you can prevent any spoilage. If you don’t have a grinder you can use a blender – blending one cup at a time works well.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy flaxseed meal but the easiest is to simply throw it in a smoothie. This recipe below is fantastic for breakfast as the high fibre content keeps you fuelled for hours!

Blueberry flax smoothie

½ cup flaxseed meal

½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries

4 dates, pitted

Handful of spinach leaves

1 cup filtered water

1 cup almond milk

Blend all ingredients together thoroughly and enjoy!

NOURISHING SEAFOOD BROTH

Whether you’re feeling rundown, over-worked, stressed out or just in need of some nutritional nourishment, this broth will satisfy all your needs. The term ‘broth’ may not sound overly appealing but it’s really more of a light soup/laksa that compels you to audibly sigh in satisfaction after your first sip. The ingredients are packed with nutrition but somehow it feels more like comfort food than ‘health food’.

Here are some more reasons to love this broth:

*It’s SUPER hydrating – not only due to the liquid itself but also from the celery (rich in potassium) and the natural salt (rich in hydrating minerals). A hydrated body means happy cells, more energy, no headaches and a general feeling of wellness.

*It contains the nutritional power of sardines – and before you run away in fear of their strong flavour, I can assure you the sardine taste is muted due to the other ingredients in the broth, so the end result is more seafood-y than sardine-y. Sardines are one of the richest sources of the anti-inflammatory and disease-fighting omega-3 fats, they’re packed with protein, they provide a valuable source of calcium and since sardines are a smaller fish they come without the risk of mercury contamination.

*It avoids artificial stock – take a look at the ingredients list in your stock cubes or liquid next time you’re cooking – it’s not a pretty site. Most stocks contain enough sugars and artificial additives to qualify as junk food. Often I will make my own stock but in this dish I’ve used ‘stock type’ ingredients and allowed them to simmer – with a super tasty result!

*The fennel seeds provide such warmth, sweetness and depth of flavour that complements the sardines perfectly!

 Nourishing seafood broth (serves 2)

2 tbsp coconut oil (you could also use organic butter or ghee)

5 brown onions, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup chopped celery

¼ cup fennel seeds

2 tbsp dried herbs

2 tbsp capers

350g canned sardines

1.5 litres of filtered water

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Juice of half a lemon

  1. Place a large stockpot or saucepan on medium-low heat and fry onions, garlic, celery, fennel seeds and herbs in coconut oil, adding a dash of water if pan becomes dry.
  2. Once onions have softened, add capers and sardines and stir gently.
  3. Add water, sea salt and pepper, then allow to bubble slightly and bring heat down to simmer with lid on for around 15-20 minutes.
  4. Taste test and add extra sea salt if required, then squeeze in lemon juice and enjoy!

NO FUSS CHOCOLATE QUINOA CAKE

There’s only one thing better than chocolate cake – that’s chocolate cake packed with nutrients and free from refined sugar, flour and inflammatory oils! Quinoa is rich in fibre, minerals and protein and adds a fluffy chewiness to this cake, while cacao provides a delicious chocolate flavour naturally.

I love quick and easy recipes and this choc quinoa cake is exactly that. Being the health nut that I am, I had all these ingredients on hand to experiment with, however if you don’t stock some of the more uncommon ingredients like coconut sugar or stevia you can easily find them at your local health food/wholefoods store. This cake takes 5 minutes to whip up – I generally have cooked quinoa in the fridge ready to play with but if you need to cook it up this only adds around 10 minutes to your prep time.

Ingredients:

4 organic eggs

½ cup almond milk

1/2 tsp stevia extract

½ cup coconut oil

½ cup rice malt syrup

2 cups cooked quinoa

½ cup coconut sugar

¾ cup cacao powder

Pinch of sea salt

1 flattened tsp baking soda, sifted

1 cup frozen blueberries (thawed and heated slightly) for serving

  1. Turn oven to 170 degrees celsius (340 fahrenheit)
  2. In a food processor, mix together the first 6 ingredients thoroughly.
  3. Add remaining ingredients (except blueberries) and pulse for just a few seconds.
  4. Line a cake tin with baking paper then pour in the cake batter.
  5. Cook for 40 minutes then serve with berries and their natural juice. Enjoy!

WHY I SOAK MY NUTS, SEEDS, GRAINS AND LEGUMES

You’ve probably heard about the wondrous health benefits of minerals before. Take magnesium for example – it can do everything from boosting energy, calming your nervous system, alleviating cramps, hydrating your cells and many more essential functions. The problem with obtaining minerals from your diet is that most mineral-rich foods (legumes, nuts, seeds, grains) contain a natural substance called phytic acid that binds to minerals and reduces their absorption in the body.

Fortunately there is a simple method to minimize phytic acid in food, ensuring we don’t miss out on vital minerals. You simply need to soak your nuts/seeds/legumes/grains overnight in water with a pinch of natural (unrefined) salt. The next day drain the water, give it a good rinse and you will have mineral-rich food ready for eating or cooking. You can also put your nuts/seeds/oats in yoghurt or unsweetened juice overnight (like bircher muesli), which will have a similar effect, reducing phytic acid. Another example is quinoa which is a fantastic source of minerals therefore I always soak it overnight before cooking (be sure to use a strainer with small holes or the quinoa will fall through when rinsing).

It’s an extra step of preparation but worth the effort to enjoy maximum nutrition and health benefits from your food!

LIFE LESSONS FROM ITALY: THE TRUE PURPOSE OF OUR EXISTENCE

I’m dedicating this post to a beautiful villager I had the privilege of meeting on my trip to Italy recently. His name is Vito, he has the kindest brown eyes and a cheeky smile that crinkles his sea weathered features and radiates warmth and sincerity. I first met Vito when we were hiring a boat to take out for a day trip and I was instantly struck by his genuine nature. Since that day, our paths continued to cross – at the local grocery store, on my sunset walks around the village (he would scoot by on his vespa and never fail to pull over so we could chat) and down at the beach. He reminded me a little of my father – softly spoken yet full of wisdom and warmth.

We would chat about what herbs I had picked on my way back from the beach, what I was cooking for lunch, about his house on the hill near the cemetery and the beautiful big tombs that were now a rarity. They were only short conversations and always in broken English but there was something special about our little exchanges and I was always pleasantly surprised to bump into him on my travels.

On my second last day in the village I told him I was about to leave and his face became so saddened it broke my heart. I realised I may never see this kind-spirited man ever again. But this is the nature of life – every now and then we can cross paths with a beautiful stranger and with only a few words form a deeply profound connection that reminds us of the true purpose of our existence – love and kindness.

I’m thankful to Vito (and other locals) for teaching me this simple yet powerful life lesson and although it was hard to say goodbye, I left with a heart full of warmth and gratitude.

EASY LEEK AND GOAT’S CHEESE FRITTATA WITH ZUCCHINI FLOWERS

I’m now into my second week here on coast of Italy and with so much fresh produce at our fingertips we’ve been getting busy in the kitchen experimenting with ingredients for lunch and dinner. This is one of my favourite things to do on holiday – maybe it’s a sign that I’m getting old but I’m usually happiest when cooking (and eating!) beautiful organic ingredients in the comfort of my home, even if my ‘home’ is temporarily across the other side of the world! Of course we’ve also been enjoying eating out and being inspired by authentic local specialties, but for me there’s nothing more inspirational than freshly picked produce.

I’ve been a little obsessed with the zucchini that are in season at the moment and therefore vibrant and overflowing at the local grocery store. They come with their flowers still attached (something I miss out on back home) and I’ve been having fun experimenting with different ways to cook them. Usually they are stuffed and fried but I wanted to try something different (and avoid frying) so I decided to use the leeks (that were harvested the same day I bought them) and locally made goat’s cheese that I had bought to create the below recipe. I hope you like it!

Ingredients

  • Splash of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp organic butter
  • 1 tsp mixed dried herbs
  • 1-2 leeks, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 4-5 zucchini flowers, rinsed
  • 4 organic eggs
  • 100g goat’s cheese, cubed
  • Fresh rocket for serving

 Method

1. In a flat fry pan cook all ingredients (except eggs and cheese) on medium heat in butter and a dash of olive oil until softened.

2. Sprinkle goat’s cheese evenly throughout the vegetables and allow to melt slightly.

3. Season with sea salt and pepper.

4. Whisk eggs gently in a bowl then pour into the pan, ensuring all vegetables are covered.

5. Turn heat down to medium-low then cover pan with a lid and leave to cook for roughly 10 minutes.

6. Cut into slices, add extra seasoning if required and a side of fresh rocket drizzled with olive oil. Enjoy!

MY ITALIAN HOLIDAY: LIFE’S SIMPLE PLEASURES

I’m writing this post from a beautiful village on the coast of Italy where I am visiting my sister. It is a stunning and inspirational part of the world which has certainly reinvigorated my love of nature, food and of course wellness! This morning at breakfast we enjoyed a multicoloured feast of fresh, organic fruits from the local grocery store, which is run by one of the most kind and generous families I have ever met. All of the fruits and vegetables in store have been grown with love and care (and no pesticides!) in the garden at their family home in the heart of the village. We were lucky enough to be invited around to view the garden, which lived up to its reputation as a thriving and abundant source of organic, super sized fruits and vegetables of nearly every kind imaginable. There was even an organic grapevine from which of course they made their own organic wine! As they walked us through the garden, one of the sons explained how none of the food had been sprayed with ‘medicine’, a cute Italian term for pesticides, which makes sense really – why give ‘medicine’ to our food when it can grow abundant and healthy with the right care and nurturing?

Needless to say I’ve been extremely grateful to have this fresh, homegrown produce just a short stroll away from our apartment and each day I take pleasure in choosing our fruits, vegetables and herbs to use for cooking. Every day the offerings are slightly different depending on what’s in season and what they have picked recently and the ‘Mamma’ of the store is always keen to make recommendations, which comes in handy as she usually shows us the most tasty/seasonal/fresh produce.

This experience has been such a luxury because back home the organic produce is generally more expensive and definitely not overflowing and abundant at the local grocery store! For now I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts and maybe sneak some organic gardening tips before the trip ends! Below is a picture of the beautiful Italian Mamma who greets us with warmth and love every day – we can certainly learn a lot about life and wellness from the Italians!

SURVIVING LONG HAUL FLIGHTS: MY TRAVEL ESSENTIALS

Whenever I tell people I’m voluntarily stepping onto a 30+ hour plane trip they look at me like I’ve gone slightly crazy. The truth is, you do need to be a little crazy to withstand 30 hours of being squashed, sleep deprived and sucked dry of all moisture on a long haul flight and by the time you arrive at your destination, ‘crazy’ is exactly how you end up looking (and acting, due to the sleep deprivation). I do this trip annually and am about to embark on another 30 hours of craziness, so I thought I’d share some tips on how I personally survive the long journey.

Flying is extremely draining on your body. Sleep deprivation, constant exposure to air conditioning, lack of circulation and poor availability of fluids and nutritious foods can leave you withered and weak. As a result you become extremely dehydrated, more susceptible to picking up bugs and your digestive system suffers big time. Fortunately, if you equip yourself sufficiently you can have a much more enjoyable trip. Here are some of my travel essentials:

1. Stainless steel thermos

This can be used for water or tea and is a must to avoid dehydration. The occasional cup of water that’s offered during long haul flights is not sufficient to keep you hydrated. If you want to avoid dry skin, headaches and sluggish digestion, keep your own thermos/bottle topped up with fluids throughout the flight.

2. Herbal teabags

Airlines rarely supply herbal tea and usually offer dehydrating coffee, black tea or alcohol. Take your own teabags and ask for hot water. There’s nothing like a warm ginger tea when you’re tired, dehydrated and cold on an airplane. Plus it boosts circulation which is exactly what you need when sitting still for long hours.

3. Immune tablets

In the confined space of a plane, there’s always the risk of catching bugs. Arm yourself with an immune booster including nutrients like vitamin C and zinc.

5. Natural nut mix (sealed)

When there are no nutritious food options available (either during the flight or at the airport) nuts come in very handy – they’re easy to pack and they fill you up. If you run out of your own supply, try the chocolate/gift shops at the airport as they often have plain nut mixes to choose from. Try to avoid processed, sugary and fatty foods as you need all the nutrients you can get to survive the draining effects of flying.

6. Natural salt

When traveling, processed table salt is usually the only option but this is the time when you need the hydrating minerals of natural salt the most. I take sea salt or Himalayan salt with me when flying.

7. Magnesium

I take a magnesium tablet every couple of hours to further prevent the onset of dehydration when flying. Magnesium is also useful to prevent cramps on long haul flights (avoid magnesium oxide due to its poor absorption).

Here’s a little snapshot of where I’ll be heading…kind of makes the 30 hours of craziness worthwhile!

HEALTHY HOT CHOCOLATE

This healthy, sugar-free hot chocolate recipe will have you wondering why you ever bought the artificial kind when homemade versions are so easy and taste so good! To give you an idea just how bad the commercial stuff is, take a look at the ingredients list of an instant hot chocolate mix from a leading chocolate brand:

If you’re fan of vegetable fat, vegetable oil, artificial flavours,anti-caking agents, dried glucose syrup, stabilisers and bucket-loads of sugar, then this is the one for you! OR if you’d prefer to sip on something that’s actually going to rejuvenate rather than pollute your body, then give my healthy hot chocolate recipe a go!

Ingredients: (serves 1)

1 cup organic, light coconut milk (or sugar-free milk of your choice)

1 tbsp raw cacao powder

Pinch of stevia powder (start small and add more if you prefer it sweeter)

Optional: pinch of sea salt (to bring out the chocolate flavour) and cinnamon (stabilises blood sugar)

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan over the stove until heated, pour into a mug and enjoy!

Note: for a more hydrating version, add half water and half milk