How to support detox pathways with food

Detox is a naturopathic protocol that can be really helpful to restore effective function. Its basic aim is to assist your liver and kidneys so that they can remove toxins that you are exposed to in your diet and through your environment. Typically detox is recommended to support clients when they struggle with hormonal imbalance, find it difficult to lose weight or are suffering from allergies or poor digestive health.

The liver is responsible for processing food and a range of substances that we are exposed to through our diet and lifestyle. There are three phases and six pathways that support our ability to remove toxins from the body and in this blog you will find out how to support them with food. These processes convert toxins which are usually fat soluble into water soluble substances which can then be excreted through sweat, urine or stool.

First up what are the three phases and what do they do? The first phase uses enzymes called Cytochrome P450 to modify substances which produces free radicals. The second phase detoxifies these substances so they can be removed from the body. This relies on the six pathways known as Methylation, Glucoronidation, Sulfation, Acetylation, Glutathione Conjugation and Glycination. These are the pathways we can support with either food or supplements.

The third phase reduces our toxic load within the Small Intestine and supports the elimination of xenobiotics (hormone like substances).

Supporting these six pathways for detoxification requires a range of nutrients so lets focus on what foods are most helpful for you.

  1. Methylation

This process involves adding a methyl group made up of Carbon with three Hydrogen atoms. This makes the substance water soluble. The process requires B vitamins but in particular folic acid or folate. Good sources of folate include dark green vegetables such as leafy greens and asparagus.

2. Glucoronidation

This pathway is particularly important as it metabolises about 35% of the drugs prescribed and it requires the body to produce glucuronic acid. Fish oils and limonene which is found in citrus peel may activate this pathway. Ideally oily fish are a good source but the preference would be to use small oily fish like sardines. Green tea is also a good promoter of this pathway ideally try and use organic options as much as possible.

3. Sulfation

This pathway is critical for detoxifying steroid hormones, bile acids and neurotransmitters. Sulfation requires sulfur containing amino acids which are usually found in protein containing foods. In addition an adequate level of molybdenum is required. The best sources of molybdenum are found in legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and beans. For some people who don’t tolerate legumes, nuts and liver are other good quality sources.

4. Acetylation

Vitamin B1, B5 and Vitamin C are essential for this phase. Good quality sources of Vitamin C include citrus fruits and in particular oranges. Brightly coloured vegetables, such as capsicum, and berrries such as strawberries are also good Vitamin C sources.

5. Glutathione Conjugation

Glutathione is an important antioxidant for the liver as well as supporting conjugation through the liver. Glutathione is made up of three peptides glutamine, cysteine and glycine. It is also activated by sulphorophane which is found in brassica vegetables, like cabbage and broccoli sprouts. Cabbage is also high in glutamine.

6. Glycination

This process involves the addition of amino acids to aid in the process of conjugation. Diets low in protein often result in a reduction in our ability to eliminate toxins. Good quality protein sources are important to assist in this pathway and this does include both meat based protein as well as vegetarian options such as legumes, tofu and eggs.

Ultimately supporting effective detoxification requires good quality protein sources, green leafy, multi coloured and brassica vegetables as well as legumes and fruit like berries.

If you would like more information on detoxification, or simply to understand if it can assist you, join me online for my detoxification webinar series. The next program opens on the 28th October and you can book in on this link . Alternatively if you would like to discuss how whether detox is appropriate for you you can make an appointment on (02) 8084 0081 or online.

For more blogs on detoxification you might like to read the following;

  1. Getting ready to detox
  2. Detoxing is it for me?
  3. What are the best vegetables for feeding your gut?

What are the best vegetables for feeding your gut ?

Eating six serves of vegetables a day is a good way to feed your microbiome but are there better choices ? Actually it depends on what is going on with your gut so lets look at six different types of prebiotic fibres from vegetables. They all have different roles so the activity should give you an idea of what may be helpful for you and then you can determine if you may need to increase your consumption of one of these groups.

Six types of prebiotic fibres are inulin, pectin, galactooligosaccharides (usually referred to as GOS) , arabinoxylan, resistant starch and proanthocyanidins.

Inulin is found in artichokes, asparagus, garlic, onions and leeks, bananas, grapefruit and peaches. Inulin as a prebiotic fibre decreases the desire for sweet and fatty food and increases the feeling of fullness after a meal. A small study reported by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed a 3.8 fold increase in the beneficial Bifidobacterium from consuming inulin for 3 weeks. (Vol 109, Iss 6, June 2019, pp1683-1695).

Pectin is found is peas, beans, carrots, potato, beetroot, tomato, eggplant, lentils and pumpkin as well as fruits such as banana, apples, berries, pears, apricots, lemons and kiwifruit. Increasing foods containing pectin is associated with an increase in the range of bacterial species in the gut as well as a specific increase in beneficial strains such as F praausnitzii which is anti-inflammatory. It is also considered a marker for good gut health.

Galactooligosaccharides (GOS) are found in most legumes such as green peas, lentils chickpeas and beans as well as nuts like hazelnuts, cashews and pistachio. GOS has a role in reducing IBS symptoms in particular bloating and flatulence and it also increases the level of beneficial bacteria. (2).

Arabinoxylan is found in almonds, bamboo shoots, brown and white rice, flaxseeds and sorghum. It is anti-inflammatory, reduces cholesterol and improves insulin sensitivity as well as increasing the beneficial levels of Bibfidobacterium Longum.

Resistant starch is found in most legumes as well as potato, sweet potatoes, taro, plantains, greenish bananas, sorghum and brown rice. The levels of resistant starch are also higher if root vegetables such as potato are allowed to cool and then served as a potato salad. Resistant starch is so called because it doesn’t get broken down in the small intestine but is partially broken down further in the bowels and serves as a useful food for bacteria in the large intestine. Its primary role seems to be to feed bacteria so they can produce butyrate. Butyrate is a useful fuel for the cells so it helps them stay healthy and resistant starch may also assist in the maintenance of healthy cholesterol.

Proanthocyanidins are found in almonds, pecans, hazelnuts peanuts, pistachios, pecans, cinnamon, sorghum, berries, cranberries and plums as well as dark chocolate. Proanthocyanidins have a number of health benefits due to their anti-oxidant status however the impact on the microbiome may also explain some of this benefit. These nutrients have an anti-microbial impact which may reduce problematic species such as helicobacter pylori (known for its role in causing gastric ulcers) and also through their prebiotic effect they increase beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium (3)

Generally speaking ensuring you are eating a range of vegetables as well as a small serve of nuts and some berries may be the optimal approach for maintaining a healthy gut.

Christine Pope is a Naturopath and Nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives. You can make appointments with her on (02) 8084 0081 or online at her website www.elementalhealth.net.au .

1. Prebiotics , Definitions, Types, Sources , Mechanisms and Clinical

applications. Accessed. at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6463098/

2. The effects of a trans-galactooligosaccharide on faecal microbiota and symptoms in IBS. Accessed at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19053980/https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19053980/

3. The Gastrointenstinal Tract as a key organ for the Health Promoting effects of Proanthocyanidins accessed at https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2016.00057/full#h1

Therapeutic Juicing

Juicing is a useful way to increase nutrients in the diet and can also be used therapeutically. There are many foods which you can use with health benefits and a regular juice can be a good addition to your diet. It can also be a good way to get your three cups of vegetables daily. Here are three of my favourite combinations that you may find helpful.

Celery juice is known for its benefits in reducing fluid retention however what do you use if you can’t stand celery? My first juice is a delicious blend and can easily be adjusted for specific preferences. Key is the pineapple and cucumber. Papaya is also helpful for fluid retention (and improving digestion) but you can increase other ingredients to compensate if you don’t have papaya handy.

Fluid Retention

  • 1 cup chopped Pineapple
  • 1/2 Cucumber
  • 1 Apple (green or red)
  • 1/2 cup papaya
  • 1 cup green spinach

Pineapple is a good source of bromelain which is useful to reduce inflammation and fluid retention. If you don’t have papaya add a little more pineapple. If using organic food then you do not need to peel the cucumber or apple.

Place in the blender or juicer and blend until smooth. You may need to dilute a little with water.

This next juice is a good way to get an energy boost in the afternoon as well as generally increasing vegetable intake in the diet generally. I do like to add a little ginger but that may not appeal to everyone.

Energy Boost

  • 2 Carrots
  • 1 small beetroot
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 2 Apples

Peel the carrots and beetroot and then juice with the celery and apples. A delicious addition is a small knob of ginger.

One of my favourite social media sites for new recipes is Simple Green Smoothies and they also provide great information on how to blend to make a good green smoothie. The basic recipe is as follows;

  • 1 cup leafy greens (spinach or kale)
  • 1 cup of liquid such as coconut water, nut milk or dairy
  • 1 cup of fruit (having it frozen makes it easier to store)

Blend the greens initially and then add liquid and mix through. Follow up with fruit and blend until smooth and creamy.

Do you have a favourite juice recipe please feel free to share in the comments below.

Christine Pope is a Naturopath and Nutritionist based at Elemental Health St Ives. You can make appointments on 8084 0081 or online at www.elementalhealth.net.au .

Carrots – seasonal veggie inspirations

Carrots are a versatile vegetable and nutritionally a great source of Beta-Carotene, Vitamins B6 and K as well as minerals such as potassium . The beta carotene in carrots can be converted to Vitamin A. They are also good food for the microbiome as the soluble starch in carrots is largely pectin.

Carrots have the advantage of being ideal raw or cooked. Carrots are available year round and are usually very reasonably priced so a great addition to the weekly shop.

How do you include carrots in your meal plan? Well in addition to being a great side dish on their own they combine well with so many flavours to add to a meal. Often the base of many casseroles or pasta sauce is to start by sauteeing carrot and onion as these “fragrant” vegetables add to the flavour profile of a dish. Adding a carrot can be a good way to increase the quantity of vegetables in a dish.

Here is a list of recipe suggestions for including more carrots in your cooking. Some of these are from recent blogs and others are just recipes I use all the time at home. Carrots are also a favourite to add to roasts as they absorb flavours beautifully specially if you cook them with the lamb or chicken.

Turkey Mince bolognaise – turkey mince is a good light option for pasta sauce.

Carrot and Apple Salad – an easy and quick combination from Carol Ray with walnuts and a lemony dressing. A nice change from coleslaw.

Carrot Pumpkin and Coriander Dip this is a slightly spicier combination but makes a really interesting change from humuus.

Carrot and Onion Side Dish

  • 500 g carrots peeled and cut into rings
  • 2 brown onions peeled and sliced in thick rings
  • 2 Tblsp fresh chopped continental parsley
  • Olive Oil

Steam carrots lightly for 3-4 minutes so they are still crisp but cooked. Saute onions in olive oil for 3-4 minutes until clear and then add carrots. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Serve with chopped continental parsley.

My favourite way to serve carrots is roasted however this combination with roasted parsnip (Maple roasted carrots and parsnip) is simple and a delicious way to get children to eat more vegetables as well.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health St Ives. You can make an appointment on 8084 0081 or online.

Dinner for the next 2 weeks

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Imagine how much better we would all eat if we had a chef shopping and cooking for us. If we didn’t need to think about what to cook and whether we had the ingredients but simply show up and eat. It sounds ideal doesn’t it ? This isn’t really a solution for most of us so I would recommend a few ways to reduce the mental load and make it a little easier to shop and cook without having to waste too much time and energy in the process.

Setting up a two week menu that you rotate with a few seasonal adjustments can be a good tool. The menu below if what I am currently working around. Ideally one night’s meal becomes a second meal reheating leftovers or reusing some of the ingredients. Here is a sample 2 week menu you can then adjust based on your own preferences (you get one night off a week for a meal out or takeaway).

Week One

Monday Easy Carve leg of lamb with roast vegetables (potatoes, pumpkin, parsnip or carrots depending on the season) and greens (steamed beans or blackened asparagus).

Tuesday Leftover lamb from roast as Lamb Biriyani or Shepherd’s Pie. Click here for an easy recipe from the Fuss Free Foodie with a couple of easy cheats.

Wednesday Turkey with Sweet Potato and Snow Peas served with rice

Thursday Vegetable Curry with Sausages or Lentils

Friday Grilled Salmon with Stir Fry Greens (see recipe below)

Saturday Asparagus and Mushroom risotto (or Spring Vegetables or Cauliflower and Peas) Leftovers make good risotto cakes for Sunday lunch with a green salad.

Week Two

Monday Easy Roast Chicken with roast vegetables (use thigh cutlets and layer on the roast vegetables with lemon juice, rosemary, olive oil and rock salt – 50 minutes for the cutlets to cook and then crisp off the vegetables for a further 10 at 180C.

Tuesday Spaghetti Bolognaise

Wednesday Leftover Lasagne Bake with a Cos salad

Thursday Cauliflower and Chicken Curry with Steamed Rice (or better yet a bed of steamed spinach).

Friday San Choy Bow with Stir Fried Greens (scroll down for the recipe)

Saturday  Grilled Steak with bay seasoned potatoes and roasted broccoli and cauliflower.

Stir Fry Greens

2 bunches of broccolini or 400g of broccoli cut into florets

2 bunches of bok choy

1/2 cup of bone broth or stock

1/2 cup soy sauce

1-2 Tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce

Combine liquid ingredients in a jug. Heat a small amount of oil in a wok and then add broccolini and stir fry for 1-2 minutes. Add liquid ingredients and bok choy and heat through and stir fry on a low heat for 10 minutes. Serve.

Turkey mince bolognaise

750g turkey mince (other mince works well too)
1 brown onion finely chopped
2 carrots peeled and diced
1 jar of passata (chopped tomatoes)
1 glass of red wine or beef stock
1 tsp chili (optional)
2 cloves garlic crushed

In a little olive oil saute onions and carrots on a low heat for a few minutes until onions are soft. Add mince, continue cooking until mince is browned and then add remaining ingredients and simmer for twenty to thirty minutes. Serve with pasta and a little grated Parmesan cheese.

Lasagne Bake

Add eggplant: 1-2 eggplants approx 500g.  Pierce the skin with a fork in a couple of places or it will explode in the oven and roast for 40-45 minutes at 180c. Scoop out the flesh and combine with the sauce about 5-10 minutes before serving.

Layer the sauce with lasagne sheets and bake in the oven covered for 30-40 minutes at 180C.

Christine Pope is an experienced naturopath and nutritionist but she frequently gets bored trying to think about what to cook for dinner too! Please add further menu suggestions in the comments below and share your inspiration.

Serves 6-8

Being a good vegetarian

old wooden typesetter box with 16 samples of assorted legumes: gThis week I saw a teen who has become a vegetarian for ethical reasons which is a decision I applaud. On a nutritional level however if you do want to cut out meat its critical to make sure that you do include the right sort of vegetarian proteins in your diet as well as lots of vegetables. The worst vegetarians I see in clinic are usually the ones who don’t like vegetables – chips and tomato sauce or toasted cheese sandwiches are not adequate sources of nutrition!!

So how do you become a good vegetarian? First off lets assume that you love your veggies or if not you had better learn to love them as its going to comprise the bulk of your diet – ideally at least 3 to 4 cups of vegetables a day. Then we need to add some protein sources, eggs, cheese, tofu and legumes are all good options. The egg is in fact the perfect source of protein against which all others are measured. Cheese and dairy foods are great if you can tolerate them, as many adults become lactose intolerant as they age and lactase levels decline. In which case yoghurt may be a better option as the fermentation breaks down the lactose.

Indian vegetable curry with spinach, cauliflower and potatoNext its really about seeking inspiration from cultures that have a wide range of vegetarian foods – Indian curries are a great source of variety and flavour. One of my favourite simple curries – potato, pea and cauliflower I found one day as I was googling recipes with only three ingredients to cook at Taste and its now a firm favourite. Another version of a simple potato curry I found in Stephanie Alexander’s cookbook and then modified to reduce the number of ingredients – if you like it spicy double the curry paste!.

One tablespoon curry paste,
1 tsp each cumin, mustard, ginger and garlic
One onion
2 potatoes
1 piece sweet potato or pumpkin or 2 carrots
2 red capsicum
1 eggplant
2 zucchini
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can coconut milk
Add a little oil to the pan and a chopped onion plus the spices. Fry the onion in the spices. Add two potatoes, a quarter pumpkin, two red capsicum (scrub potatoes, don’t peel – less work and better for you). Cut all the vegetables about the same size – for instance, in quarters.

Chop and slice salted eggplant and two zucchini. (Before you use eggplant – slice it, pour salt on it and then after 10 minutes scrape it off). Cut into cubes and then stir this through, add a can of chopped tomatoes, cover for 20 minutes, cook on low heat. Check that the potatoes are getting soft. Add a small can of coconut milk and simmer for a further 5 mins before serving.

Variations: add a bunch of spinach (chopped) or Chinese cabbage a few minutes before its finished cooking.Leftovers will make another meal with a tin of legumes or chickpeas added for some variety.

Whilst many people think of humuus as a good option to add to a vegetarian meal realistically most beans lend themselves to being cooked, pureed and flavoured with lemon, garlic and herbs. Try a cannellini bean dip for example.

Another option with vegetarian food is to look at Mexican recipes for inspiration – a recent addition to my repetoire was Mexican rice and beans. Basically saute an onion in olive oil , add 1 cup of rice to the brown and warm it through and then add a can of black beans , a crushed clove of garlic and two cups of stock. Cook through and serve. Makes a good filling for tacos or fajita’s, specially if you add some guacamole for a source of good fats and a flavour some topping!

Risotto with some type of legume like pea or mushroom also can create easy options. think about asparagus and pea risotto for example or spring vegetables. Use leeks rather than onions as your base to create a creamier taste.

Soups and noodle dishes can also add variety and inspiration – think about Malaysian laska with tofu for example or pad thai noodles.

Still struggling to find options? Christine Pope is an experienced nutritionist and can help you create nutritious vegetarian or other menu’s. Appointments are available on Tuesday or Wednesday on 8084 0081.

Are probiotics worth the money?

Spoon Of Yogurt With Blueberries On Top

Probiotics seem to one area where even doctors and pharamacists seem to be comfortable recommending that patients take a probiotic with or after an antibiotic. However regular probiotics can help you avoid the need for the antibiotics in the first place.

The Cochrane Collection, which is the gold standard of scientific research, has reviewed 14 clinical trials on probiotics involving over 3454 people. Overall they concluded that probiotics reduced the risk of developing upper respiratory tract infections and reduced the need for antibiotics. Nice to have the scientific evidence however I know from my own practice that a good general preventative through winter is a daily probiotic plus Vitamin C, particularly if your children are in daycare.

Home Made Cultured Or Fermented Vegetables

Probiotics for the whole family may be an expensive option (although getting sick is often more expensive) and some other great ways to include a good range of gut bacteria are to introduce fermented foods. This can be through a good quality yoghurt without a lot of sugar and additives or through regular consumption of fermented vegetables such as kim chi and sauerkraut. If you are interested in making your own fermented foods there are a number of people running workshops – have a look at Georgia at Stirring Change on facebook or Pinkfarm. The ladies at Pinkfarm even provide lists of people with starter cultures who are happy to share.

There are quite a few different strains of probiotics and we are just beginning to understand all the different roles that they can play in terms of keeping our immune system strong as well as in supporting effective digestion. The advantage in using foods is that often there are up to 50 strains or good bacteria in keffir whereas a commercial probiotic will only have a few strains.

There are several strains that we know are useful in the gut and often because they help crowd out problematic strains, such as candida. Some strains are known to be anti-inflammatory such as the lactobacillus plantarum which is often recommended to people with IBS. The predominant strain researched in the Cochrane collection was lactobacillus rhamnosus. If you do have more specialised health problems you may need advice on tailoring the strains to suit your particular needs.

Christine Pope is a nutritionist and homeopath who practices at Elemental Health at St Ives. She can be contacted on (02) 8084 0081. If you are looking for practitioners in other areas of Australia have a look at the metagenics website which lists practitioners who are experienced at working with probiotics and natural medicine.