This article was written by Irene for the latest edition of West & Mid Kerry Live! Inspired by many people who have sought nutrition advice to manage Haemachromatosis.
For a while there has been a raging debate in genetics as to whether Hereditary Haemochromastosis is a Celtic thing or was it introduced to the Celts by Viking invaders and other colonizers. Hereditary haemochromatosis (HH) is a genetic disease that alters the body's ability to regulate iron absorption, resulting in excessive iron building up in cells overtime. What we do know is that the genetic variant (a glitch in our genetic coding) responsible for HH, identified in 1996 as C282Y, only occurred after our ancestors migrated from Central Africa to Northern and Central Europe, 60 to 70 generations ago. Up until then, there is no evidence that HH was in our genes. We also know that countries with the highest prevalence for HH around the North Sea and Western Europe, lie in the path of the once-marauding Vikings, which suggest that the Viking travel had something to do with introducing the defective gene into populations. However, the timeline does not fully explain how the gene mutation is present in Celtic Irish ancestral remains from Rathlin Island dating back to 3000 years before the Vikings hit our shores. The Irish have the highest frequency of C282Y mutation in the world, and specifically in the male population of Connaught.
Although it is known as the “Celtic Curse”, the enhanced ability to store iron probably provided advantages at the time of our first migration to Europe. In particular, it would have helped us adapt to low-iron intakes in our new environment and ward off deficiencies. There is evidence that HH provided resistance to tuberculosis and typhoid infections, as these bacteria require free iron for growth and the way the body stores excess iron, makes it unavailable to these bacteria. The first diagnosis of Haemochromatosis was made during the 1800s through autopsies which showed accumulations of iron in the liver, pancreas, joints and skin. Early physicians established that iron overloads accumulated over a period of 30 to 40 years so symptoms of HH were not seen until life expectancy improved. Our early ancestors would have died long before the effects of excessive iron were apparent.
Nowadays, blood analysis and genetic testing can identify the rogue gene responsible for HH. It is the most common genetic disease in Ireland with 1 out of every 83 people predisposed to HH, yet most people are only diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 50 years when symptoms of iron overload become apparent. Women tend to be diagnosed later due to blood loss through menstruation and pregnancy. Symptoms include chronic pain, joint pain, loss of libido, diabetes, enlarged liver and irregular heartbeat. Iron deposits affect the liver, heart, pancreas, endocrine glands and joints leading to impaired function and eventually disease or organ failure. Treatment involves regular blood-letting (phlebotomy). Initially, treatment may be required weekly or bi-weekly but once safe iron levels are established, may only be needed a few times per year, with regular monitoring.
Along with phlebotomy, it is a good idea to adopt a dietary protocol to manage Haemochromatosis and to protect organs from free radical damage caused by excess iron levels. A wholefood, plant-based diet full of colour, anti-oxidants and unprocessed foods will offer the best protection in the long run. Limit iron-rich foods in the diet, especially heme-iron found in animal meats and offal. Heme-iron is more bioavailable in the human body - it is easier to absorb than non-heme iron. Non-heme iron is a type of iron found mostly in plant foods. Non-heme iron is more difficult to absorb. Some vegetables considered high in iron (non-heme) such as spinach, chard, black beans and green lentils may be eaten in moderation as the phytates and fibre present in these foods inhibit iron absorption. Wholegrains too can be eaten for the same reason.
Increased fibre intake, from a plant-based diet can bind with excess iron for elimination and inhibit the absorption of iron from food. Other foods that inhibit iron absorption include tannins in black tea, calcium-rich foods and healthy fats. Seek advice about using psyllium husk, calcium and any other supplements to minimize iron absorption, as you may well be inhibiting the absorption of other minerals and vital nutrients. Limit or avoid alcohol as it increases the uptake of iron and also may contain iron. Alcohol is an added burden to the liver which is one of the organs most affected by iron-overload.
Avoid “fortified” and “enriched” cereals, breads, flour and other foods. Fortification is added to refined grain products – keep ingredients very natural and as whole as possible to avoid unnecessary addition of iron and vitamin C to everyday foods. Likewise, be wary of supplements which may contain iron and/or vitamin C. Vitamin C rich foods should not be eaten with meat dishes as it increases iron absorption. Yet, vitamin C is needed for many other functions and must not be completely avoided. Use iron-free cookware, ceramic is best but stainless steel is a handier option for most cooking.
While HH is still considered a curse, particularly to those who are affected, it is part of who we are and helped us survive through challenging times. Modern treatment options and advances in genetics will make it less of a curse in the future and hopefully downgrade its risk to the same status as our pale skin and freckles!
A little snippet of what we get up to on Mondays! What a way to start the week! Totally blissed out and focused on making everyday a great day! Join us on Monday Mornings for three hours of bliss!
"It hath flown against me. It hath attacked me. O seven heavens, seven earths, seven winds, seven fires, by heaven be ye exorcised." If you suffered from Tinnitus in Mesopotamian times (4000BC-500BC), this chant would be whispered in your ear until the demon spirit was expelled or the patient faked recovery, favouring the illness over the cure! In ancient Egypt they used infused oil, frankincense, tree sap, herbs and soil and administered the mixture via a reed stalk that they put in the external ear.
The Greco-Roman medicine folk were first to distinguish two types of tinnitus, one stemming from a cold (respiratory) and the other from the head (vascular) – either way, their cure was placing radish, cucumber juice, honey and vinegar in the ear and hoping for the best. In the Middle Ages, they continued with this pouring of things into the ear - a Welsh treatment recommended to take “a loaf of hot bread, divide it in two, and put it in each ear as hot as you could take it and thus perspire and by the help of God you would be cured”! These days, a cure for tinnitus remains elusive and treatment options are as varied as the people who suffer from it, but nutrition can play a positive role its management although it has more to do with eating the right food rather than sticking it in your ear!
Tinnitus is the perception of noise, buzzing, hissing or ringing in the ears, coming from within the ear rather than an external source. Affecting around 20% of the population, tinnitus isn't a condition itself per se, rather it is a symptom of an underlying condition, such as age-related hearing loss, ear injury, wax build-up or cardiovascular system disorder. There is good information of risk factors – prolonged exposure to loud noises, stress, ear wax and blockages, smoking and the natural aging process. Medical conditions associated with tinnitus include high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, circulatory problems, anaemia, allergies, an underactive thyroid gland and diabetes. Conventional treatment is largely dependent on these risk factors and the management of underlying issues with medication. Nutrition is an overlooked option for many yet most of the associated health conditions are well managed through diet and lifestyle measures.
Excess consumption of sodium is directly linked to tinnitus. It restricts blood vessels, increases blood pressure, and significantly reduces blood flow to the cochlea in the ear. It is also involved in the maintenance of cellular fluid balance which can affect the ear as well as other areas in the body. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the kidney and ear are associated organs – not only are they similar in appearance, but also share common adversaries. A low-sodium diet involves using little or no salt in cooking, and never adding salt to your food at the table. Processed meats, ready-made foods, canned/powder soups, commercial bread products, many breakfast cereals and certain cheese are especially high in salt which is used as a preservative to increase shelf life.
Sugar metabolism is a factor worth noting, particularly if you also have type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. The cochlea of the ear affected by tinnitus have a limited supply of nutrition, with only oxygen and glucose really making any impact to support proper function. Impaired sugar metabolism can directly affect the ear, as it can contribute to many of the conditions associated with tinnitus including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Do not be tempted to substitute sugar with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, even though it is marketed as a diabetic-friendly option. Aspartame and flavour-enhancer MSG are excitatory neurotransmitters. That is, they excite brain neurons and increase levels of electrical activity in the brain and the auditory cortex, the area where tinnitus is perceived. Studies have shown that people with tinnitus may have an elevated level of electrical activity and reducing this activity is helpful. Increasing electrical activity increases intensity and duration of tinnitus.
A diet rich in saturated animal fats and trans fats have a detrimental effect on our vascular system, clogging up the blood vessels and inhibiting the smooth flow of blood and nutrients to organs including the ear. Similarly, elimination of toxins out of organs can be impeded by restricted blood flow to and from organs. Healthy fats such omega 3 from oily fish, nuts and seeds, maintains blood flow by keeping blood thinner and supporting the walls of blood vessels for optimal circulation. A Mediterranean-style diet is the most studied and appropriate diet for both cardiovascular health and tinnitus as it can help prevent many of their common risk factors.
Eating foods that are close to their natural state, varied wholefoods, vegetables and fruits and simple, uncomplicated ingredients offer the best overall management for tinnitus and many of the conditions that are linked with it. For those unwilling to look to diet, I refer you back to the chanting and wish you luck!
Researched and written by Irene :)
An introduction to Celtic Shamanism with Elena Danaan. Another beautiful installment of the Celtic Journey series of workshops with a truly intriguing and genuine druidess! What a wonderful way to spend the Bank Holiday Sunday! Details and contact information in the poster below!
Did you know that Sweet potatoes are super-rich in betacarotene, a precursor to vitamin A and an anti-oxidant! This little recipe provides almost 10,000iu of vitamin A, ready to use in th body for eye health, respiratory linings, lung tissue, gut linings and the skin! This is a simple breakfast recipe, perfect for the weekend! Enjoy :)
Let us know how you get on with this recipe in the comments section!
Asparagus has enjoyed an almost lofty reputation since it was first depicted in Egyptian wall art around 3,000 BC. A revered plant among the Roman upper classes, Greek botanists and early medicine practitioners, asparagus continues to hold its head up high today and is widely available to all people, no matter their standing in the community! Perhaps its spear-like shape gives it an air of superiority or maybe it’s the culinary profession who have made it “all fancy” – whatever the reason, there is a lot to be celebrated once those shoots emerge from the ground and the short-lived asparagus season begins!
In Ireland and the UK, home-grown asparagus is at its best from the last week of April to the first week of June - roughly 40 days and nights of pure asparagus joy! After this time, the spears begin to open and the stems tend to get woody and tough. Like any vegetable, true to its season – asparagus’ timely appearance prepares the body for the bounty of heart-friendly Summer foods that will shortly be in great supply. Rich in rutin, a bioflavonoid, this nutrient strengthens our capillaries and has been used to help lower blood pressure, treat haemorrhoids and varicose veins as well as prevent and treat venous leg ulcers. Another nutrient, folate, much discussed in the media recently, is also in rich supply - a 100g serving of asparagus provides a whopping 67% of our daily requirement. Folate is required to complete red cell formation, reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood and supports the entire nervous system. For women of child-bearing age, folate is well-known for its role in preventing neural tube defects in newborns. Other nutrients of significance include vitamins A, C, E and K, dietary fibre and some minerals.
Asparagus is quite the hero in the gut too providing a special type of fibre, called Inulin, in great quantity! Inulin fibre, also known as a prebiotic, does not get broken down in the first segments of the intestinal tract, but makes it way undigested to the large intestine. Once there, it becomes an ideal food source for beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. A healthy colony of such bacteria is associated with better nutrient absorption, lower risk of allergy and lower risk of colon cancer. Most of the vitamin K provided by asparagus as with other greens is actually created by friendly bacteria in the large intestine – we provide for them and they provide for us, perfect synergy! Vitamin K, most noted for its role in the clotting mechanism is also vital for bone and cardiovascular health.
With the asparagus season comes the age-old debate as to whether or not asparagus produces a funny smell in urine. There is some evidence that sulphur containing compounds may be attributed to the odour, but it is far from conclusive and should not deter from enjoying it while it is in season. Furthermore, who knows, perhaps asparagus just gives us a greater sense of smell, either way, why is anyone smelling their pee? Another notable claim to fame is its aphrodisiac power, again, no real evidence and hopefully it has nothing to do with the pee smell. Saying that, Marcel Proust, a famed French novelist in the 19th century claimed that asparagus “had the effect of transforming his humble chamber pot into a bowl of aromatic perfume” – not sure if the ladies would agree! The aphrodisiac effect of asparagus is more likely due to its suggestive shape rather than a special trait although any food that nourishes the blood vessels and circulation will also be beneficial to sexual health, particularly for men.
Young seasonal asparagus requires very little preparation or cooking. The thinner the stems the quicker it cooks. It is best steamed for a few minutes in a little water standing upright with the thicker ends in the water. This way the tender spear heads are just lightly steamed and impart loads of flavour. The spear heads can also be snapped off and eaten raw in salads. Asparagus is also delicious sautéed in a little butter and fresh herbs. When you buy asparagus, just break off about an inch or two from the end, rinse and wrap the stems in kitchen paper and store in the fridge. Asparagus will keep in the fridge for days and even longer if you place the stems upright in jar leaving the ends in a little water to prevent them drying out. Enjoy!
Researched and written by Irene :)
Good nutrition does not have to be complicated, and it doesn't get more simple than this! Asparagus is in season now and can be enjoyed often while it is at its best! See articles for a deeper insight to this welcome vegetable!
Cook, Talk, Eat with Irene
We are back in the kitchen on Sunday June 23rd! Irene is creating a sharing menu full of the flavour and colour of the Summer, for you to enjoy on the day and all recipes to take away!
This Cook, Talk, Eat food demo is for anyone who gets excited by the seasons and is wondering what to do with such an abundant range of fruits and vegetables!
All our dishes and beverages will have a common theme of "Sharing is Caring" as we delve into the natural world and discover how we are connected to the Summer.
This is a fun, informative workshop which will give you the confidence and know-how to shop for seasonal ingredients, create a sharing menu, full of colour and flavour and to wow your guests this Summer!
Simple and Seasonal - plant based menu, healthy and full of vitality!
A 4-course lunch and Summery beverages included. Recipes for you to take away.
SUNDAY JUNE 23rd 11am-2pm
DINGLE COOKERY SCHOOL
€50pp (only 12 chairs around the table so book early!)
Click to Book
Ireland's Leading Declutter Therapist is coming to Dingle!
Discover the biggest misconceptions about clutter and decluttering, learn why your decluttering efforts may not be working and get other vital facts, tips and information so you have the clarity and inspiration to move forward with your decluttering.
Leading decluttering expert Breda Stack, The Declutter Therapist, is founder of National and International Declutter Day, author of Declutter Therapy and a regular contributor to TV, radio and print media. Sharing a uniquely-holistic approach to decluttering since 2010, Breda is also creator of The Declutter Academy Professional Training Certification and other online programmes through which she teaches students and clients all around the world to "LET IT GO" so they can enjoy lighter, happier lives. www.thedecluttertherapist.ie
THURSDAY 4th APRIL 2019
at Ré Nua Natural Health Clinic, Goat St., Dingle
Available through Eventbrite (link below)
A Spring time Menu to get your mojo going!
Join us for a wonderful Masterclass in preparing Spring ingredients in a healthy and delicious way. Learn what foods to eat in Spring and why. Discover how your body wants to go with the flow every season and how we can help it along!
Enjoy a wonderful, colourful lunch prepared right in front of you and go home with all the recipes to cook the dishes for your family and friends.
SUNDAY 10th MARCH 2019 11am - 2pm
DINGLE COOKERY SCHOOL, The Wood, Dingle
Book your seat at the table 086 1662562
Looking forward to a wonderful, Springing day!
Ré Nua Natural Health Blog
We keep you up to date with news, events and happenings at the clinic.