a spring clean can also mean a mind detox

It is good to declutter the shed or the house on a regular basis, many wait until the brighter days of spring to find their motivation. And sure enough a bright blue sky provides a hit of serotonin and a spark of get up and go. But how do you decluter past trauma and emotional baggage? How do you pack up the negative people cluttering up your thoughts and in the way of personal growth and genuine progress?

here is one of the tips from my book – by time is everything revealed.

guilt free breaking away from negative people or from people with whom we have a hang-up or guilt bond.

For all sorts of reasons we can accumulate people that are not good for us but with whom it is hard to walk away from. Or have encounters that linger in our heads. It may be an Ex, an old friend who hasn’t moved along with your life changes, it may be the psychic ones – a dead relative or someone still living whom you have regret about.

I am talking about the people who populate our headspace and drain our emotional reserves. You need to break that connection. We can often take a short interlude from this situation when times are good and busy but then return all too soon to those old emotions and preoccupations. The success is in sending those preoccupying people on their journey, on a journey out of your life.

This exercise is the power of visualisation to flight simulate your mind in to thinking about those people as no longer around.

Picture an old steam train, like one from an old movie – with a brass band on the platform, balloons, buntings and flags everywhere; this is the maiden voyage of a once in a lifetime luxury trip – a trip away into happiness and resolution. All the people you need out of your head, are here. They are all smiles with a big golden ticket in their hands. They are going on this journey.

You feel no enmity towards them, or them towards you. They are smiling at you, joyous, laughing – there is no hard feeling, sorrow or pain here. They are winners of the golden ticket to someplace else. You show them onto their carriage, they wave at you out the window. You blow the whistle and the train departs – they are happy to go, waving back at you and you are happy to have sent them off. Let them go.

Now they are gone. Feel the relief. Trust that the connection is broken in a beautifully positive way. You wish them well on their journey, they are happily gone. Live your life now.

the trick is that sending them off with everyone happy removes guilt and unease, it doesn’t allow doubt to linger- they were happy to go. You are happy they went. All is good.

to find more methods European and American  editions  are available from usual online bookstores and in your local bookshop.

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help with haemochromatosis / iron overload

Known as the Irish curse and nicknamed the ‘Celtic gene’, Haemochromatosis is the most common genetic disorder in Ireland, where it estimated that one in five people carry the gene. It is also high amongst people with Irish heritage globally. Haemochromatosis is a condition that causes the body to absorb and store too much iron which can then harm normal healthy functions and if untreated trigger serious organ damage. Iron overload is also implicated in diabetes, dementia, chronic fatigue syndromes and many other complaints.

In fact there are two types of haemochromatosis:

Primary haemochromatosis – the inherited type; So while one in five are carriers of then flawed HFE gene, they won’t necessarily show any symptoms in their lifetime but may pass the condition on to their children if the second parent is also a carrier of the mutated HFE gene and the child receives the set. Not every child will inherit both genes, and not every child of a double set from carrier parents will develop the condition either. It is still not currently understood what factors contribute to full development.

gene inheritance odds – if both parents have the gene; currently it is estimated that there is a 1-in-2 chance that a conceived baby will receive one normal HFE gene and one mutated HFE gene and so be a carrier but not develop the condition. There is a 1-in-4 chance that a pair of mutated HFE genes will be received and then the potential exists to develop haemochromatosis at some stage

The second type known as secondary haemochromatosis is a triggered version, not related to genetics, often as a result of chronic liver disease, or from conditions involving blood transfusions. Approximately 1 in every 80 Irish people are at risk of developing one or the other. It’s roughly 1 in every 200 for other European gene pools. The treatment protocol for both is the same.

The conventional treatment is a phlebotomy – to give blood, this removes the iron rich blood and triggers the release of stored iron to make new blood cells and so resets the system for a while – there are outpatient appointments and often mobile clinics. The other treatment option is iron chelation – taking medicine that binds to excess iron and also decreases ferritin levels. The ‘how long for’ of either treatment depends on many factors including age and dietary factors. As we age we tend to store more iron. And if you eat a lot of meat and other iron rich foods then that will speed up the need to donate again.

But you have options too, there are dietary considerations and herbal support. First big tip – throw out your iron pots and pans. There is an ionic transfer when cooking in those that adds iron to the meal and helps pull more iron from the ingredients. Get ceramic or copper.

Dietary options – Consider a dietary lifestyle change; vegetarianism is a good option as the heme iron in animal based foods is quantitively larger and more readily absorbed than plant based iron. Plant based iron (non heme) is not only less than a steak, it is harder work to get from gut to blood stream. Even something like spinach and other leafy greens which are considered high in iron can also be packed with calcium, tannins, polyphenols and oxalic acid – all of which bind with iron and inhibit its absorption even further. So the vegetarian diet has built in limiters.

If you can’t quit the beef, then adding the iron chelators to the plate will definitely do some good. Foods to include: There is a whole range of foods that contain potent iron-chelating compounds. Adding them to a meal which contains iron rich foods, will decrease the levels of iron absorbed into the bloodstream or stored in the tissues.

Quercetin-rich foods have a potent iron-chelating capacity so the inclusion of fresh coriander leaf, dill, capers, red onions, buckwheat are really good choices.

Calcium binds to iron and prevents is absorption. Calcium rich foods include dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese and also whey protein), calcium fortified plant milks, calcium-fortified tofu and soya products, seeds (notably chia, sesame and poppy). High-calcium legumes include chickpeas, kidney beans, baked beans and navy beans.

Eggs contain a phosphoprotein called phosvitin which actively impairs the free absorption of iron. A single boiled egg can reduce the absorption of iron from the salad it is included in by more than 25%. Similarly egg mayonnaise will diminish iron bioavailability in a meal.

Turmeric is packed with a natural DNA repair and anti-inflammatory compound known as curcumin, which of itself would be good for some of the symptoms of iron overload but which it is also a powerful iron chelator – both in binding to excess iron and also by increasing the genetic expression of ferritin – our own natural iron-binding protein. A double sequester. Turmeric or a curcumin supplement can also support better control of age-related iron accumulations, particular with deposits in the brain, heart, and liver.

One thing that acerbates iron accumulations is a selenium deficiency. A poverty of dietary selenium can impact upon transferrin saturation and potentially boost serum iron concentration by 40-50% plus. Foods high in selenium include nuts and seed (in particular brazil nuts, sesame and sunflower seeds), dairy (in particular yoghurt and cottage cheese), mushrooms and oatmeal.

You can increase that effect by the beverage you chose to have the meal with. What to drink: The tannins in tea and coffee actively block iron absorption. Black tea can trigger inhibition of iron by more than 80%, fermented black teas by more again. Green teas also have high iron-chelating capacities but also are brilliant at limiting the oxidative stress that exacerbates iron overload symptoms. A cup of coffee at meal time can inhibit iron absorption by as much as 60%. Cow’s milk is rich in iron binding calcium. Soy and alternative milks are often high in phytic acid, which also binds iron and renders it absorbable to the blood stream.

Herbal help – Milk Thistle has two particularly potent polyphenols called silymarin and silybin known to bind iron and also affect a decrease in serum ferritin level. So on paper milk thistle would seem an idea therapy but with the caveat that milk thistle can affect enzymes involved in the processes of a range of prescription drugs including warfarin and other blood thinners, diazepam and other antianxiety meds, blood pressure medicines, birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy.

Again there is more than one option. Elderberry, goji berry, Japanese knotweed, lovage, St John’s wort and ginkgo biloba are all high in quercetin – a polyphenol that binds to free iron atoms and chelates them from the system. Quercetin is a potent antioxidant flavonoid known to prevent the DNA strand damage and effect tissue and cellular repair – it is particular useful in liver repair. Liver injury is a consequence of iron overload. Quercetin is readily available in supplement form.

Many herbal teas are rich in iron binding biochemicals, including tannins that make black tea so effective in treating iron overload. A simple cup of peppermint tea at meal time has the capacity to bind iron by 84%, vervain tea is active in the 60% range, while linden flower or chamomile tea can hold back around 50%. Other good teas include basil, buckwheat, hibiscus, and rosemary.

Coming soon – more on the myriad health benefits of herbal teas.

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Leave the bad luck to the last, in the hope that it may never come.

There is an old Irish saying Leig an donaschundeiridh, a n-duil s’ nach d-tiocaidh se choidche – Leave the bad luck to the last, in the hope that it may never come. We often say it jokingly but boy does it a pack a punch when thought of in terms of some ancient cognitive behavioural therapy.

This proverb yields pure optimism from the Irish psyche but also a way to deal with the negative. We Irish often forget, owing to our history, that we are essentially a positive people. People of all nationalities make that same mistake. Too often in life we as humans simply prioritise the negative, the squeaky gate is top of the to do list instead of going for a scenic walk. It’s as if we are programmed to attend to the bad stuff first – but if we left it to last it might not even arise as ‘mind noise’, as we fill the order of the day with positive stuff.

Part of it is how we are emotionally programmed – we dwell on the break up and sense of loss rather than the newfound freedom and the potential of a new/next relationship. That’s a shocking statement to some but it is not diminishing the love you had, it is acknowledging that the relationship is over and acknowledging that you deserve love again, in time when you are ready.

You lose your job, don’t dwell on being unemployed forever – get motivated now to find the ideal job or start your own business where you will get paid for your passion. The latest kitchen experiment was an epic fail, does that mean you can never cook again. Put the negative to the end of the list and get on with the good stuff in life.
Starting off positive, ranking it first, may occupy the space long enough to not notice the negative or more important not be weighed now by constant negativity.

Here are two easy ways to put the positive up front;

Exercise; count your hatched chickens.
It’s ok today to count your hatched chickens to recount the good times, see the joy and fortune in your life. This notion of not counting your chickens before they are hatched is wise enough – spares you disappointment – but you don’t have to be overly cautious with the ones already hatched – they are the success story chirping – maybe even laying more golden eggs.

Exercise; morning countdown – your top hits.
Think of the top five great achievements of your life, it may be climbing a tree when you were 10, it doesn’t have to be climbing the corporate ladder. Whatever makes you proud. Write them down from 5 to 1. Every now and then you can pull out this list before breakfast and give yourself a count down on the high points of your life. It reminds you of the successes, of the good luck. You can update the countdown as often as you like.

For more like this do check out my book on the topic. All good stores and online booksellers.

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The mountain is good mustard

There is a wonderful old Irish proverb that says Maith an mustárd an sliabh – The mountain is good mustard.

On one level it is about how work (climbing the real mountain or the work load mountain) works up an appetite. An appetite is no bad thing.

It is often said that food tastes better when you are hungry rather than when your just eating because it is designated lunchtime. We often shovel food in as fuel, like coal to old steam trains. We should stop and experience it. Mindfully enjoy each meal.

But beyond that there is also the wisdom here of appreciation for endeavour and gratitude for its own rewards.

The mindful takeaways are – Effort is rewarded. Know that. The task of climbing the mountain gives you an appetite, stimulates, enlivens. Understand that. Engaging with nature can bring you into mindfulness. Experience that.

If you want to explore this proverb further why not try a simple Exercise – to practice mindful participation with the outdoors: If you can go somewhere scenic – the mountains, the hills, a forest, the sea – someplace to stimulate you – go. If you can’t get to the great outdoors then just get outdoors – a local park, your own garden, campus grounds, a walk around the block.

Being outside is a great and pleasurable way of coming into the present, feeling the temperature on the skin, awareness of your breath, awareness of your footing. Encountering the sights, sounds and fragrances – all good mustard to relishing the now.

some other contemplations on mountains

“The blue mountains are of themselves blue mountains, the white clouds are of themselves white clouds.”
– Zen saying .

“To rule the mountains is to rule the river”
– French proverb

“When there’s love, mountains seem like plains”
– Sicilian proverb

“Even the loftiest of mountains begins on the ground”
– Moroccan proverb

“There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same”
– Chinese proverb

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homemade love truffles

Love truffles are a nice twist on homemade energy balls – they are really easy to make; it’s a simple blitz up of all ingredients. Here is a quick recipe featuring some mood boosting and aphrodisiacal ingredients for a nice valentines treat.

Begin by adding to a blender or food processor the following

• 1& ½ cups oats for slow sustaining energy release and a b-vitamin stamina boost, oats also increase testosterone levels.
• 1 tbsp of zinc rich seeds (of your choice – pumpkin, sunflower, hemp) to elevate sex hormones (both male and female) and increases our brain levels of libido-lifting dopamine. Dopamine makes us both risky and frisky.
• 2tbsp of good fat nuts (of your choice – cashew, pistachio, almonds) to activate good mood-enhancing responses. Pistachios have an added benefit in that they contain arginine an agent known to strengthen the physical mechanisms and sexual sensations of our sexual parts.
• 1tsp of raisins for more arginine.
• 1tsp figs for more zinging zinc and some rejuvenating amino acids
• 1tsp chocolate chips to increases dopamine and also to generate oxytocin – that’s the chemical released when a woman gives birth, breastfeeds or has an orgasm – it’s the chemical that makes you bond with child or partner. It also releases this chemical in men who also experience its natural release at key emotional highlights.
• 3tsp of honey for more energy release
• And for the binding glue add 1/3 cup of nut butter (again of choice – but peanut is great). Nut butters are high in monounsaturated fats, which increase energy and dopamine.

blitz all together into a sticky but firm consistency, if too dry add a drop of water or a cap of your favourite alcohol. Use a melon scooper or roll into balls between your hands. You can firm them up in the fridge. to make it look like a range of fancy truffles, you can roll some in cocoa powder, others in dried coconut and perhaps dip one or two in some melted chocolate and let set hard.

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the perfect cuppa for valentines day

A cup of rose tea can put a rosy glow in your cheeks, a glint in your eye and some lift to your libido. Roses don’t just symbolise love they have a phytochemistry conducive to optimum health and the engendering of positive emotion.

Rose flower tea is most often derived from the petals or unopened flower buds of Rosa rugosa or select species of R. canina, R. damascene, R. laevigata & R. gallica var. centifolia. No matter the rose, the tea bears a delicious floral fruity flavour. Sometimes it comes in specialty teas and herbal teabags. Dried rose buds are available in some health stores and most Asian markets.

Traditionally the petal tea is made up from dried petals separated from the rest of the flower while the bud tea is dried immature buds kept intact. Rose flower tea aka Mei Gui Hua or Yue ji hua has been utilized in Chinese medicine for over 5,000 years to invigorate blood and Qi, relieve depression, revive the convalescent and address gynaecological conditions.

In the western traditions, Rose tea has a history of use as cooling beverage to remedy menopausal hot flushes and night sweats and in its sedative and nervine actions to address irritability, mental and physical fatigue and also mild depression. Its oldest tradition is to relieve uterine and menstrual irregularities and to attenuate PMS –

Certainly its supply of calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium and b vitamins are of benefit and also the flavonoids that contribute to improved blood flow – hence its use too as an aphrodisiac – it also has an impact upon the production of sex hormones and decreases stress chemicals in the body; That things helpful to getting in the mood.

Beyond a love token and being a good mood stimulator there are many benefits in rose tea: Rose petals store a good quantity of vitamin C which is immune boosting and system cleansing and that accounts for its reputation in viral illness recovery and general pick-me-up applications.

Rose petals also contains significant amount of polyphenols that actively repair cellular damage and act as free-radical scavengers contributing to its association as a rejuvenating tonic. Polyphenols also exert influence on gut bacteria and on the chemistry of inflammation and further help attenuate bacterial and viral infection.

Rose tea stimulates bile and is viewed as a detox and digestive. Its antimicrobial nature is beneficial to gut health and also to urinary tract health. Rose tea shows some antimicrobial activity against Staphylococcus epidermidis, S. aureus, Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, Micrococcus luteus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Proteus mirabilis and also against two significant yeast strains Candida albicans & C. parapsilosis.

The tea contains quercetin and ellagic acid – both of which support the body’s natural defenses against allergens and cancers and which have a role in slowing the progression of diabetes and other obesity-mediated metabolic complications. Roxyloside A and other flavonoid glycosides within rose petals have a role in cardiovascular and venous health via suppression of angiotensin I-converting enzyme (ACE) activity.

How to make: To maximise the Vitamin C and other antioxidant agents it is best to rest boiled water for 30-60 seconds before making an infusion. Fresh petals will need the bitter white portion at the base of the petal removed; dried petals are good to go. The standard ratio is 1-2 tsps per cup required.

As roses contain many flavourful and bioactive volatile oils it is good to make in a teapot or covered cup. Infusion duration is 3-5 minutes. Can be sweetened with some honey or stevia. Suitable cooled and served over ice.

Main medicinal actions: Antibacterial, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, aphrodisiac, astringent, blood tonic, detox, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, nervine, sedative, uterine. Dosage: The standard range is 1-2 cups daily over therapeutic duration. Over consumption can cause nausea or headache. Caution: Avoid in pregnancy due to uterine activity. Caution in recurrent use if on blood thinning medication.

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Enhancing iron absorption

There are several agents that help improve absorption of iron; either by altering the availability or solubility of dietary iron, by improving its chances of uptake in the digestive system or by improving the mechanisms of its general metabolism and movement into the bloodstream.

Ascorbic acid – Ascorbic acid also known as vitamin C is a potent booster of non-haem iron absorption; to the extent that it can potentially increase the bio-availability of plant-based iron by 2 or even 3 times more if taken at the same time as the main iron rich meal. That may be a simple as a fizzy supplement in your mealtime glass of water or via combining vitamin C rich foods on the plate.

Ascorbic acid coats iron molecules and so helps prevent the formation of insoluble /un-absorbable iron compounds in the stomach and intestines. It also helps assist the uptake of dietary iron into the mucosal cells of the duodenum and so into the blood stream more efficiently.

Vitamin C is best known as an immune system booster and as a potent antioxidant that helps prevent/heal free radical damage to our cells. Vitamin C is also involved in the production of several neurotransmitters in particular the happy hormone – serotonin. Vitamin C is therefore a good addition to the diet to generally boost health and take the edge off some of the side effects of anaemia including low mood and physical fatigue.

Some fruits rich in vitamin C may also contain tannins or polyphenols that can bind to iron. eg Cranberries, raspberries and blueberries. So a cranberry sauce may not be helpful but lemon vinaigrette will.

Foods rich in Ascorbic acid include citrus fruits (orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime), kiwifruit, papaya, pineapples, strawberries, bell peppers, tomatoes. Many veg are high in C including spinach, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, green beans and summer and winter squash.

Probiotics – Every health store and most pharmacies will have a selection of probiotics – supplements used to boost intestinal health or to recover from a recent course of antibiotics. Probiotics are what’s known as ‘friendly bacteria’ – predominantly Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium – the type that help us digest food and maintain our stomachs role in our immune system. Several studies have found that probiotic supplementation is also beneficial to increase iron and mineral absorption. Several foods are also naturally probiotic.

Probiotic foods include buttermilk, natural yogurt, kefir, bacterially cultured yoghurt-type drinks, bacterially cultured cheese, pickles, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented foods

Prebiotics – Prebiotics are what feed probiotics – normally a source of oligosaccharides or other complex starches. prebiotic are the first food humans were designed to taste; galacto-oligosaccharide (GOS) is found in human breast milk and has a role in immune system development as well as setting parameters for future digestive health by establish good colonies of bifido bacteria.

Inulin is a complex starch found in legumes and whole grains, and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) are found in fruits – both support Lactobacilli. Simply put, gut health is essential for the effective absorption of nutrients and so any foods that support gut health are good to have on your radar and on your plate.

Good food sources include Artichokes, asparagus, leeks, onions, garlic, barley, oats, rye, wheat, quinoa, legumes, bananas, berries, honey, chicory root, dandelion root, elecampane root.

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