Browse Tag by Health

Weight loss post 40 with the Fast 800 Diet

Post 40 weight loss - A Free From Life

Having never had to worry about my weight, I’ve found, post 40, that it’s begun to creep up and I’m struggling to keep it off.

I had time off exercise before Christmas due to an injury, and the weight I put on during that time has stuck with me. Since then, I’ve tried Dry January, No Sugar February and a low carb approach to eating.

Since I don’t drink masses of alcohol and have very little sugar, not surprisingly, those approaches didn’t work. The low carb option wasn’t having much of an effect either.

It was when it came to picking out an outfit for a recent party that it really hit home that I needed to do something about my weight. I couldn’t fit into any of my dresses! Okay, so it was an excuse to buy a new one, but I wasn’t at all comfortable with that.

After speaking to a few people, I got myself a copy of the Fast 800 book by Dr Michael Moseley.

Immediately, this approach made sense to me. You drop your calorie intake down to 800 per day for at least the first two weeks. Also, during this time, you eat between a window of 10 or 12 hours and fast for the rest. This puts your body into ketosis, where you burn stored fat and it has dramatic results.

This is certainly true for me, as I only started it at the beginning of this week. Here we are, on Thursday, and I’ve already lost 2lbs.

The idea is, you move on to a 5:2 approach, which means eating normally for five days and doing the fasting (800 calories) on the other two. I think this is manageable and from what I’ve read, seems a sensible, healthy approach to eating, in general.

My time-restricted eating (TRE) at the moment is between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. but in reality, I finish eating at around 6, so the fasting period is actually longer than this.

I don’t feel hungry though. The meals are more than filling me up and I haven’t felt the need to snack in between. Part of this comes down to motivation, as I’m already seeing the results.

How do I feel? Well, on Tuesday night I started with a sore throat and yesterday felt rough. Last night, I woke up with stomach pains, similar to how I’ve felt with food poisoning. And today, I feel like I might actually be physically sick. I’m guessing this is kind of a detox feeling my body is going through and I’ll hopefully come out of the other side feeling much healthier.

Let’s hope so. I will keep you informed.


What is leaky gut syndrome?

“Leaky gut syndrome” is a term used to describe symptoms and conditions caused by the immune system reacting to particles, toxins or other substances that have been absorbed into the bloodstream via a porous (“leaky”) bowel (source: NHS).

What is leaky gut syndrome? - A Free From Life
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The digestive system not only breaks down food and absorbs nutrients, it plays an important role in protecting the body from harmful substances. The walls of the intestine act as a barrier to control what enters the bloodstream for transportation to the organs.

Small gaps in the intestinal wall, known as tight junctions, allow water and nutrients to pass through, while blocking the passage of harmful substances. When these tight junctions become loose, the gut becomes more permeable, which may allow bacteria and toxins to pass from the gut into the bloodstream.

In a healthy gut, the layers of cells that line the intestinal wall act as a protective barrier that absorbs particles from food, toxins, and other microorganisms. Any damage to these cells can cause them to become porous or leaky. This is what we commonly term as a ‘leaky gut’.

When the intestine becomes permeable, particles from food, toxins, and other microorganisms are able to make their way into the bloodstream, undigested. This triggers an immune response, whereby the particles are treated as foreign bodies.

“Intestinal permeability, also termed leaky gut, can be responsible for a very long list of symptoms,” says Nutritionist, Caroline Gilmartin of Nutraclin.

“Digestive system issues are on the increase (GP’s and Natural Practitioners will both agree) and in my opinion, the integrity of our digestive system is becoming weaker and weaker. This is linked to many auto immune conditions, but also many sub-clinical conditions which have not yet received a medical diagnosis.”

Leaky gut is linked to inflammatory conditions like celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or inflammatory bowel disease, where inflammation causes the gut to become porous.

Other factors thought to have an impact include:

• Excessive sugar intake: a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar, particularly fructose, can harm the barrier function of the intestinal wall.
• Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): long-term use of NSAIDs like ibuprofen can increase intestinal permeability.
• Excessive alcohol intake
• Nutrient deficiencies: particularly in vitamin A, vitamin D and zinc have each been implicated in increased intestinal permeability.
• Stress: chronic stress is a contributing factor to multiple gastrointestinal disorders, including leaky gut.
• Dysbiosis: the imbalance of the good and bad bacteria, which is disrupted by all the above factors, as well as by antibiotics.

Some health practitioners claim this can lead to symptoms such as bloating, gas, and cramps, as well as psoriasis, eczema, and allergies, fatigue and an inability to absorb nutrients, including vitamins B and D, magnesium and certain amino acids.

“Logically, if your body’s ability to absorb nutrients is compromised, how can there not be a long list of symptoms which can be linked to leaky gut,” says Caroline.

“Everyone has their own genetic susceptibilities and therefore different people will be affected in different ways. For one person, it may manifest as allergies, for others it could be severe fatigue of arthritis.”

However, whilst gastroenterologists acknowledge gut permeability, many disagree these undigested particles cause such symptoms, claiming they aren’t irritating enough. Whilst leaky gut syndrome is a distinct medical condition claimed by nutritionists and alternative medicine physicians, the wider medical community rarely acknowledge its existence.

Very few scientific studies mention leaky gut syndrome and according to the NHS, there is currently little evidence to support the theory that a porous bowel is the direct cause of any significant, widespread problems.

There is also little evidence that the “treatments” some people claim help to reduce bowel “leakiness”, such as nutritional supplements and herbal remedies, have any beneficial effect for most of the conditions they supposedly help.

However, there are medical studies that cite intestinal permeability and leading expert on gluten sensitivity, Dr Fasano, conducted some interesting research on the effects of gluten and gut bacteria on the small intestine, along with the effects of gliadin amongst coeliacs.

“In my clinic, there are many ways to ascertain whether or not the likelihood of leaky gut is causing an issue. There are lab tests which can be done privately, but I also use iridology, muscle response testing and case history,” Caroline says.

“These tests are not available on the NHS and if they were, there is no pharmaceutical drug which can cure. The only way I know to help leaky gut, is an individualised nutritional programme. One of the biggest lessons I have learned as a new practitioner, is that clients who have leaky gut do NOT necessarily have severe digestive system issues of IBS. The range of symptoms I have seen with Leaky Gut Syndrome is very far reaching, from rheumatoid arthritis, to chronic fatigue”.

Caroline Gilmartin is a fully qualified Nutritional Therapist who practices in Kent, Manchester and London. She owns and runs Nutraclin and is a full member of the Naturopathic Nutrition Association (NNA) and an associate member of the General Naturopathic Council.


Dairy free diaries

Dairy Intolerance - what you need to know - A Free From Life
Image courtesy of tiverlucky at

My son is dairy and wheat intolerant and although I make most things to suit him, I don’t always avoid these items in my own diet.

Having suffered long-term with IBS, I’ve found my own symptoms are worsened by nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, mainly). Avoiding these foods definitely helps keep my stomach from tying in knots and my skin breaking out in hives, but one thing it hasn’t helped with is my skin.

I haven’t talked about my skin problems on this blog before, but it’s time to finally ‘come out’!

Although I suffered with bad skin as a teen, it cleared when I started taking the pill. When I came off the pill, I went on to have three children, and during this time my skin was clear, which I think was mainly down to the hormones swimming around my system during that time.

It was after having my third child that things began to unravel. A year after having him, I sought help because my IBS was at its worst and my skin was terrible.

Having taken measures to help with both of these problems, I’ve since changed my diet to get the IBS under control and the products I use do a good job of controlling my skin – mostly.

The area I can’t seem to do anything about is my chin.

I’ve looked into it (thanks Google), and found the cause of outbreaks in this area is hormonal related and common amongst women of 30+. Great. Even better news, it’s a recognised form of acne. Wonderful.

So it seems unless I go back on the pill (not going to happen) or take some form of hormone regulating medication (I’m in my early forties, so I’m not going there yet), there isn’t a lot I can do. Or is there?

Some suggestions indicate poor digestion as a possible contributor to these forms of outbreaks (that’ll be me then), with a link to dairy. So it leaves me with little choice but to give this option a try.

I’m reaching the end of week one of my dairy free trial. I tried to kid myself that I didn’t each that much dairy in the first place, but I’ve found the difficulties arise when you go out.

What has changed this week?

  • I went to Costa (once), for a takeaway and had a soya milk cappuccino (wasn’t too bad). Didn’t choose anything to eat because the choice is limited to dried fruit, nuts or some mini cherry bakewells (too sweet for me).
  • I took my eldest daughter plus friends to the local trampoline park on Saturday and it was over lunchtime. Again I had a coffee with soya milk, but there wasn’t anything I could eat except crisps (and I don’t do potatoes do I?) By the time we left and called into town on the way home, I was starving and ended up getting a slice of banana bread from the local gluten free cafe (it was one of three choices that were both gluten and dairy free).
  • Today, I was out shopping with my middle daughter, whilst my eldest and her friends went to the cinema (this, and the trampolining, were because of her birthday, not that I take her to stuff and don’t do anything with the other two – just in case you were wondering). I needed caffeine (as you do when you’ve had three teenagers for a sleepover), so we dropped in to M and S.

Although there were a few choices of gluten free cakes, there wasn’t anything dairy free. Even if I’d opted to forego the gluten free, the choice didn’t improve because all the sandwiches included dairy. I ended up with a gluten free bread bun, spread with margarine and you guessed it, a coffee with soya milk.

I will say one thing for this week, I have definitely eaten less and avoiding dairy has meant not giving into the sugar cravings. I can also appreciate, more than ever, what my son has to live with on a daily basis and it’s the reason why I always take snacks for him wherever we go.

As for the skin (the reason for doing this) I can’t say I’ve seen any improvement yet, although it’s early days and I wouldn’t expect to. The test will be to see how it fairs over a complete cycle because after all, it’s the hormones at work here, and diet may not be the contributing factor.

I’m off to make a peach cobbler now. It’s a simple recipe and will be both gluten and dairy free, plus low sugar. It is Sunday after all, and with the log fire burning away, some comfort food feels like the perfect end to the week.


Do children’s menus need to be so gluten and dairy heavy?

Do children's menus need to be so gluten and dairy heavy? - A Free From Life

Do children's menus need to be so gluten and dairy heavy? - A Free From Life

I took two of my children out for dinner on Friday for a treat. Husband and eldest daughter were both out, so we thought, why not?

It’s hard to eat out though, if you’re intolerant to dairy and wheat.

Whilst I can’t fault the management of the restaurant we went to – he was more than happy to sort something out for my son to eat – there wasn’t a single thing on the children’s menu that he could have.

Giving a customer an allergens menu isn’t enough.

All it told me was there was very little on the entire menu that didn’t contain both gluten and dairy.

What I don’t understand is, should it be so difficult to put together a menu that doesn’t contain these things? Do all children’s menus have to be so gluten and dairy heavy?

Here are the items on the children’s menu:
Fish fingers, Cumberland sausage, chicken burger, barbeque ribs and macaroni with cheese sauce or tomato and basil sauce.

According to the allergens menu, all these items contain gluten and dairy, which to me doesn’t make sense. I look at this menu and think how easy it would be to provide gluten free pasta with a tomato sauce, plain chicken fillet and source gluten free sausages. There should also be an alternative to fries (coated in wheat) and mashed potato.

What did my son eat?

Well, given that his choice was either burger without the bun or a chicken skewer, he went for the chicken. Not being a fan of mashed potato, they said would he like baked beans and some salad and that was it, the extent of his choice.


As someone who regularly makes meals and bakes gluten and dairy free, I know it can be done and I also know it doesn’t even have to be difficult.

Why does everything have to be coated in breadcrumbs? Even the fries have wheat on them and they are potatoes!

A piece of grilled chicken or salmon is just as popular with children as chicken nuggets are, aren’t they? Well, they are with mine anyway.

Some steamed vegetables and boiled potatoes to go with it? Not difficult at all. And how difficult would it be to keep some gluten free pasta in stock?

I seriously get fed up of being given an allergens menu as if a restaurant is doing me a favour, when all they’re actually doing is ticking a box and depressing the hell out of me because the choice is so limited.

Gluten free may be a popular choice for many now, but what restaurant owners need to wake up to is that many who are gluten intolerant are also dairy intolerant too and many of these are children.

Our children don’t need deep fried breaded food. Good quality, relatively plain dinners are a much better choice and I’m sure most parents would agree.

Yes, this is a rant of a post today, but I’ll say it now and I will keep saying it until hopefully we see some changes.


Low muscle tone, hypermobility & food intolerance – their effect on childhood development

Low muscle tone, hypermobility & food intolerance - their effect on childhood development - A Free From Life
Photo courtesy of chrisroll/

I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time. Then I found out I’d been nominated for an award and it put the post to the front of my mind again. I mean me, little old me and my little old blog? It’s a lovely honour that someone should think of this little corner of the virtual world as being a contender for the Allergy Blog Awards UK and it is a reminder of why I started it in the first place. That’s what I wanted to talk about today. Continue Reading

Health, Snacks

No bake protein energy balls

Raw protein balls - A Free From Life

Raw protein balls - A Free From Life

I love making these energy balls. Call them what you like: raw protein balls, energy balls, no bake protein balls, you can find many variations. Essentially, though, they’re all a version of the same thing.

What I didn’t like about the recipes I found, was that most seemed to add either honey or dates to bind the mixture and add a little sweetness.

After quitting sugar over Lent, I’m trying to maintain that lifestyle and even if I kid myself that a little honey won’t harm, it will in terms of adding sweetness back in to my life and leading to cravings again.

Honey and dates are still sugar, even if they are in another form.

That’s why I took all the ingredients I love and made my own version.

Raw protein balls - A Free From Life

My daughter loves these. She does over 12 hours of gymnastics a week and therefore needs something energy-packed after school to help her get through training.

One or two of these protein balls is more than enough to fill you and keep you sustained.

If you’re used to having sugar, you might find these bitter. Think of bitter chocolate truffles and that’s kind of what you’re getting. Rolling each ball in a little cinnamon though, adds just a touch of sweetness to balance out the cacao.

Raw protein balls - A Free From Life
No bake protein energy balls
Print Recipe
A no sugar raw protein energy to treat
Servings Prep Time
14 15 mins
Servings Prep Time
14 15 mins
Raw protein balls - A Free From Life
No bake protein energy balls
Print Recipe
A no sugar raw protein energy to treat
Servings Prep Time
14 15 mins
Servings Prep Time
14 15 mins
  1. Weigh the almonds and hazelnuts in to a food processor and blitz until chopped very fine
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until fully incorporated
  3. Form the mixture into ball and either roll in cinnamon, or sprinkle on top
  4. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving, then store in the fridge in an air tight container
Recipe Notes
Free From Farmhouse
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Why do we rely on snacks so much?

Why do we rely on snacks? - A Free From Life
Wall of snacks/photo via Benson Kua at Flickr

What happened to the traditional 3 meals a day our parents grew up with?

Why do we rely on snacks? - A Free From Life
Wall of snacks/photo via Benson Kua at Flickr

“A finger of fudge is just enough to give your kids a treat. A finger of fudge is just enough until it’s time to eat…”

These are the first two lines from an advert that ran for a decade in the UK from 1979. I can still hear the tune in my head; such was the power of the advert.

“It’s full of Cadbury goodness, but very small and neat.”

The message was clear: ‘give your child a chocolate bar, just a small one though, you don’t want to fill them up too much and don’t worry, it’s good for them.’

Not like that in our day

What our parents were being introduced to was the idea of giving snacks in between meals and it marked the beginning of the massive industry that is the snack food market. The world our parents grew up in was very different. Snacking was frowned upon. You ate three meals a day and that was it. Eating anywhere except in the home and most probably at the kitchen table was not the done thing. At all.

Snacking is now the norm with kids averaging at 3-4 snacks per day. In the unlikely event that you snacked in the 1970s, you might have had a hot drink or an apple. Today, the choice of snacks is endless and has led to the decline of the three meal a day structure, with many opting to skip meals altogether in favour of food on the go. Is it any wonder we are getting fatter?

I gave up sugar for Lent this year and if there’s one thing I learned it’s that snacking is much less appealing when you don’t have anything sweet to eat. I won’t argue that there are plenty of savoury snacks to choose from, but you would be surprised how many of them contain sugar.

Do we need snacks?

If we eat three solid meals a day, we can quite easily survive without snacking. We don’t choose to do that though and as a consequence we get hungry and when we get hungry we grab the first thing we see. It fills us up for a short time only. Our blood sugar levels yo-yo up and down all day and we end up craving the sweet things. Haven’t you ever thought to yourself ‘I could just eat a little sweet something,’ even though you’ve just eaten?

It’s a habit more than a need and I found out when I gave up sugar and lost that craving, that snacking just didn’t have the same appeal. Without any tempting sweet treats to choose from, I simply wasn’t bothered.

It made me realise that before those marketers corrupted our parents into thinking their little darlings should have a chocolate bar between meals every day, we were so much healthier. I bet our grandparents didn’t come out of school every day whinging ‘have you got me a snack.’ It wouldn’t have even occurred to them.

The surprising thing about my sugar fast (though it’s no surprise really) was the weight loss. After six weeks I was 2kg lighter (that’s almost 4.5 pounds). Even though I didn’t do it for that reason, it was a pleasant bonus.

What did I learn?

I learned that you can survive the day on three substantial meals, as long as you make them count. Eating on the hoof, snacking and not eating properly in general means that we end up hungry and when we’re hungry, we snack.

It’s not easy when the snack market is booming and we’re surrounded by ever increasing numbers of products that claim to be healthy. Are they though? You find sugar in most of them in some form or other and that certainly isn’t healthy; a quick energy fix maybe, but that’s all.


Lenten sugar fast and health kick – the halfway mark

A Free From Life

Butternut noodles - A Free From Life

I’m halfway through my Lenten sugar fast. What began as a detox and clean eating phase, has levelled off to become more of a health conscious way of living.

The first week of soups and smoothies kick started the process. Did you know people used to fast on Ash Wednesday (the day after Pancake Tuesday and the first day of Lent)? I decided against that, opting instead for a juice cleanse, but it put me in the right frame of mind for the weeks ahead.

Being conscious of what you’re eating, especially when it comes to sugar, means that you make healthier choices all round. I don’t cave at the sight of a maple pecan Danish in a coffee shop and therefore, I actually don’t have anything to go with my coffee. I just don’t snack as much.

A Free From Life

I’m sipping on cinnamon tea right now, whilst snacking on oat cakes with almond butter. Apart from that, I haven’t had any other snacks today. I also don’t have a repertoire of snacks I could share with you. This period of my life hasn’t been about replacing one thing with another, it’s been more about doing without, cutting out.

Instead, I’m making every meal count, starting with breakfast and I’ve become inventive with my lunches, by making things like these Teff flatbreads called Injera:

A Free From Life

My one coffee a day has remained and I’ve had a glass of wine with dinner if I’ve fancied it, so I don’t feel as though I’ve really missed out on an awful lot.

Not that I’m saying it’s been easy. There is something about red wine that screams ‘dark chocolate’ and I found myself longing for something like that the other day. It was the day after I made apple cake for the troops and had to watch them all tucking in and enjoying it. I guess my brain just felt it needed something.

Apple Slice - A Free From Life

The bonus is weight loss and it always is for me when I do this. I’ve already lost 2kg and I’m feeling fitter and leaner for it. This could have more to do with the amount of exercise I’m also doing: walking the dog once or twice a day has meant that I must be exceeding my daily number of required steps for sure.

It’s a cycle though isn’t it? Healthy eating means you feel better on yourself. You’re leaner, which also makes you feel fitter and inclined to do more exercise and so it goes on.

A friend asked would I be gorging on chocolate come Easter Sunday. The answer is no because I don’t like it much anyway (milk chocolate) and because I don’t crave it at all. Will I celebrate by having that dark chocolate I was craving earlier this week? I’m not sure about that yet. A part of me thinks I should, whilst another part thinks it would be a shame after going so long without sugar. It would be like falling off the wagon.

I didn’t do this to give up sugar for life though, just to give it up for a long enough period to get my health back on track. Some sugar will creep in to my diet again as the year continues. I won’t feel guilty for that, but will try to make sure it is kept to a minimum and that it doesn’t get out of control.

Then I will do this all again next Lent.

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