Writing about writing

Writing has always been part of the journey to health, except in the past its benefits weren’t really recognised or appreciated.   It certainly didn’t have the current title journaling, which in my world is still just writing (or in my younger world, was called Dear Diary and generally came with a padlock – perhaps you had one of those too?)

Whether you call it jounaling or writing, by doing it you can start figuring out the triggers that affect you emotionally, the ones that unleash upset or resentment, or a funky mood. Or the triggers to physical symptoms, to your bloating or nausea, your headaches or joint aches.  Just as you can write down triggers for your happiness and well being.  More about that later.
Writing can organise endless mental lists and tidy up an overwhelmed mind because it gives you an accessible way of untangling it all.

Case in point: the next time you wake in the dead of night with niggles circling your mind, write them down straight away with that pen & paper by your bed – and the smallest beam of torch so as to not rock your melatonin levels.  This way you can corrall the mental noise into neat lines of penned words, logged and sorted for you to look at in the clear light of morning.

The same with gratitude lists, or whatever you wish to call them.  That happiness and well-being I mentioned above.
When life’s feeling great it’s invaluable – uplifting! – to think about, and then write down, what’s actually making life feel so good.  A gratitude list can come into its own again when life’s slinging mud at you.  Writing down, and thus reliving, the good in your life can diffuse the intensity of harder times.   It’s not easy when you’re in the thick of it, when those mud-slung quagmires are so sticky.  However, by zooming out of the crabby moments and opening up the wider picture of what’s going well for you and who’s there to support you,  there are new neuronal connections being made, new parts of your brain being fired.  The result is that you feel better.

My gratitude list often starts off as a photo, maybe with a one liner floating in my head; a good to be alive moment when I catch dawn’s pinking sky or see lambs in the neighbour’s field.   At some point those feelings make it onto paper, either as a diary note, or part of a blog or a letter to a friend.

Asking clients to write a food diary is part and parcel of my work.  I email a basic formatted chart asking my client to record a week of meals, snacks, drinks and any symptoms.  It’s necessary because memories can be short or skewed.  There can be an aspect of denial involved, for instance, a piece of chocolate quickly scoffed might be forgotten a moment late.  Just like that morning biscuit which happened to come with the cafe’s coffee, or the bag of crisps with your drink (such a small bag, does it even count, a client joked last week).

Writing about your daily foods and habits can throw up patterns.  Perhaps you’re eating bread or rolls or crackers and pasta every day.  Or eating more fruit than you realize – that fructose sweet hit you think is healthy unfortunately still translates in your body to sugar).
Or perhaps you’re eating the same vegetables every night, all good for you, but not the variety that’s going to give your microbiome a diverse and immuno-supercharged microbial population.

It can be hard recognising your own eating patterns, that’s almost a given.  Food is linked to habits and memories, to comfort and love, as well as to sleep, hormones and whatever else is going on in your life, body and mind that very day, that very moment.   When clients email me the completed week’s food diary I often see: “I didn’t realize how many coffees I was drinking,” or “I don’t normally eat this many snacks.” (Hmmm, but maybe you do…)
Writing is your truthkeeper.

I can’t ignore the obvious act of writing which pops up at this time of year.  New Year Resolutions. For some reason I came across a lot of podcast and media commentaries about how we shouldn’t make resolutions because invariably they fail.
I think this is dependant on how realistic you make them…

I’m not a big fan of  writing a formal list, are you?  The page header alone:  New Year Resolutions, puts me off writing things down.  Just too concrete, too much pressure for a year that hasn’t even begun.  Saying that, I do like to ponder the year ahead, especially during the week between Christmas and New year when there’s a lot of pondering time to be had.

Perhaps I don’t usually make a written list of resolutions aka dreams aka intentions because I don’t have that many to remember (or forget).

This year, however, I did think of a few, all do-able and realistic for me.  And that is key.  It’s a simple thought to share with clients when we talk about changing diets and life patterns, or when clients say they want to lose x amount of body fat by spring, or do x number of hours training each week, or want to give up biscuits (chocolate/cakes/alcohol, take your pick). Make it simple.  Be kind to yourself and start  realistically, start small.  That way you’ll likely stick to it.

As Dr Rangan Chatterjee recommends on his podcast and in his books, build a new habit into your day, into an existing routine, and it’ll be sustainable.

One of my new year non-resolutions – let’s call it an intention – is to do a new walk every week.  But even as that intention popped into my head and I scribbled it down here I’m adding that I’d be happy if it turned into a new-walk-a-month rather than a week.  I know that work and life can get in the way.
Am I backing out?  I’d rather think I’m being realistic, but I’ll let you decide.

I hope you find some writing form that suits you, and wish you all a happy new year!



Sharing thoughts and inspirations this Christmas

In these days before Christmas, when some of us are seeing well-laid plans scuppered, or Xmas traditions taken away due to Omicron looming large, it feels like the right time to share some positives from my world of functional nutrition.  Not about Covid or immune health (we need a break, plus I wrote about it here back in March). https://www.appleaday.org.uk/immune-health-natural-tool-kit/

Instead, some books and a few of the many health ‘influencers’ and podcasts that have inspired and taught me, plus some health facts about the vagus nerve, which may sound random, but isn’t, because it has popped up at so many webinars, online conferences and health discussions this year.

Introducing the vagus nerve (VN):

This nerve may not be on your radar, but one of the reasons it keeps coming up in the health world is because it’s the main neural highway running from the brain down the length of the body.
In fact, it’s the longest nerve in the autonomic nervous system, and it travels or ‘wanders’ (= latin vagus) down the body to the colon, innervating organs as it passes the cardiovascular, digestive and reproductive systems, taking information from each and sending on messages from the brain.  Little wonder it has the potential to impact health!

The trouble is, like so many body parts, this nerve can lose tone from middle age.  It’s also affected by a sedentary lifestyle or chronic stress, trauma, poor diet, and more of the usual western world lifestyle habits.
And this loss of vagal tone can then undermine the organs and systems it passes through, affecting mood, digestion, breathing, heart rate, reflex actions, even relaxation.

So how do you improve vagal tone?

Meditation, yoga, pilates (really most form of exercise), will help improve your autonomic nervous system and the vagus nerve.  And then, interestingly, taking cold showers or swimming in cold water (maybe not something to start now if you’re living in the northern hemisphere!)

There are other even more unexpected and unusual practices that are at the top of the list when you read about improving vagal tone.  And they’re very do-able.

Humming or singing loudly 
How lovely is this!  By humming or singing, you actively stimulate the laryngeal muscles and improve the signalling of the VN.  If you don’t have a voice others appreciate sing in the car to the radio; it won’t complain!

Laugh loudly (the harder the better)
A smilar mechanism to singing, plus research already tells us that laughter improves physical and mental well being.  So if it also specifically helps vagal tone, there’s another reason to watch more comedies over Christmas.

Gargle with vigour!
Ideally 3x daily for a minimum of 20 seconds, which may sound short, but isn’t when you’re starting out.  Anecdotal evidence shows it can improve gut health, specifically peristalsis and symptoms of a hiatus hernia.
When you gargle you activate the three pharyngeal muscles at the back of the throat which stimulates the vagal nerve.   You’ll feel your diaphragm and muscles around your stomach and oesophagus getting quite a work out, and if tears pool in your eyes it’s apparently a sign you’re doing it correctly.  According to Dr N. Habib who wrote a comprehensive book called Activate your vagus nerve’ (yes, there are specialised books about it), the superior salivary nucleus is being stimulated, which triggers the glands around your eyes to produce fluid.
Like brushing your teeth, gargling should become part of your life…. your new noisy singing life!
And by adding salt to the gargle water you have the added benefit of an antimicrobial oral wash.

If any of this sounds like a Christmas fairytale just search online for vagus nerve and you’ll be inundated with a plethora of articles and studies referencing its importance.

Podcasts on health and life

Podcasts are such a great platform to hear the latest in health!  I love them and wish I had more time to listen to more…
Rangan Chatterjee’s ‘Feel Better Live More’ is still my overall favourite with so many expert guests sharing their unique insights and wisdom.
I particularly liked the May interview with investigative journalist, James Nestor.  The latter has written a brilliant book, ‘Breath’  which covers far more aspects of breathing than I ever thought possible.  In using himself as a guinea pig in all the different breathing techniques that are out there, he not only tells a great story but ultimately makes it clear how we should all be breathing for good health.
Another interview on July’s ‘Feel Better Live More’ that has stayed with me, was with Dr Rahul Jandial, a neuro surgeon.  He talked about the trials and joys of his training years and subsequent career, and how humbled he is by his patients.  Jandial’s book, ‘Life on a Knife’s edge’ is extraordinary, illuminating and at times unnerving.

Other great podcasts I try to find time for:
The happiness lab,  The Doctor’s Pharmacy, Natural MD Radio & Huberman lab (which is full of science if you’re into it)

 Some health books of many to ponder  

‘Hormone Intelligence’, by Aviva Romm;  should be on all bookshelves – and she’s written more excellent books!
‘Untamed – Stop pleasing, start living’, by Glennon Doyle. The title says it all.
‘Breath’ by James Nestor.  A must for anyone who breathes
‘The metabolic approach to cancer’, by Dr Nasha Winters.  An extraordinary functional ND, author, speaker, global cancer consultant who survived stage 4 cancer some 25 or 30 years ago.  Her next book is coming out in February  ‘Mistletoe and the Emerging future of Integrative Oncology’
(mistletoe extract has a century-old history of use in complementary medicine especially regarding cancer.  In Europe, mistletoe extract injections are among the most prescribed therapies used to treat cancer alongside chemo or exclusively.  Studies and testing have been ongoing for decades so I’m looking forward to discovering what Dr Winters puts forward in her book.

Health influencers, some of the people who’ve inspired me

Dr Caroline Leaf, a neuroscientist and mental health expert; always seems to find the perfect single sentence or paragraph to sum up a very long and difficult complex issue.
Robyn Puglia, functional medicine practitioner; lecturer, teacher and more.  Also runs online talks and QA sessions on facebook with the brilliant thryoid and brain author/educator Dr Datis Kharrazian (check out his weekly talks on his facebook page).
Ben Brown, functional nutritionist, lecturer and more; website newsletters offer well-researched commentary on current health conditions and studies.
Dr Nasha Winters, mentioned above; some of her talks and interviews are available on YouTube.
Avivia Romm, also mentioned above; her website is an encyclopaedia of knowledge 

So many other health professionals who are daily influencers for me, who are part of my practitioner world – Debbie Cotton, Moira Bradfield, Jason Hawrelak, Emma Beswick…. There will be YouTube talks by them out there.

As for food authors there are so many new, fab cookbooks available, I can’t keep up with them.  For me, Ottolenghi continues to deliver and I am currently still working my way through the vegetarian recipes in ‘Flavour’ (just reduce the sugar which he SO loves to add, in some form or other, to his recipes).
His mushroom-lentil ragu dish is a winner for us and will be part of our Xmas menu this year.

Niki Webster (aka Rebel recipes), is about to bring out another vegan cookbook, watch her space!

And for anyone wanting to do gluten free baking, Naomi Devlin offers so many excellent workshops online, take a look at her website.

Finally, my dear friend, and surrogate mum, 94 year old Hedi continues to be a big influencer for me.  She can still walk the length of Regent street and then enjoy a hearty meal.  I think she invented the word resilience.

I’d love to hear from you!

Tell me about some of the positives you’ve found this year, whether it’s some people you’ve met or books or happenings that have made your life, or illness, or Covid journey, aka slog, a little easier.

I’m back in my zoom clinic here, in Dorset, on Tuesday, 4th January.  As always I’m offering a Christmas gift discount for the month of January; 10% for all consultations.  Just email me for bookings.

Until then I’m sending you all huge hugs and lotsa merries, and a happy 2022 for us all.

Stay well friends!


Mindfulness, what’s in a word?

I’d like to find another word for mindfulness.  Not that it isn’t apt, on the contrary, being mindful in our lives can be life changing, mind blowing.  But we’re hearing the word used so much these days, a little like the hackneyed terms ‘life changing and mind blowing’,  that it can end up falling on deaf ears or meaning nothing at all to some people.

A male client on zoom yesterday rolled his eyes when I mentioned mindfulness.  “No, that whacky stuff’s not for me,” he said.
There’s not much whacky about it; pretty straight forward in fact.  Mindfulness is about tapping into something that was commonplace for our grandparents:  taking each day, each moment, as it came; not having to juggle deadlines, childcare, finances, nights out and traffic holdups.  These days there’s not a lot of Living each Moment, and therein lies a big part of our global chronic health crisis. The speed and stress of daily life is throwing us out of kilter, making many of us sick.

However, saying all that, I get what this client meant.  Even though he hasn’t tried it, he said it sounded too vague, that ‘mindfulness’ didn’t explain enough of what it was about or how to do it.  For him the name seemed to be a big part of why he hadn’t tried it. Hence my search for another word, a new title.

‘Being in the moment,’ or ‘living in the present’ may say more about what it is, but clients have told me they don’t think it’ll work for them, or, like this man, it sounds too ‘out there’.  Someone once told me she was already being careful and didn’t need to do a course on it.
For others it doesn’t sound medical enough, doesn’t carry enough gravitas.  I can’t help wondering if these people are still hanging out for the ‘one thing fixes all’ remedy.  The trouble here is that we’re not living in a one-pill-fixes-all world. Our current chronic diseases are too complex for monotherapies.

The compelling science behind how mindfulness works – how it can kick in a relaxation response that lowers stress & anxiety, how it can lessen gut pain, even body inflammation, and that it’s something that can alter the microbiome and, amazingly, gene expression – all this information seems to only reach those interested in health or lifestyle therapies, and not the ones who might need it the most.  It’s not on their radar until ill health has exhausted conventional medical routes and they somehow find a book or hear about cognitive therapy or an MBCT class (mindfulness based stress reduction), or they start working with a functional nutritionist, like me, who encourages it for helping with anxiety or IBS symptoms.

The thing about starting mindfulness is that we’re already doing it, this living in the present.  Some of us are just not doing it as consciously as we should.  And even though mindfulness is about developing a daily practice that will grow into something bigger and more sustained, into a higher awareness of our days, and of the many ‘present moments’, the key to starting it is to begin small, to keep it do-able.

I’m not a mindfulness expert or teacher, however the weekly mindfulness classes I went to about eight, maybe more?, years ago opened my eyes to the possibility of having a mindful practice in my daily life.
I remember during one of the early classes we were told to walk barefoot in the grass and listen carefully to the sounds around us, and then try doing it at home every day for any length of time we could manage.  It was a lightbulb moment for me, realizing it could be something enjoyable, something I could easily do inbetween work.  Also that I wouldn’t have to sit cross-legged for an hour cancelling all thoughts and finding a higher plane (which of course was my misinterpretation of meditation!)

Slowing down my daily pace in some way, at some point in the day, was key for me when I began (I’m speaking from the perspective of a busy person with a busy mind who likes to pack in lots).

In those early days, the more I read about mindfulness, the more I realized there was no rule about timing, no rule about what mindful practice I should do.  Listening to the breath is often a starting point, and it can be the exclusive daily practice for many.  I love it, all the more so since reading James Nestor’s book, Breath.  However, I’ve met clients over the years who hate it, who say they get anxious listening to their breath, so it really is very individual.
An hour of sewing or gardening might be mindful time for one but torture for another.  Examining pebbles on the beach for an hour might bore most people to tears except me.  Sitting still to watch the day slowly shift from twilight to sunset might be your daily quiet time but only a holiday treat for another. Closing your eyes for ten or more minutes, listening to your breath might be a huge leap of faith.

When I talk about mindfulness to clients I suggest they try whatever they enjoy, something that will slow them down into the Now moment.  Start their practice in small increments and take it from there, not beating themselves up if they need more time to get into a daily routine.  This was the sustaining advice I was given when I was first introduced to mindfulness.  After that, there’s a whole world of excellent books and qualfied teachers out there.

Now back to my first thought.  Is there another word you can think of for Mindfulness, something that might reinject it with oomph, or explain it better?  Something to describe this mindful awareness of our daily moments?  If so, I’d really love to hear from you. x

Finding positives, sharing passions

Reflections on a challenging year

I hope this finds you all safe and well.  As we near the end of what’s undeniably been a difficult year, I thought I’d try to share some thoughts and ideas that have helped me through these past challenging months.
It’s understandable that our focus has been on this pandemic and everything that it has brought with it.  And yet, for so many, bright moments have managed to shine through.

A lot of clients and friends have commented that Covid has made them reset priorities, whether it’s been spending more time with family or reconnecting with old friends, changing jobs, healing rifts.   More quiet time to think about what’s important.
The countryside tracks and fields around us here in Dorset look so different!  More people are out and about in nature doing daily walks, runs or cycles when they’d never found time in the past.

Our internet world has opened up all sorts of possibilities.  Some amazing online classes and workshops are now so easy to access.  I’ve loved the virtual tours of art exhibitions, and YouTube instructional videos have never been so important!
Zoom and phone consultations have meant I’ve been able to carry on working with clients.  Webinars and online – virtual – conferences have made my CPD accessible and stress-free.
How have you found all these new online offerings?  Are you part of a zoom reading group or quiz gathering?

We’ve all been given pause for thought; all of us have faced our own vulnerability and humanity.
I know I’ve been more grateful than ever for the caring people in my life who’ve checked in to see how things are going.

A new year is about to happen, and with it new hope.
On January 7th I’ll be back at my work desk with zoom and phone in hand.  As always, an appleaday Christmas gift is here for you, a 20% discount for appointments in the month of January.  Please book via email mentioning this newsletter.

Below are some photos, clicks and thoughts on health which show a few of the many silver linings I found this year.  Hopefully there are some here for you as well  x

There’s so much evidence on the health benefits of being in nature.  I certainly felt those positives on free July days when I’d go outside and check on our new bed of dahlia babies, or tackle yet another weedy garden patch.  I’d often have headphones on, listening to a podcast.
I love the discussions on Rangan Chatterjee’s ‘Feel Better, Live More’ app.  Here’s a link to a talk he had with Dr Tara Swart that was recorded around the time of UK’s first lockdown.  So much invaluable food for thought.


Another more recent episode I found very interesting was with Arianne Huffington.  It was about the value of microsteps and rituals, both such integral parts of my clinic practice.  The discussion seemed to embrace more and more fascinating topics as it went along.  I came away feeling so inspired (although it did take me a wee bit to get used to her voice!)


Since Covid kicked off I’ve seen many clients having problems with poor sleep, stress, anxiety or depression.
The trauma of this year is having a huge impact on our inner lives.
There are so many effective ways to help our emotional well-being but when you’re in the thick of it, it can be hard to figure out which ones to try.
If you’d like some helpful pointers and health recommendations as a first step,  I still offer free short calls.  Not enough time, of course, for a full health check, but certainly enough to have a chat.
Just email or call to sort out a time to suit us both.

Meanwhile, I’ve mentioned The Calm app to many clients and friends over the years.  It’s certainly been my safety net when I wake up in the early hours with thoughts buzzing.
There’s a plethora of different relaxation and sleep supports on it, from stories to mindful practices, music and sounds in nature.  All help move thoughts to a calmer space.
Here’s a taster, but remember there are lots more choices on the app to cover all preferences.


This photo made me laugh!  An Australian family finding a baby koala amongst the decorations in their tree.  Oh how I’d love to find a koala in our Dorset Xmas branches, but it’s highly unlikely even if borders open!

Here are some fave Xmas recipes from my website.  We’re keeping it simple this year so we have more time to chill, but the soup and orange cake are definites!





Finally, a last share for those wanting to sit back, forget the cooking and read a good book instead.  These are just a few of many good books I read this year, both fiction and work-related.  I’d love to hear what your favourite reads were, so please email or message me here or via social media.

Mind Wide Open, by Steven Johnson
Rewilding: A return to nature, by Isabella Tree (what a great surname!)
Patch work: a life amongst clothes, by Clare Wilcox (curator of fashion at the V&A)
The Unmapped Mind:  A memoir of neurology, MS and learning how to live, by Christian Donlan.
Always hard to decide but I think this last one is my book of the year.  It’s not a textbook but a poignant, funny and very illuminating memoir I simply couldn’t put down.

I wish you all the very best in the coming days, weeks and months.
The world is sharing the same Christmas wish this year I’m sure: good health to everyone.

Be safe, be merry!


Crossing Covid borders (or Our Road trip in tomato miles)

Last week we packed up the car, put on our masks and I took a very deep breath of courage.  A road trip across Europe was the last thing on my mind, I was still stuck in Downing’s street ‘Stay home’ slogan even though UK had moved on from there.
Travel was happening, flights were flying, but government recommendations were once again wobbling, erring on the side of caution after some viral clusters up north and spikes in parts of Spain.  I was quite happy staying in our Dorset cocoon, thank you kindly.

However I’m married to a braver human bean who was chomping at the bit to get out to the olive grove, to lop and clear and feed our trees for that wannahave opulent harvest.  Also to deal with any wildlife that had moved into the house, and yes, to swim in the Ionian and enjoy some summer heat.
He told me we could do the drive in three days, just had to exercise caution and common sense and keep washing our hands.
I wasn’t so sure, but the choices didn’t look good.  Fly out and join him when the virus had calmed down?  Well, planes were definitely not on my to-do list (yet!), and Covid-19 wasn’t showing any signs of exhaustion.
Husband Braveheart then assured me we didn’t have to book anything until the last minute.  He knew me well.  It gave me wriggle room to wait and see if the dreaded second spike would lock us down; time to check online if there were problems crossing borders.
Silly, of course, since problems could arise from day to day, minute by minute, but crucially it gave me time to get used to the idea and supplement my faith and wobbling courage with mega doses of brave thoughts.

Fear can really mess around with your mind.  That’s what this road trip has shown me.  Also, that the English, French, Italians and Greeks all look the same in masks (but tomatoes in each of these countries look quite different 🙂

We headed off on a Tuesday just after dawn, passing the most breathtaking gossamer mist lying on the fields around our village; sheep floating on clouds.  How I would’ve loved to have taken some pictures but I knew that a photo stop three minutes from home might be pushing my luck.  We were now on a mission, moving forward at speed.

We drove past the edge of a low-cloud New Forest, then onto a mist-filled empty M3 followed by a not-so-misty M25 with morning traffic moving smoothly, which was a first.  Needless to say we arrived at the Eurotunnel with oodles of time to spare, but no earlier trains were offered unless extra was paid.  That wasn’t going to happen since we’d already paid considerably more than in the past.

So many cars were lined up at the terminal!  Didn’t they know they shouldn’t be crossing borders or gallavanting off?  That hesitant see-saw was STILL happening in my head even after we’d packed up the house and given three peeps baby-sitting rights to our house and tomato plants.  Crazy, right?  Fear had definitely set up home in my brain’s amygdala.

The first interesting Covid change I noticed was that only Starbucks was open in the Eurotunnel building.  Leon’s restaurant and the other independant coffee/food outlet there were both shut, and that just about sums up how stupid some decisions have been in these times.  No real coffee to be had for Braveheart and no delicious Leon nibbles for me.
Luckily I’d made enough sourdough rolls to last the week so we didn’t bother, but we did use the loos; signs everywhere were warning us that toilets on the train were off bounds.
People came in and out of the terminal, lined up for their Starbucks, but they weren’t the crowds I’d dreaded.  Most of them were wearing masks and certainly all were keeping sensibly apart.

The border checked our passports and that was it.  No taking of temperatures, no forms to fill out declaring we were Covid-free, although I could’ve sworn the month before, online forms had been requested; go figure.

Whisked from Folkestone to Calais in 30 minutes we found ourselves on the autoroute with a  clear blue-sky above, and on both sides endless stands of ripening corn and dirt-brown fields where grains had been harvested.  On the horizon I could make out vast stands of sunflowers, blooms long gone but still tall and leafy with blackened seed heads gently bowed to the ground.   This was normally the low, flat landscape with sludge grey skies that would make me yawn into a neck-cricked car sleep.  Today a shining scene took hold of my attention.  Windows open, I breathed in holiday.

Before I go any further, and whilst in France, I have to mention the autoroutes here.  Who can’t wax lyrical about them after the bump and polluted constriction of the M25?   Why we can’t do the same in England is a mystery to me.  Can anyone explain?
In addition, the highway service stations in France are also more like destinations than simply refuelling spots.  Rows of shady trees, beds of tall swaying white gaura and cars separated by wide stretches of grass and picnic benches.  Not the concrete car landscape on most of the British motorways with their boxed-in plantings and scattering of reluctant saplings trying their best.  So, even with a stream of travellers arriving off the autoroute all the time, safe-distancing was easy.  Enough space and trees and greenery to separate us all.

We covered 891 kilometres that first day, the longest drive day of all.  We decided to bed down just outside Beaune, a beautiful medieval town in the centre of the Bourgogne wine region that we’d never seen before and hadn’t planned on seeing now  – we were on our mission etc – but the evening we arrived something changed.  We sat in the hotel gardens, trying the local wine and eating our sourdough sandwiches (the restaurant was closed), and as we watched guests soaking up the last of the sun and a family playing in the pool, a couple riding down the lane on bikes, I suddenly realised that we were watching people who were actually on holiday, not just passing through as quickly as possible.  So the following day we woke up to the idea that a drive into town and a wander around would be just the thing.  Braveheart’s mission could be put on hold for an hour.

Turned out to be three hours because Beaune may be small but it is really one of the prettiest towns.  Very vigilant too, almost worryingly so.  Masks were on indoors as well as out, with locals crossing the street when they saw us, hurrying along cobbled lanes armed with purpose and fresh baguettes.
When I look back, it was in Beaune where people seemed to be the most careful, taking ‘soyez prudent’ to a level that would disperse any fear of catching anything, not even a smile or a glance, which of course is another sorry downside of this distancing palaver and mask-wearing.  Not seeing facial expressions and smiles and people not making eye contact.

At the end of our wander we watched a small street market being set up (of course there’d be a market, we’re in France!)  This one was mainly selling trinkets but onetiny stall had a display of the most astonishing tomatoes which had nothing to do with the tomatoes in my veggie box back home, or the tiny firm buds of green cherry toms in our Dorset garden.
This Beaunian stall holder was selling heritage tomatoes in delightful small crates, denizens of the region I would’ve happily slipped into our car had there been room (sadly, like a time capsule, it was filled to the brim, ready for all countries, weathers and emergencies).  Just seeing these tomatoes made me so inordinately happy.  Look at them, aren’t they stunning!?

Leaving the town late morning we wound our way towards the foothills of the Alps and onwards to the chocolate-box mountains that would take us over the border to Italy.
Did it occur to us there might be long delays into the Mt Blanc tunnel?
When the road sign glittered silver bold type letters at us ‘Expect a wait of 90 minutes’, I was sure it was Covid-related, the testing I’d been expecting or at least something to do with checking forms and asking about our well-being.
But no, it was simply August, the main holiday month in France and Italy.  With most people staying closer to home there were more cars on the road – not that we realised until we got stuck in the tunnel queue.
Motor off, windows down and another sourdough sarnie as we waited for all the vehicles to inch up the last hairpin.  Snowcapped mountains above, a waterfall beside us, it was easy to take.

By early evening we reached Piacenza, a beautiful walled city in the Emilia Romagna region.  We’d stayed here a few times before, loved the Palazzo Gotico and Piazza Cavalli, and the hotel which had coped so well with our groundhog days two years before when our old car broke down and we stayed on and on.
Sad, but no surprise to hear the hotel was running at 40% capacity.  And the breakfast buffet the following morning was such a lonely experience, with us standing in a vast room at a distance to the buffet table, pointing to various foods whilst a young masked girl silently placed hot and cold bits on our plates.  Cold scrambled eggs by the time we reached our table, not a culinary delight.

Emilia Romagna was one of the four regions in northern Italy worst hit by the pandemic back in March.  The north was where Italy’s Covid-19 journey began.  In April about 70% of positive virus cases were reportedly from Lombardi, Emilia Romagna, Veneto and Piemonte here in the north.
Contrary to what you might be thinking, knowing about my wobbly start, this Covid fact hadn’t concerned me in the least when I was doing our last minute overnight bookings before the trip.  My brain must’ve been appeased by the fact that people here had been through hell and would be careful, they wouldn’t want it repeated.

We sat outside in the square, drank our beer and aperol spritze then moved to another outdoor restaurant for dinner at 8.  Most tables were empty, too early for the locals but not for us.  After 623 km, and with more dreary hours on the autostrada than we ha expected, we were exhausted and in need of a long sleep.

Day 3, the planned short drive (not) from Piacenza to Ancona.  We were catching our Anek lines vessel at 1500hrs for the overnight crossing of the Adriatic, landing the following morn at 8 (not!) in Igoumenitsa, northern mainland Greece.

What we didn’t take into account was that Italy, too, had crazy early morning work traffic.  Bumper to bumper for a couple of hours then some light reprieve for a few breaths before the turn-off to Ancona, with another slow crawl behind a stream of cars heading towards the port.  Luckily those see-saw thoughts of mine had stopped – the ones silently questioning why peeps were travelling and not staying home.  Fear had let go its white-knuckled grip as we waited in endless queues of traffic.

We’d talked about buying fresh food to take on board the boat since our sourdough sandwiches were long gone, and who knew what the ship’s restaurant would be like.

Following the huge check-in sign above the road, we parked and walked over to the terminal building where “Only car driver inside” handed over our precious declaration documents proving we were fit and symptom-free with no known Covid case contact (hooray, at last someone wanted to know!)
But with that we were checked into the system and unable to drive back to town to go food shopping.  Once checked in we couldn’t ‘check out’!

There was only a lone portacabin cafe by the terminal building selling limp pizzas; that was it.  So there was not much more for us to do than follow the signs to the expanse of boarding area, a concrete desert where hundreds of cars and trucks were already waiting in the midday heat.

Tucked on one side was a small white van that was selling food no one seemed to want.  Just one lone customer sipping on an overly bright-orange sparkling something.
I don’t know if this lack of food outlets was Covid related or not, but what a missed opportunity, given the hundreds  – thousands? – of trucks, cars and bikes waiting there for hours each day.

I walked over to check it out even though the bags of crisps, biscuits and fizzy drinks looked very unpromising.  Disappointment bubbled up again that we’d missed out on a deli purchase in town.
But then I saw them over on the right.  Through the glass display window I spied fresh rolls, ham…. and a pile of the juiciest red beef tomatoes, the only fresh veg I’d glimpsed since leaving Piacenza at crack of early.  Another moment of tomato joy in a sandwich!

Just before separating to go on board (‘only drivers in the car, passengers walk’), we clocked that we’d covered another 380 km.  We’d done the fastest zzzzzoom across Italy ever.

I could write a whole blog about the ship aka ferry crossing but I’ll spare you.
A quick list of impressions instead:
– All the crew wore small chin visors but most were cupped below the mouth looking more like some medical chin support.
–  I never saw a bottle of hand sanitiser on board but there were plenty of soap dispensers in all the public toilets so that was something
– A crew waiter or waitress was quick to clear up the huge mess of edible debris that was sadly abandoned by mainly young peeps (sorry, but true) who were maybe travelling together, or maybe not
– Every hour or so an intercom voice announced how the vessel was ensuring masks were worn and distances kept, and that this was the reason why ‘Anek lines was keeping us safe.’ But…I never saw or heard any crew member telling us to wear masks and keep safe.  Some travellers wore them when going into the cafe or wandering around the inside of the ship but I can’t say it was a masked sea journey.  Half and half if I’m being kind.
–  A big positive: it was easy to find secluded corners, quiet spaces to keep our distance.  Or to stay in a cabin – if you had one, which we did.  A super cozy one in fact with a large porthole window we’d never had before on these crossings.  Normally a black hole cabin, but this time Braveheart had booked us a ‘Pure’ cabin (which does beg the question what the rest of them were).
– The tables in the self-serve restaurant couldn’t be distanced as they were bolted to the ground, but there were only a few people dining and they were all using common sense.  We certainly enjoyed our Greek salads without strangers breathing all over them x

The following morn yet another shining day greeted us.  What a sunny road trip we were having!  However, our hearts sank when we realized the ship aka vessel aka ferry wasn’t going to be landing in Igoumenitsa by 8.  We hadn’t even reached the first stop of Corfu and given we had another ferry to catch which was a 3 hour drive south we were aware of time passing.

It was s-l-o-w progress disembarking.  Officials were checking documents and I have to admit I felt quite put out when we were told we had to leave our spot in the line of cars for the Covid testing (which I’d been waiting for all this time, but not now when we were about to miss connections!)
The chin-masked official pointed to a dead-end area in the distance, a normally forgotten, shabby corner of the port where around 20 cars were parked hugger-mugger.  I could make out clusters of people and a line of sorts forming the way Italians and Greeks do it, not the British-like queues.

There were 2 ‘patient’ chairs and just 3 officials in PPE but, oh my word, they worked quicker than I could’ve ever imagined.  I’m guessing they didn’t want to be in close contact for more than a minute with any of us viral foreigners.  Results, they told us, would be texted to us in 24 hours IF positive.
Luckily we never got that text.

The drive south to Patras was easy, partly because we’d done it before but also due to the fact it was a new highway, thank goodness, which was more than equal to the French autoroutes.  Breathtaking mountain scenery all the way, hardly any cars and the first spits of rain and grey skies, how funny, now we were in sunny Greece.

After Patras, there was the usual hair-raising 45 minute drive on the one-lane-pretending-to-be-three road to Killlini; this was the main port for ferries heading to the Ionian islands. We were speeding along with the others, dearly hoping we’d make our ferry connection.

Levante’s car ferry crossing turned out to be a totally different experience to the previous one.  Yes, only a 1.5 hour journey but it was full of rules and hand sanitiser and an official keeping us a metre apart as passengers boarded.
Masks had to be worn at ALL times we were told.  Inside, alternate tables and chairs had been cordoned off ensuring no one sat too close.

When I took off my mask to drink water, at our safely distanced table, I forgot to put it back on (ok,perhaps I forgot on purpose; suffocating in the heat).  A young woman at the table closest to us reminded me loudly to put my mask back on.
Even out on deck, with plenty of space and fresh air and hardly anyone about, masks had to be worn, which I thought was a bit ott (and that should be enough to tell you that 4 days of crossing borders had sorted out the fearful amygdala of my brain).

99.9% of the people on board were from Greece, one chatty official explained when I asked why the speaker annoucements weren’t in their usual English.
He told me the announcer was telling us that Levante ferries were keeping us safe.
And indeed they were!

We landed in Kefalonia, in the town of Poros and only had a short drive to our olive grove house.
Somehow those 35 minutes felt longer than the hours we’d travelled each day, but they did give me pause to think about the miles covered, and to feel grateful for the sun and blue skies that had made it all so easy, showing us so many landscapes at their best.  And also to take stock of just how empowering those four travel days had been.  I suspect fear had flown out the window the minute I realized it wasn’t just in UK – or in our cocooned Dorset – that people were using common sense and trying to stay safe.  All of us in this global mess together were doing our best.

Freshly picked tomatoes and chillis from our lovely neighbours awaited us, and a message from home that felt like a pat on the back, congratulating us on the journey.
They were definitely the best-tasting tomatoes I’d eaten.
Well…the best that day 🙂



Left Dorset 0550hrs 4th August, arrived Kefalonia 1700hrs 7th August.
Kilometres driven:  2272 km
Ferry Ancona-Igoumenitsa:  723 km (390 nautical miles)
Ferry Killini to Poros:   50 km.


Time to plug into nature

We’ve been watching far more nature programmes these past months.  So reliably uplifting, nature doing its thing.

Recently Spring Watch was on BBC, a very popular programme here in UK.  Two weeks of learning more about the amazing changes Spring brings with it.  We saw beavers and otters, fish, badgers, butterflies, you name it. 
The main focus, as always, was on nesting birds and their fledgings, with some precarious nests being built on high and others balanced in bizarre places just inches away from predators.  We watched parent birds constantly feed their young until finally most of the fledglings defied the odds and flew off.  A cheering message.  Reassuring to see nature going about normal business at a time when our world is so very far from normal.

The presenters talked about more wildlife and birds being about due to less traffic and noise, less activity in towns and built-up areas.  They shared some breath-taking videos and photos the public sent it.  People who were isolating or not working or on furlough – children still off school – all having more time to notice daily changes in their gardens and nearby parks. 

Every night it felt like an escape from the daily Downing Street updates and world statistics and scenes of angry demonstrators.  And yet nature is just as much a part of our reality as Covid-19 and world news.   A happier part that we can tune into every day – every hour of every day if we want!   Nature can most definitely help us feel better, lifting our mood with a surge of endorphins – those happy hormones – as we watch new life unfold around us.

It was interesting to see how much close-up photography was in the programme this year.  Filming the tiniest insect under a convoluted camera lens.  Seeing a mote of dust floating in water only to discover it was a creature with astonishing talons and fangs.   

It made me think about the macro and micro world we’re living in right now.  How we are changing focus far more than we might normally do.  Moving from the macro picture of what’s going on in our global community, to the micro picture of what’s happening in our personal lives, what we’re eating for dinner tonight.

Changing our focus, our lens, constantly is hard work.  It can be overwhelming thinking on different planes all the time as we try to absorb today’s communal bigger picture whilst looking after our micro world.  Feeding the family, understanding the latest Covid rules, tapping out work emails, seeing second spikes abroad, helping with homework, feeling for angry demontrators, watering the garden.  No wonder so many are saying they don’t want to listen to the news, that it’s too much.   

Most of the posts I’ve shared over the past months have had something to do with plants or gardens, walks or healing foods.  Giving myself and others some mindful space to plug into nature.  Giving those happy endorphins a chance to rise and expand. 

We all need a breather from this bigger macro picture so we can find balance and mindful time in our micro worlds.  This is where nature shines.  It’s right here, outside our windows and front doors.  So easy to bring into our daily lives.  Walking, weeding, cycling, sitting and watching.   Birds peepsing, petals opening, rain falling. 
The sky outside, is it blue or grey where you are right now?  Are buds unfurling or is winter mist drawing in?  Tell me what’s happening around you, I’d love to know.  x   

Parkinson’s: has science been looking in the wrong place?

In this month’s New Scientist there was an article about Parkinson’s disease.  How researchers are now thinking they may be looking for the cause in the wrong place and that this debilitating chronic disease may actually arise from damage to the gut and not the brain.

Hang on a minute…is this news?!
At college we had the privilege of having Lucille Leader as one of our tutors.  A world-speaker and author of numerous books on Parkinson’s, she always stated, “first heal the gut.”  And this is because dysfunction of the gastro intestinal system does indeed have a huge impact on health.


Yes, I know it may seem to a lot of peeps that as a nutritional therapist I want to link the state of our gut to just about every disease going.
But is this so unreasonable, given the fact that approx. 80% of our immune system is located in the gut, and that we know that the brain and GI system are connected by a super highway of chemical information passing constantly between them ( good reason indeed for the gut’s name, ‘the second brain’)… and that virtually every week we seem to find out more about the importance of our microbiome;  about the foods which can improve that microbiome and the ones that may be causing pathogenic bacteria to run riot.
So many diseases & health conditions are being linked to the dysbiotic, out-of-kilter, bacteria living in the microbiome of our gastro intestinal tract.

What’s fascinating about Clare Wilson’s article in early December’s ‘New Scientist’ is not that she makes mention of Parkinson’s patients always having digestive problems (although this may give sceptics something to think about).   More interesting is that researchers have now carried out experiments showing  that the clumps which are found in the nerve cells of Parkinson’s patients’ brains – clumps formed from synuclein fibres – can actually travel from the gut to deep into the brain.

Already a decade ago, the article explains, pathologists reported finding these distinctive synuclein fibres in nerves within the gut (during autopsies).

Recently, a group of scientists in California at the Institute of Technology have been injecting these synuclein fibres into the stomach of mice, and found, 3 weeks later, that the fibres had travelled up to the base of the brain.   2 months after that these fibres had moved to those areas of the brain that control movement, a hallmark symptom area of Parkinson’s.
Not spooky, just another worthy study showing how the gut is implicated in diseases that medicine, until now, thought were confined to a distinct, specific organ.

What is also interesting is that the researchers believe “no single bacterium or virus has been pinpointed as the cause…..but early evidence suggests that people with Parkinson’s have different gut bacteria to healthy people…..It could be that having the wrong bacteria in your gut triggers inflammation……(and) Inflammation makes synuclein more likely to aggregate.”

The microbiome, once again, is the focal point of research.

So can it as simple as that?  Sort out your diet and your microbiome, and you may avoid these fibre clumpings in the brain, and the onset of Parkinson’s?

I think so (but then I would, wouldn’t I!)….
What do you think?

The Appleaday Detoxathon: Why do you choose the foods you do?

Food affects more than just your physical body.  It has an impact on your emotional world, your thoughts, mind and your overall feeling of wellness.  Along with water, air, sleep and sex, food is one of the most important aspects of survival.  You need it to exist, to function and to thrive.

You know all this – or do you?
The western world is becoming sicker.  Too many people are making poor food choices, becoming obese, with fat-layered inner organs and congested arteries, and suffering from fatigue or aching joints and numerous other complaints.  With all the hype and media about healthy eating – TV programmes, articles, books – surely we should be in the know by now!

detox facebook image

And yet, many people in the western world don’t really think about what they’re eating, and when they do think, it’s bizarrely unlikely they’re thinking about the nutrients they should be consuming in order to thrive, inorder to feel well.

Food choices are so often governed by advertising and marketing,  or monetary concerns, time constraints, habits or even trends.  The concept of Food Choice, however, is far more interesting than this!

When you come home after work, and you’re starving,…or when you’re in front of the open fridge at 10pm, what are you wanting to eat?  What do you reach for first, and do you know why?  Are you always drawn to the same foods?  Is this just habit?  Or is there something else in play, something you’re not aware of?  Which foods make you feel safe and comforted, and which foods give you a buzz of energy?
This is all important stuff – the stuff of survival, the stuff of longevity.  And these are all valid questions to which you should have some answers at least.  And yet….

This September, appleaday will be running its annual cusp-of-season Detoxathon.  Five days of clean eating with new recipes and food shopping lists and a menu plan to make it as easy as possible for you.

However, this autumn weI’ll also be looking at the bigger picture, so that when your five days are over, you will have a better understanding of why you choose the foods you do – and how to take new, healthier, habits into your future.

As always, the menu will include foods to support your digestion, and those to give a super boost to your liver, with nutrient-rich yum recipes to help your body detoxify naturally.
A week of healthy eating to feel energised and lifted – and to feel that halo sit perfectly on your head!  And all in the company (well…online company) of myself and like-minded detoxathoners – easier and more enjoyable than doing it alone.

During the week I’ll share some sparky thoughts on the significance of food’s colour, shape and texture; what it means to many, and what it might mean to you.  Also, some chat about the more unusual toxins in your life, as well as intolerance foods: the typical, and the not-so-typical culprits; foods which may be the root cause of your digestive discomfort, which will then be having a ripple effect on your mood and subsequently tilt your outlook on life.  Truly good health is about seeing the connections to the Whole you.

By understanding more about the foods you eat, you will be in a position to make considered and mindful choices.  Food will gain your respect, and it, in turn, will make you feel better.  Body weight and form can then shift, and affect a visual – and mental – change.  Your self-image will beam, and this will shape how you interact with the world, and how the world will interact with you.

All correlative aspects of an underlying whole.
All correlative aspects of you.  A whole you making healthier food choices.

If you’d like to find out more about the Detoxathon, details can be found under the following link, or the ‘workshop’ section of this website.





Preventive prescription meds – think twice!

What is wellness….is it just about not being ill?  There’s no good scientific definition of wellness and, from a medical point of view, this poses a real problem.


More and more prophylactic drugs are being handed out, when actually a good start to wellness would be to encourage better eating habits and less time sitting at the computer or on the sofa.

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Sweet as Honey

I have just discovered a delicious bitter-sweet honey called Arbutus, which is harvested in Portugal and sold by “Wild about Honey.”
This is a raw, unfiltered and cold extracted honey made by hand in the western Algarve, where beekeepers “follow age-old traditions and make the honey, in the main, by hand.”


According to their blog – wildabouthoney.co.uk – beehives are moved around so that the bees forage for all type of blossom, from eucalyptus to thyme, orange blossom, arbutus and carob.
The last two  are the ones which really tick the box for me!
And because I would really like to know that honey is indeed a healthy food I should be eating, I decided to do some research on it.
What I discovered is that there is a lot of disagreement out there when it comes to honey…

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