Friday, 26 September 2014

Goldcrest In Ancient Woodland And The Stone Age Diet

I've been asked to do a plant survey in some ancient woodland managed by the National Trust, so yesterday afternoon Dave and I set off with a camera, a notebook and a pencil to see what we could find. I'd forgotten both my loupe and my Francis Rose bible (a wildflower book), so that was a good start. 

We were working in a stretch of ancient woodland that is about to be brought back in to coppice rotation, so our task was to record all the plant species we could find, before they start coppicing. I'll return in the Spring and make a new list- the comparison between the two will indicate trends in woodland flora and how they are affected by coppice management. It's an ongoing survey which I will do for each season until we've built up sufficient data to be able to observe trends. I worry that I am sounding increasingly like a scientist, or possibly even someone who knows what they are talking about.

Should be interesting anyway.

We noted over thirty different plant species, including a couple of ancient woodland indicators. My expectation is that, once the canopy is open and sunlight can come in, we'll find more of them in the Spring. Bluebells and primrose spring to mind, but there should also be wood anemones and possibly violets.

This particular woodland also has dormice boxes in it, and an on going survey is hoping to establish their presence in the wood. So far, no luck, which is odd because the habitat is right. I wonder whether they are there, they just don't like the nest boxes.

While we were searching the ground we heard the distinctive high-pitched call of the Goldcrest, Europe's smallest bird (bet you thought it was the Wren, didn't you?). I have an app on my phone that allows you to play birdsong, so we switched it on and waited to see what would happen. Sure enough. two tiny wee birds soon flitted down out of the canopy and sat listening to my recorded call. They seemed very intrigued by us and spent a good fifteen minutes zooming busily about through the branches near our heads, replying to my recorded call. I wonder what they were saying? Fantastic little things. I had also forgotten my camera (sacrilege) so this pic is off the net...

 

On a different subject, I'm wondering how many of you have heard of Lectins? Lectins are carbohydrate binding proteins that are found in most foods, but are present in especially high levels in grains (wheat, rice, corn etc), dairy products, pulses, beans, legumes, foods from the nightshade family (peppers, tomatoes, potatoes), and certain fruits and vegetables. They cause agglutinisation (clumping) of red blood cells and are implicated in many digestive tract disorders because they damage the gut wall and contribute to leaky gut syndrome. There is also an increasing body of evidence that suggests they are implicated in auto-immune conditions, inflammatory conditions and nervous-system conditions.

My digestion has been dicky for years  but it's got a lot worse over the past three or four. Doctors scratch their heads and prescribe antacids or acid suppressants (which, being a holistic person I won't take) and dieticians offer low fibre solutions. I thought I'd cracked it this year by cutting out all dairy except cheese early in the year and by stopping drinking white wine (acidic) and generally eating earlier before bed. It has been better for weeks, but a couple of months ago it went hay-wire again and it's not been good since.

Running helps, so I try to do that every other day, but it's not the whole answer.

I stumbled across lectins a couple of years ago. I get a lot of people coming to see me for treatment with digestive problems so I tend to read around subjects and try and keep up with the latest research. Lectins are not well understood- my GP and the last clinical dietician I saw knew nothing about them - but the essence of them is that they are indigestible and are probably present in plants to act as a toxin to warn wild things not to over consume that particular plant.

They would have been present in the kind of diet that was eaten by our Paleolithic (Stone Age) ancestors, but only in very small amounts. Today we consume them by the bucket load. The reason why a Stone Age diet is being increasingly recommended for health is because in evolutionary terms it's the merest blink of eye since we were foraging for food, eating meat, seasonal nuts, seeds, berries and green leaves and little else, as well as not mixing food types (ie eating protein on its own, fruit on its own etc) and our digestive systems simply haven't had sufficient time to evolve to cope with the modern diet.

I looked up symptoms of lectin intolerance....

Bloating, nausea, pain, flatulence, excessive burping and gas, vomiting, discomfort after eating, headaches, joint pain, upper respiratory tract infections, excess or too little mucous, auto-immune conditions such as coeliac disease, inflammatory responses, excess or continued tiredness, flu like symptoms, changes to bowel habit, stabbing pains, sinusitis, sore throat, distended abdomen, insomnia, depression, mood swings, irritability.

Hmm. Well I get quite a few of those when my gut's playing up and I am convinced food is the source of my problems. Working as a holistic practitioner for the last seventeen years has taught me that no one answer is going to fit everyone. There will be food I can tolerate that you can't and vice versa. So, what I'm doing is making a list of high and low lectin foods and I am shifting my diet to accommodate them. I will trial some foods and be open minded about them, because it may be that I can tolerate cheese for example but no other types of dairy. It may also be that I can eat small quantities of one type of food but not large ones.

For anything like this to be effective you need to follow it for a minimum of eight weeks and probably more like twelve. That takes us up to Christmas. I'm not sure at this stage whether I need to cut out all types of wheat or will be OK just eating it once a day, but I am cutting out all other grains, beans and legumes, nightshade family foods, dairy products and certain vegetables, as well as white wine, spirits, crisps, cakes, biscuits and chocolate. I already only drink water so giving up tea and coffee is not a problem for me. It leaves me with a pretty clean-looking diet that takes in meat, fish, sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, watercress, courgette, beetroot, cauliflower, berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries), bananas, nut milks, coconut water, red wine (in moderation) and seafood. After the twelve weeks are up I may start to reintroduce specific foods one by one and note down any responses. This all depends on whether any of this has an affect.

I have to say that even after a day of shifting my eating habits onto these foods I am not feeling as uncomfortable as I have been.

I'll report back as I go along with this because I'm quite sure there will be a number of you reading who also suffer from poorly tummies and would like to be free of the pain and discomfort they cause. A sick stomach can really rule your life.

I shall be your guinea pig! And if any of you have any thoughts or experiences you think might be useful to add to this please let me know via the comments- I'd be really interested in hearing your tales.

Here are some links that explain lectins and the paleo (stone age) diet theories in more detail. They also provide a list of foods and dietary approaches that are low in lectin, and the last one looks at food combining, which I am also interested in because it links back to the way our ancestors would have eaten and relates to theories of evolutionary biology.

http://www.nikigratrix.com/would-it-be-benefitial-foroptimum-energy-to-eat-a-lectin-free-diet/

http://www.bmj.com/content/318/7190/1023

http://bitethesun.org/main-navigation/food-bites/what-are-dietary-lectins-and-are-they-affecting-your-health

http://www.drmyhill.co.uk/wiki/Stone_Age_Diet_-_this_is_a_diet_which_we_all_should_follow

http://www.ion.ac.uk/information/onarchives/foodcombiningfacts 


CT :o)




22 comments:

  1. Oh lucky you a Goldcrest. Mike & I were beyond excited last week after spotting a wren in the garden. Good luck with the changes in your diet it will be interesting to see how it works for you. A fascinating subject.

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    1. I haven't seen one in ages so two were a real treat. Such sweet little birds.
      I am really hoping this approach to eating works. Ongoing sore stomachs are no fun :o( xx

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  2. Did my last comment save? The dogs went mad and I hit the publish button and ran off. It was very long so I hope it did! xx

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  3. That woodland sounds beautiful and an increasingly rare habitat. What a treat to see such a beautiful little bird. Your diet sounds very interesting, this paleo diet is popping up all over at the moment. At first I was a tad incredulous but your post is very convincing! I will be following eagerly to see how you get on. Thank goodness, red wine is included.
    Shauna.x

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    1. The wood is a special place. It's one that the dogs and I often visit and I love it there.

      Re the diet, I am really suspicious of fads too, but the reason this suggestion has caught my attention is that I understand the science behind it. Guts just don't develope that much in a thousand years compared with a million when you're thinking in evolutionary terms, and if you have a sensitive system it's an explanation that seems to make sense. Yes, thank God red wine is OK!!!!! I couldn't give up that and chocolate :o) xx

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  4. Some interesting stuff on the diet we should be eating. I have been carefully looking at my diet this summer, mainly with a view to histamine intolerence, but I am fortunate, it is "only" dairy intolerence, and I'm OK on goaty milk, butter and cheese.

    I had a quick read of one of the links you put up and will return to look at the others. Hope you get to the bottom of your problems.

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    1. Interesting how many folks that are intolerant to cows' milk are OK with goats'. It's a relief when you find something that makes sense of what you are experiencing without the need to medicate. Better still if switching your diet round helps to eliminate the unpleasant symptoms.

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  5. I hope that your new diet works for you and that you find yourself a changed woman!! xx

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    1. Thanks, Amy. Be nice to finally crack it and get a workable solution xx

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  6. The survey sounds great, will be intresting to see what you find...
    Good luck with the new diet, I stopped eating chocolate back in June and have felt much better for not eating it.
    Amanda xxx

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    1. I'll pop a list up on another post- we were surprised at the amount of plants we found. Be very interesting to compare next Spring and see what's new.

      Interesting about the chocolate and the effect it's had. Not sure whether I can give it up entirely but I am definitely going to restrict it. Hopefully with most things moderation is the key and only a few need to be given up entirely xx

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  7. The survey sounds interesting - will be good to see what you see next Spring.

    Hope the diet helps with your stomach problems - my son has problems from time to time we had thought it was nerves but your post has set me thinking now more along diet lines! Thanks :)

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    1. It's a great opportunity to survey pre and post coppice in an ancient wood and draw conclusions about woodland management from the data- perfect for some of my bits of coursework :o)

      Nerves/ stress/ tiredness undoubtedly does play a part with tummies but I'm convinced most conditions can be better controlled with a combination of diet and exercise. The hard part is figuring which foods trigger symptoms because it's so individual. For me, the low lectin approach combined with ideas gleaned from the paleo diet is a good place to start. I am certainly feeling better and have had a huge decrease in symptoms over the last 48 hours, which, having had a sort stomach most of the time for the last two months is a huge relief. x

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  8. We've spotted firecrests in our local park,but not sure if they were firecrest or goldcrest as they were so high up in the tops of the trees.
    Briony
    x

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    1. More likely to be Goldcrests, only because Firecrests are rarer. Wonderful little birds xx

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  9. I am very aware that when I eat less pasta and bread I am not as bloated. I cut out refined sugar and that made a huge difference too. It has crept back in a little, but I can tolerate a little so I'm happy. I have a blog chum over at Cosmos and Cotton. She also writes under Scrummytritious. She has fibromyalgia, and posts her recipies and higghs and lows of living with this condition. She's quite inspirational. Always positive, even when she's had a tough day. It might be interesting to check her out. She follows a paleo diet, and is very into her research. Oh, and she is very good at yoga!
    Leanne xx

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    1. That's such a common response to wheat that it must be to do with the way our bodies do or don't digest it. Interesting about your experience with refined sugar too. Also your blogging chum's experiences- plenty of people correlating health conditions with diet. I've always followed the mantra you are what you eat but there is so much conflicting or faddy advice it can be a minefield trying to sort the wheat from the chaff. I've been on this new eating regime nearly 4 days now and I am pain free for the first time in two months. I love the food and have my appetite back. Best of all I can still drink wine :o) xx

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  10. I'm so sorry I missed this post somehow-having a rubbish time right now and getting behind with things! Anyway lovely pretty little Goldcrest, I used to have them in my garden up north and jumped for joy at seeing them. Like you said it's the call that alerts you first.
    Diet-how interesting. I have almost all of those symptoms and a terrible digestion, sitting at a desk makes it worse too. The diet sounds great and so glad you're still able to have a glass of wine.
    Since our dear little dog died we have both put on some weight and sitting here in rented accommodation isn't helping. I'll be following with interest CT, thanks for sharing it.

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    1. Sitting down all day is a definite no for me, even when eating carefully, as I've just discovered after a day spent on my bum in lectures :o(

      I will keep you posted on how it goes- so far, it's like a light bulb going on, huge improvements, but I guess I'm nervous in case it doesn't last- you'll understand that with your own tummy situation I'm sure.

      I so hope you get in to your new house soon and can get back to normal, it must be difficult at the moment and I do feel for you. Hopefully when settled you might find a new canine in need of a lovely home to share your lives with? I am very tempted to get another dog from a rescue centre. I have been keeping an eye out xx

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  11. As you know I'm struggling down the food path as well. I'm cutting out stuff one by one but I'm not cutting out nightshades until all my homegrown tomatoes have been used up.

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    1. Diets have to work with everyday life, otherwise they are doomed! I'll write an update on this one tomorrow :o)

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x