Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.
Guy:I’m certainly not one to dramatise content and blog posts just to grab peoples attention, but when you hear what some food manufacturers are up to, it really does give you the sh**ts!
I think our take home message from this weeks 2 minute gem video is this; you really do have to be proactive when it comes to your own health.
We spend an hour with one of Australia’s leading nutritionists, as we tap into all her experience on how we can achieve greater health and longer lives.
Our special guest today is Cyndi O’Meara. Not your typical nutritionist, Cyndi disagrees with low-fat, low-calorie diets, believes chocolate can be good for you. Amazingly, she has never taken an antibiotic, pain-killer or any other form of medication her whole life! The one thing that was clear from this podcast is that she is a passionate, determined and a wealth knowledge. Sit back and enjoy as she shares with us how she helps others improve their quality of life so they too can enjoy greater health and longer lives.
Full Interview: Achieving Greater Health & Longer Lives. What I’ve learnt so far…
In This Episode:
Where we are going wrong from a nutritional stand point
With so many ‘diets’ out there, where the best place to start is
The simplest nutritional changes that make the greatest difference on our health
Hey, this is Guy Lawrence of 180 Nutrition and welcome to today’s health sessions. Today, we have an awesome guest here in store. I know we always say that but it’s true. She is Cindy O’Meara. I believe she is one of Australia’s leading nutritionists and she often appears on TV and radio and has a massive amount of experience, and get this, at 54 years old, I think she’s an amazing example of health. She’s never taken an antibiotic, a painkiller or any other form of medication her whole life.
I think that’s incredible and she certainly got a lot of energy and a lot of knowledge and it was awesome to tap into that for an hour today. We get into some fascinating topics. The big one that stands out in my mind is deceitful food labeling. Some of the things that are going on with manufacturers is quite jaw dropping and scary. Looking back as well, this is why we started 180 in the first place and the 180 Superfood because I was working with cancer patients with weight training programs and we couldn’t access any really decent supplementation back then, especially protein and whole foods, making them much more accessible for them anyway.
That’s where 180 started if you didn’t know. Anyway, so we get into food labeling lies. The first place to start with all this information out there, Paleo, Keto, Mediterranean, low carb, I’ve always got confused out now. She really simplifies it and how to work out what’s best for yourself and where to go first if you are struggling with them things. We tap into her own daily habits and philosophies on life as well because she’s in such amazing shape.
It was great for her to share her bit of wisdom on all that too. I have no doubt you’ll enjoy. The internet connection does drop in and out slightly here and there but all and all, it’s all good and sometimes it’s beyond our control with Skype but the information is [00:02:00] there and you persevere, you’ll be fine. Thanks for the reviews coming in as well. We had a great one yesterday saying, “Superfood for your years, buy a highway to health.”
It’s always appreciated. I know you’re probably driving a car, walking the dog or whatever it is you’re doing in the gym and you go, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. I enjoy the guy’s podcast, I’ll give a review, you know,” and then go and forget about it which is what I would do anyway because I’m pretty forgetful like that. If you do remember, leave us a review. They’re greatly appreciated and we read them all and yeah, they help us get this message out there.
If you’re enjoying it, that’s all I ask. Anyway, let’s go over to Cindy, this is another great podcast. Enjoy. Okay, let’s go. Hi, this is Guy Lawrence. I’m joined with Stuart Cooke. Hi Stu.
Stuart Cooke: Hello mate.
Guy Lawrence: Our fantastic guest today is Cyndi O’Meara. Cindy, welcome to the show.
Cyndi O’Meara: Thank you.
Guy Lawrence: Look, with all our guests that come on, we generally end up intensively looking into the guests more as the interview gets closer. I’ve been listening to a lot of your podcasts over the last few days and it’s clear that you’re very passionate and knowledgeable, so I’m hoping to extract a little bit of that and get it into today’s show. It’s a pleasure to have you on; I really appreciate it.
Cyndi O’Meara: Yeah, no worries.
Guy Lawrence: Just to start, have you always been into nutrition? Is this or has this been a thing that’s evolved over time? Where did it all start for you Cyndi?
Cyndi O’Meara: Well, I’m from a fairly different family you could say. My dad was a pharmacist who then, after 6 years of pharmacy, realized that, and this was in the 50s, realized that pharmacy wasn’t the way to health. He went from New Zealand to the USA and went to Palmer College of Chiropractic, he became a chiropractor. He learnt the difference between mechanism, philosophy and vitalistic philosophy and had us kids and chose never to give us medications unless it was a life [00:04:00] threatening situation.
We ate well, we had an outdoor lifestyle; we just lived a different life. We never went to the doctors unless I broke a bone. I remember going twice because I broke bones. I’m 55 and I’ve never had any medications, no antibiotics, Panadols or anything. Then he gave us a really outdoor lifestyle, travelling and we traveled 3 months around the world, we skied, we went skiing a lot. When I got a love for skiing, I thought, “Well, I don’t want to go to university. I want to ski.”
Then someone said to me, “Well, why don’t you go to a university that’s [inaudible 00:04:36] skiing?” and I went, “Well, that’s a good idea.” They don’t exist in Australia so I had to go to the University of Colorado in Boulder and that is where my life changed. I did pre-med and had one of my classes that went for the 12 month period was with a gentleman by the name of Dr. Van Guven. He taught me cultural anthropology and anthropology.
I realized that food had a lot to do with the way we evolved. If it wasn’t for food, we’d be dead. If it wasn’t for hunter gatherers, our agriculturalists, our herders, our pastoralists, we would never have survived and it was our adaptation to the environment that we were living in that enables us to do that. That’s what I learned, so I went, “Yey! I’m going to be a dietician.”
I came back to Australia and studied nutrition at Deakin University and didn’t agree with anything, not one thing. I just went, “Oh, I can’t be a dietician. This is just ridiculous. They don’t … They’re teaching margarine, they’re thinking low fat.” We didn’t do low fat. Meat’s bad for you, this is bad for you and I just went, “I can’t do it.” They wanted me to feed jelly to sick patients and even the pig feeds were made of high fructose corn syrup and I just couldn’t do it.
I thought, “Well, I’ll go back to university and I’ll become a chiropractor.” I went back to university, did 2 years [00:06:00] of human anatomy, cut up cadavers for that whole time and went, “Hmm, it’s not the dead ones that I really care about. It’s actually the live ones.” It was a result of realizing my knowledge of the human body and my cultural anthropology and all of that just came together and I went, “I know what the human body needs.”
I set up practice as a nutritionist and did the opposite to everybody else. That was 33 years ago.
Guy Lawrence: Wow.
Stuart Cooke: Excellent.
Guy Lawrence: That was very radical back then as well, 33 years ago.
Cyndi O’Meara: Oh yeah. I think goodness … Nutrition wasn’t big back then. It’s not like it is now. You see Pete Evans get absolutely slaughtered because he says, “Eat real food.” Back in those days, there were 20 girls that I went to school with and they just followed the guidelines. I was just a little pimple, I wasn’t annoying anybody until I started to write for the Sunshine Coast Daily and then I annoyed everybody.
That was a lot of fun. 2 years of letters to the editors, suing by food companies, all the usually stuff-
Guy Lawrence: The usual stuff.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, that somebody like me would get. That was the early 90s and then by late 90s, I wrote my book Changing Habits, Changing Lives. Nobody wanted it so I self published it in ’98 and then it just went from strength to strength and now I run a company. There’s 20 people in this building so hopefully, they won’t make a noise, I’ve warned them all. We now have a food company, we have an education company, we’re about to put out a documentary because food’s big, nutrition’s big.
People realize what we’re doing is not working and we need to do something different. We have a lot of sick people in the world and I’m on a bit of a crusade to go, “Hey, there’s another way. We don’t have to live like this,” and it’s the philosophy of vitalism which is the human body is intelligent. It has the resource … If you give it the right resources [00:08:00] and stop interfering with it, it has the ability to heal and to stay healthy through prevention. Yeah, so that’s in a nutshell.
Stuart Cooke: Amazing.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. No, that’s an awesome story and I can see that you’re super passionate. From a nutritional standpoint, and everybody has … Much like religion and politics, everybody has got their own opinion on nutrition, “Got to eat this way to get these gains.” In your opinion, where are we going wrong right now?
Stuart Cooke: Look, I think we’re looking at science a little bit too heavily. I look to science to back up anything that I’m thinking at the time, but in the end, I look at culture and tradition. I look at how did we survive millions of years without science, adapt to the environment, survive, all the things that have been thrown at us from volcanic eruptions with heavy metals being spilt onto our environment to having to adapt to a changing world?
I have a philosophy of vitalism, so looking at the body as an intelligent, innate presence and then I look at food in exactly the same way, that it’s intelligent. Then with the help of cultural anthropologies and the vast array of different foods that we can we can survive on, I then go and look for science that may be able to help me back up these claims because everybody is into science, evidence based. I hear it all the time but you what I’ve learnt is that you can absolutely look at all the science out there and it’s all opposing.
That really depends on who’s funding, who has a theory and they have a passion about it and they want to get that theory out there such as Ancel Keys [00:10:00] in the 1960s who started the low fat. My thing is that we’ve just thrown culture and tradition out and we’re just looking at science. When we look at epidemiological studies, we’re actually really not doing an exact science, we’re just doing it, “Oh. Well, this population does this then they get these problems so that must be the issue.”
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Just thinking now to go on from that, we’re very fortunate because we’re absolutely involved in the nutritional space. Everyone I speak to, myself and Stu, we’re bouncing all these theories off and we delve into it and podcasts every week is awesome. Obviously, there’s a lot of people out there that it’s not their thing, they’re very busy and they just want to scratch the surface; make simple changes.
Then when you go to look at where to start, we’re bombarded. We’ve got Paleo, primo, low carb, high carb, ketosis-
Stuart Cooke: Keto.
Guy Lawrence: Keto is another one and all of a sudden, it’s like, “Well, they’re all claiming to be right. Where do I start? How do I do it?” and even in the messages because everyone seems to have good intentions as well, it’s getting lost still. What would your advice be to somebody listening to this going, “Oh okay,” they’re confused on where to start?
Cyndi O’Meara: Well, I doubt that anybody eating McDonald’s hamburgers is listening to you right now. I really doubt that, okay?
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, I hope not.
Cyndi O’Meara: I’m thinking for the person who’s out there that is eating that way and has no awareness about their body or what they’re consuming, they’re probably not listening. The people that are listening to you are probably people that are well educated and have a fair idea of they need to make some changes. If they’re in crisis, then they have to do crisis care nutrition.
If they’re not in crisis and they’re just looking at, “Hey, I need to make some changes, [00:12:00]” well, I recommend … I wrote the book Changing Habits, Changing Lives. That was back in 1998 and it’s about looking at one aspect of your pantry and swapping it for a better quality, organic ingredient. Just let’s look at salt, so I go, “Let’s throw away the white salt which …” And I explain exactly what they do to white salt, what iodine that they put into it.
Then what I do is that I then say, “Well, there’s a better quality salt out there.” Let’s say over 52 weeks, they do 1 pantry item, they will revolutionize their pantry. They will start to use the right ingredients in order to be well. Because it’s really hard to say, “Let’s just throw everything out of the pantry and let’s start again,” because then they go back to their old ways. For me, it’s about getting quality ingredients into the pantry to begin with, realizing that nobody can cook a food like you can and because at the moment, I’m rewriting my book Changing Habits, Changing Lives.
I’m looking at the food industry really intensely. You know, since I wrote the book in ’98 and then I did another edition in 2000 and another edition in 2007, so this is only 8 years on, they’re getting sneaky, they’re so sneaky. They’re doing this thing called clean labeling where they’re changing the name of the ingredient so they don’t have to put a number on it. For instance, BHA and BHT is an antioxidant that’s produced by the food industry. People are on the lookout for it. They know that it cause health issues.
Well, they’ve now renamed it rosemary extract or extract rosemary. That sounds better, doesn’t it?
Guy Lawrence: Oh, [crosstalk 00:13:45] that sounds like something I would actually quite like to consume.
Cyndi O’Meara: Yeah. Well, I saw. I first saw it on breakfast cereal quite a few years and I’m like, “Okay, something’s fishy here. I don’t trust them.” I’ve never trusted breakfast cereal makers but I definitely … When I saw that [00:14:00], I went, “What’s rosemary extract?” so I went looking. When I found this new thing they’re doing, it’s clean labeling. I think number 1, become educated. Do not trust the food industry to tell you what is happening.
Another thing they’re doing is they’re using this new thing called NatureSeal and they don’t have to put it on the ingredients and you know why? Because it’s part of the processing of the food, so if-
Guy Lawrence: Could you repeat the … What was it called? Nature-
Cyndi O’Meara: It’s called NatureSeal.
Guy Lawrence: NatureSeal.
Stuart Cooke: It’s NatureSeal, and so what it does is if you cut an apple and put NatureSeal in the processing of it and put it in a plastic bag, it will last 3 weeks. It won’t go brown, it won’t go off, nothing will happen to it. The makers of NatureSeal go, “Oh, it’s just a bunch of, you know, citrus and vitamins and minerals.” Now, finding the ingredients wasn’t easy. I had to go to the [Paint 00:15:02] office in order to find exactly what they’re putting in NatureSeal.
They make up these stories, the food industry are no smarter. They just go, “Aah! 3 weeks and my apples are going to survive.” We just put it in packaging, they don’t put it on lettuce so you wonder why you’re lettuce is lasting forever, [inaudible 00:15:20] NatureSeal on it. They don’t have to put it on the ingredient list. For me, it’s about you have to be a savvy consumer these days and I’m more into the 1 ingredient pantry.
I have … All my pantry is just nuts and seeds and grains. I’m not against grains. In actual fact, I’m doing a documentary called What’s With Weight? What’s happening to it, why are we having problems with it? My 1 ingredient pantry is just herbs and spices and nuts and seeds and cacao and salts and sugars. I’m not against sugar. We needed sugar to survive, we needed carbohydrates to [00:16:00] survive, but if I have somebody in an emergency situation and nutritionally, I have to make drastic changes there.
Let’s just talk about the common man or woman out there that just wants to improve their health. Number 1, become educated, know what they’re doing to your food. Number 2, clean out your pantry and bit by bit, swap different ingredients for high quality ones. In my industry, in my foods, I call them faucet foods. They are the foods that are organic, sustainable, ethical and you can trust me because if it’s not in my pantry, it’s not on my warehouse and I’m pointing out there because my warehouse is out there.
I don’t put a food in because I know it’s going to make money. I put a food in because I want it in my pantry and I want the best and I learn. When I go looking for a food, sometimes it takes me years to find a food. When I go looking, I go like, “Let’s take that.” This is one that we’ve just brought into our foods. Do you know that they pollinate dates with the pollen, so they have to get the pollen, but they add wheat to it to distribute it over the trees so that they pollinate; so that they don’t have to hand pollinate each one. They just do a blanket spray of wheat and pollen.
A lot of celiacs can’t eat dates these days because of what’s happening. This is where we start to learn, when we go looking for food. Another one we bought out recently, we bought out camu camu a couple of years ago. The people that we were buying the camu camu on said, “Well, why don’t you put it in a capsule and we’ll send you the ingredients of the capsule?” They send me the ingredients of the capsule which they said is a gelatin capsule and I read the ingredients and I went, “You’re serious? There’s probably glycol in here?”
It’s like, “Probably glycol has been taken out of medications in the USA because it causes liver and kidney and kidney damage [00:18:00] and you’re putting a perfectly beautiful food into that?” These are the things that I learn and every food that I have purchased to go into my kitchen, to then give to my family and friends and then to a community, is thoroughly investigated. If it doesn’t match up to what I want, then it doesn’t go into our food supply.
Guy Lawrence: It’s so scary. You have to take quick responsibility in your hands and move forward and it’s time consuming, that’s the thing. It made me think about the posts we put up, Stu, last night on Facebook. We put a photograph up and it’s the new health star ratings, I think from the government.
Cyndi O’Meara: Oh, do you want to just shoot me now?
Guy Lawrence: No. We put a photo of them. We had the organic coconut oil at .5 out of 5 and the Up and Go Breakfast, Liquid Breakfast was 4.5 out of 5. It was good to see everyone was just absolutely disgusted last night, so people are savvy too. Again, I guess it’s our audience listening that are already onto it. There are people out there sadly, they’re …
Stuart Cooke: I think really one of the take-home messages must be that … And we always talk about eat like our grandparents used to eat. It’s simple whole food ingredients because they are going to be, you would think, less altered and less processed and products. I think as a general step, if you can move towards the whole food items and eat less processed food, then you’ve got to be on the right track.
Again, I was interested Cyndi, especially your changing habits, we are by our very nature, creatures of habit. We’re very habitual and how can we change our habits when we’re used to getting up in the morning, spending 2 minutes pouring in our cereal at breakfast time. Because we know that even … People out there are still smoking. They know what cigarettes do to our health but it’s so engrained in their daily habits [00:20:00] that they can’t get out of it.
A lot of our friends know the right thing to do but they’re creatures of habits and they just don’t … So how can we tackle the habitual side of things?
Cyndi O’Meara: We’re not going to change everybody, that’s what I’ve learnt but you can change the people who are willing to make a change. People that are willing to make the change are people in crisis. That will be number 1. They’re in such a crisis that if they don’t make a change, then they’re not going to be able to get up in the morning to even pour their breakfast cereal. The other people that make the change, and these are the ones that I love, I love this group of people out there, and they’re mothers who have sick children.
Because of the choices that they have made perhaps or the choices that the food industry have made for them or what our governments are making for us as far as the amount of chemicals that are being sprayed on our sports fields, on our playgrounds. Mothers will move mountains to save their children. I see it over and over again and you know what? They’re the ones that I look out and I go, “I can help you,” but if I have somebody who’s smoking and doesn’t want to give up smoking, I just go, “Well, there’s nothing I can do for you.”
Let me give you a really good example. I swim with a very intelligent man. He’s a emergency care medical doctor. He has an autoimmune disease and when I met him a year ago, I said to him, “You know there’s a lot we can do with nutrition and autoimmunity now.” Now, he’s in crisis by the way guys, he’s not … He’s about to have another hip replacement, it’s not good what’s happening but he’s an intelligent, amazing man.
I gave him Terry Wahls book, The Wahls Protocol because I think, “Medical doctor, he’ll relate,” so he reads it and I said, “What are you thinking?” He’s at page 70 at this point and he goes, “Oh, it’s not a priority Cyndi. [00:22:00] I haven’t finished the whole book.” Okay, so I go, “Oh okay, okay, cool, cool, cool.” Then he gets to about 140, page 140 and I say to him, “So what are you thinking,” and he goes, “I’m not giving up ice cream.”
Guy Lawrence: Wow. Yeah, right.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Cyndi O’Meara: Then I spoke to him the other day and I said to him, “You know, and I noticed you’re limping.” He goes, “Yeah, bad engineering.”
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, it’s very, very tricky and you … [crosstalk 00:22:27] trigger foods and they just don’t want to … They don’t want to let them go and often times, it’s the trigger foods that are really holding people back.
Cyndi O’Meara: Yeah.
Guy Lawrence: His pain isn’t great enough yet, that’s the problem.
Cyndi O’Meara: I don’t know how it’s not great enough. I text him last night because we swim together and we were going to do ins and outs this morning at 6am. I text him, I said, “Are we doing ins and outs? You’re bringing Bonny?” Bonny is our buoy that we swim out to and he went, “Oh, my hip was really bad.” Now for him to miss swimming and to miss coffee with our group of friends, it’s not something that he likes to do.
I don’t know what else I can say to him. He’s not somebody I’m going to change I don’t think so I have to work on the people that want to change. They will change their habits. You don’t have to hit them over the head. They’re going, “What’s my next step? What do I need to do next?” For the people who are listening out there that are not in crisis or are not a mom, then it’s a step by step process.
Educate yourself on what breakfast cereals are doing to your body, educate yourself on how they make breakfast cereals and the way of excreting it is no longer the way Kellogg’s did it back in the 20s and 30s. It’s very different. They had vitamins and minerals. One, you can pull out with a magnet called iron. I’m not sure you’re meant to do that with the food that we eat but I’ve actually tried that with carrot and green beans and things like that, but I can’t seem to be able to get it out with a magnet but I can with the breakfast cereal.
They make the B1 from acetone. Who [00:24:00] makes vitamin B1 from acetone? You just have to become educated. You have to understand what they’re doing and we think because it’s fortified, it’s a good thing. To me, if I see anything fortified, I do not touch it because I don’t know how they’ve made the supplement or the fortification. Naan bread is folic acid and iodine, must be fortified with those 2.
Well folic acid, your body has to convert to folate. It’s synthetically made and iodine is mined out of a mine out of Japan, comes to Australia in these big barrels and on it, says, “Warning, dangerous to your eyes, to your skin, to this.” Yes, it’s in great amounts but-
Guy Lawrence: Could just explain what fortified is and why they do it as well just for any listeners that might not be familiar?
Cyndi O’Meara: Okay, so back in the 1930s, 1940s after the depression and the war, they recognized that there was some mineral deficiencies and vitamin deficiencies, so with pellagra and beriberi and diseases like this. They thought if they added that to the flour, then they could help, so it was for diseases. Now, I just think it’s something that we’ve always done so let’s continue to do it. We’re not using probably the vitamins that we used back in the 20s and 30s and 40s.
We’re using something that chemistry has figured out how to replicate nature, so they think. They fortify it with vitamins, with minerals, mainly just vitamins and minerals are fortified [inaudible 00:25:37]. Then they think that the population is eating breakfast cereals or drinking milk so they might fortify it with vitamin D but where is that vitamin D coming from?
It’s something that we’ve been doing for a long time but it was first for actual diseases. Now, it’s just, “Well, we’ll just throw it in because it’s no longer in the food.” There’s nothing in white flour anymore. It’s completely [00:26:00] gone and it’s a destitute food and so they go, “Oh, well put nice in and iodine in, [inaudible 00:26:07] and thiamine and we’ll throw some iron in there,” and so they throw everything out then they go, “Oh, we’ll just replace it now.”
Stuart Cooke: A marketer’s dream as well of course because you’ve got these beautiful slogans on the front of the packets that tell you how helpful these products are and we’re drawn to this kind of stuff.
Cyndi O’Meara: Yeah, and there’s a whole aisle dedicated to the stuff.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Cyndi O’Meara: Seriously? Who eats that stuff? Really?
Stuart Cooke: You see these foods now slowly moving away from the cereal aisles into the … What used to be very small health food aisles which very few people used to ponder. Now of course, they’re infiltrating.
Cyndi O’Meara: Oh. You’re going to love this, so I went to the health food aisle just recently and I took a photo of one food in there and it was the gluten free food. Let me just see, so I’ve got my phone so I’m just going to see if I can get it. Okay, so here we go. This is the original Freelicious Cracker. Okay, so it’s made up of maize starch, rice flour, organic palm oil thickener (1422). I think that comes from wheat actually, so it’s gluten free anyway, egg white not egg, and you know why?
Because they take the yolk out for other things, I don’t want to spoil that with egg yolk, it’s too expensive. Pregelatinized rice flour, emulsifier (lecithin from sunflower), sugar, salt, thickener (guar gum), raising agents (sodium bicarbonate, ammonium, hydrogen bicarbonate), dextrose, natural flavor, rosemary extract which we know is BHA and BHT. I find it hysterical, I really do. I’m just going through them. Here’s another one.
This is in the health food aisle. [00:28:00] This one is … I don’t even know what this one was. Oh, this is … It’s a cookie, so gluten free flour, tapioca starch, starch, it’s not even tapioca. In my new Changing Habits, Changing Lives, I talk about starch and how they make it, rice flour, potato starch, it’s not potato flour, it’s potato starch, modified tapioca starch, dextrose, thickeners (466464), emulsifier (471), vegetable gums … Do you want me to keep going? It’s just goes line after line.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Cyndi O’Meara: Natural color, flavor, preservative … This is in the health food aisle and there’s another flavor and then there’s another flavor. I mean we’re duped.
Stuart Cooke: It’s a marketers dream because essentially, it’s just a problem. How can we make this Frankenfood look so beautifully healthy? Of course they’ve got a team of people, “Well, that’s easy. Leave it to us.” I’ve been a graphic designer for 25 years and if I really wanted to, I could do that. I could come up with the slogans and the logos and the beautiful colors that depict the farmer carrying the basket and it’s all they think about I guess.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, that’s all they care about.
Stuart Cooke: It’s just a joke.
Cyndi O’Meara: There’s an old movie and my dad used to tell me about it. He’s a really, very wise 87 year old. Very healthy, takes the occasional medication so he’s not on [inaudible 00:29:25], lives by himself, still adjusts as a character, he’s amazing. He said to me, “There was an old movie out called The Piano Man and it was about a man who comes into town that creates a problem and then he has the solution to the problem.” What I find is that we are creating problems all the time and then finding the solution.
Do we really have the problem in the first place? The first problem they had was salt, it causes hypertension. Salt was taken out of everything, everything was low salt. Second thing was fat’s a problem. Was it really a problem? Not really but anyway, fat was a problem, everything went low [00:30:00] fat. Then we found trans fats and then now the industry is saying, “Oh, trans fats are bad,” makes me laugh.
Since 1978, we’ve known trans fats were bad but it was only 2007 when the Heart Foundation went, “Ooh, trans fats are a problem guys. We’d better stop … We’d better stop advocating it.” Then fats became a problem, everything went low fat. They found a solution to the problem we really never had and now sugar and carbohydrates are a problem.
Stuart Cooke: That’s right.
Cyndi O’Meara: The ketogenic diet was a diet that we had throughout evolution in order to survive a bad summer or a bad growing season where there was no sugar available and only lean meats because the cows didn’t have anything to eat. They were really skinny and they had lean meats. Sugar was there to tell the human body that it’s a great season, we can have babies.
All the tests on ketogenic diets are done on men, not women. Women go into infertility, intimate infertility, not permanent but intimate infertility in the ketogenic diet because that was the way nature intended us to survive as human beings. Who needs a pregnant woman when there’s no food available in the winter? She would die, she would not survive and neither would the baby.
I don’t have a problem with ketogenic diet but people have to realize that the ketogenic diet is actually a survival diet for evolution. It wasn’t something that we lived on for years and years. We lived on it periodically in order to survive so that we could use ketones, not sugar because sugar wasn’t available, but we could use those ketones. If sugar never came, then we would just live on those ketones although we would be fat burners, not sugar burners and as a result, we [00:32:00] wouldn’t lay down fat.
As a result, lactone wouldn’t be increased in our body which is the master hormone to say, “Hey, let’s have some fun. We can have a baby.” The ketogenic diet is brilliant for epilepsy, for Alzheimer’s, for … We’ve realized the importance of the ketogenic diet for certain populations.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, for when they’re in crisis a lot of time.
Cyndi O’Meara: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: It’s interesting as well because people are … We’re very much now in the environment where people are crashing themselves with exercise and they’re pulling the carbohydrates out of their diet and you are seeing hormonal issues, especially with females as well where they’re skipping periods and just things are crashing for them. It’s a very good point.
Cyndi O’Meara: Yeah. It’s natural, it’s what the body has to do. It doesn’t know it’s living in 2015. It could be living in BC, long BC because genetically … Like the Paleo all talk about this, they all go, “Well, we haven’t adapted in 40,000 years you know? We adapted 1.5 million years ago and we haven’t adapted in 40,000 years.” Genetically, we don’t have to adapt. What has to adapt is our microbiome.
It can adapt every day to your different food choices if you don’t destroy it. Yeah, I just find that … Let’s just get back to normal eating. Let’s just get back to the way we used to eat. Just don’t think that there’s a panaceum like a macro-nutrient out there such as protein, fats or sugar that is your issue. What your issue is is that we’re in a state right now where our children are getting sicker, even adults are getting sicker.
I don’t know, and I’ve interviewed 14 people [00:34:00] about this and the question was, “Have we gone past the point of no return? Is our microbiome so destroyed that we have no hope of getting past this where our kids can’t even drink mother’s milk? Are we at that point?” Half of them said, “No, I don’t think so Cyndi. We have a resilience, we can change.” The other half were very, very like, “Not sure, not sure if we can get out of this.”
This all started in the 1930s when arsenic was starting to be sprayed on the cornfields in US, let’s say Iowa, USA. That was to destroy a grasshopper plague that was decimating the corn and the wheat in the Midwest. The use of chemicals after World War 2 such as DDT, were then sprayed on the corn fields and the wheat fields. Whenever, I think it was Jane Goodall, said, “Whoever thought that it was okay to grow food with poison?”
My grandmother’s from the cornfields of Iowa and I look at … She lived into her 90s, so my mother was born in 1937 when they were starting to spray arsenic. My sister was born when they were still spraying DDT in the 50s and both my mother and my sister have passed away. My sister got an autoimmune disease at 25, my mom got lung cancer, and never smoked a day in her life, in her 60s.
I look at the destruction of the microbiome through each successive generation. I was fortunate that I was born in Australia and my father was a New Zealander and my brother was born in Australia. The 3 of us seems to have really done well as opposed to what was happening back there. I think [00:36:00] what we could have done 30 years ago when I first started nutrition was just get people off a junk food diet on a real food diet, worked. These days, it’s not working as well and in the last 5 years, I’ve just noticed a huge crisis. I think-
Guy Lawrence: It’s like we’ve gone and messed up almost every aspect there is to be messed up and it’s gotten us in a whole world of trouble and yeah, is the task can we turn it around and actually, going forward for the next generation? I mean I still think the most proactive thing you can do is vote with the money you spend on your food every week and your shopping pool and actually start supporting the small businesses, the local farmers and actually stop buying anything that’s produced on a mass scale too. I don’t know how else.
Stuart Cooke: That’s very tricky because we don’t have the money to shop organic, especially those with large families as well. We have to try and do the best we can so it’s a really delicate balance.
Cyndi O’Meara: Look at this, and it’s about priority also. It is about priority, so I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie Homegrown.
Stuart Cooke: Yes.
Cyndi O’Meara: Yeah, it’s brilliant. It’s about this guy who lives in LA and he has basically grown … His whole land is just growing food and he’s got goats and chickens and everything in there and this is the way we used to do it. My grandfather had a garden. My grandfather had 11 children. From his garden, he fed those 11 children in Iowa, USA. My grandmother would get all the produce in the summer.
It grew like mad, it was humid, got all the produce and she would ferment or she would can or bottle [inaudible 00:37:44] and because they had a basement, everything went to the basement. In the winter, when the snow was on the ground and the ground was frozen, they lived off that so [crosstalk 00:37:54]-
Stuart Cooke: Totally, and I remember my grandparents had a garden or an allotment estate.
Guy Lawrence: Allotment, yeah [00:38:00].
Stuart Cooke: My parents, we had potatoes and beans and berries, blackberries down at the bottom of the garden and grew Braeburn apples and almost everyone had a hot house for the tomatoes as well because it gets cold in England. Yeah, that’s where we come from and now of course, it would be crazy. Grow my own vegetables? I could just purchase them.
Cyndi O’Meara: Well, you saw Michelle Bridges, she thinks we’re all freaks.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Cyndi O’Meara: You know, seriously? That’s the attitude that we’re up against when people like us that are talking this way. There’s a town in England that’s an edible town. Have you heard of it?
Guy Lawrence: No.
Stuart Cooke: No, I haven’t.
Cyndi O’Meara: Yeah. It’s called the edible town and about 8 years ago, this woman, Pam Warhurst, just went … Didn’t have a committee, didn’t care about what the council thought, we just started to plant trees that would produce food. Now, it’s very famous and it’s called the edible town and you can watch it on the TED video, ted.com and just look up edible town, Pam Warhurst and watch it. It’s just … I get goose bumps, just thinking … Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, and it’s just all doable as well. That’s the thing. we have the conditions to grow our own food and it doesn’t have to be costly, it just has to grab a little bit of our time and we can do it. I’ve got a question for you. Now, you’re almost the ultimate food detective and I heard a great phrase and I think it came from Sarah Wilson where, “We can’t unlearn what we’ve learned.”
You know all of this stuff and you’re a super sleuth where ingredients are concerned. Do you have any nutritional no-nos, so foods that you simply will not consume if you’re out and about and you’re at dinner parties or barbecues or in a restaurant? What foods would you avoid at all costs?
Cyndi O’Meara: How much time do we have? [00:40:00]
Stuart Cooke: About 20 seconds.
Cyndi O’Meara: I think that answers your question. I have a lot of no-nos, a lot and I like going to restaurants that I know the chefs will feed me single ingredient foods and I do travel by the way. Then when I travel, I look up … Pete Evans taught me this. He says, “Don’t look for the best restaurant, look for the philosophy of the chef,” and so that’s what I do. If I’m going to go somewhere and I don’t know a restaurant or something like that, I’ll … Look, people hate me.
I woke into a restaurant and I’ll ask questions and I’ll walk out if it’s not what I want. Yeah, Pete taught me that. Pete just said, “Find the philosophy of the chef and if they are a chef that is not a gastro-” what do they call it? Gastron … Whatever, the ones that use chemicals, those ones which you can pay $1,000 a head to go to these restaurants, I’ve seen them. I’m really [inaudible 00:41:02] figured that one, I’ll just go to a place down the road that just does meat and veggie for me.
I have a lot of non-negotiables and they’re all basically additives, preservatives, flavorings, margarines, hydro generated vegetable oil, interesterified fats, [inaudible 00:41:19] fats, homogenized milk, some pasteurized milks, skim trim, [red shape 00:41:23]. Would you like me to go on with fine foods?
Stuart Cooke: I think we’ll stop you there, that’s all.
Guy Lawrence: The scary thing is is that I know people mostly dieters are consuming them foods.
Cyndi O’Meara: I don’t know what’s better.
Guy Lawrence: You know?
Cyndi O’Meara: I want to live the best life I can. I want to be energetic. When my grandchildren come, I want to be on the floor with them. That-
Stuart Cooke: No, that’s exactly right. Yeah, and it’s about being the best version of yourself. We’ve got time on the planet, let’s try and make the most of it.
Guy Lawrence: 100% and it’s nice waking up in the morning feeling [00:42:00] good and ready to bring on the day. Yeah, I constantly think about it because I made the changes.
Cyndi O’Meara: I can hardly wait [inaudible 00:42:08].
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, I probably-
Cyndi O’Meara: I can hardly wait [inaudible 00:42:09].
Cyndi O’Meara: I can hardly wait to get up in the morning. It’s just like … I’m going, “Let me go to bed so I can get up in the morning,” because then I get to go for my swim and I get to enjoy the sunrise or … And people don’t live like that. They can’t get up out of bed, they’re tired, they drag themselves around. It’s so sad and most people have just got these blinkers on and they probably think, “Oh my God! She must live such a boring life, you know? She has these non-negotiables. Oh, no. I don’t know, far from it.”
Guy Lawrence: They’re missing out. With all that in mind, I can bring in another aspect that we haven’t spoken about yet and be interested to get your views on it is emotional stress and how much that affects our general health. What’s your take on that because-?
Cyndi O’Meara: Yeah, food’s just part of it. I love that and my dad is the ultimate chiropractor, a chiropractor who will fix everything. That’s his belief whereas my [inaudible 00:43:14] is that we have to look back to our cultures and traditions. We have to look at what our evolutionary body needs. Most people are in the sympathetic dominance. They are constantly in fight or flight.
They never have a downtime. They’re [melons 00:43:33] are always going, they’re emotional bankrupt and I think when you are aware of this and you’re aware of certain things that are happening in your body and you know you’re in sympathetic dominance, you need to back off. Many people are hunched over, so they’re hunched over ready to fight or flee. They’re hunched all the time on our computers. I guess it’s really important [00:44:00] to sit up.
We have constant life sources, so there was a time when we had [inaudible 00:44:07], draw away all your life sources that no computers or phones or anything like that. Have some downtime. Who needs a TV these days? Really, TV is boring. I think that there were a lot of other things that were involved in sympathetic dominance and if we can calm all of that down and know how to calm it down and not be in that fight or flight, and doing things for our evolutionary bodies such as sleep and movement and relationships and connections and face to face.
Here we are, I know I’m seeing you on a screen but it’s so much nicer to be around somebody and that’s really important, that face connection because that’s how we lived as hunter gatherers and agriculturists. I actually look at the hunter gatherer, the agriculturalist, the pastoralist, the herder and I look at the life that they lived and we are so lucky that we can glimpse into these people that are still living traditional lives such the Kyrgyz of Pamir, up on the Afghanistan belt, they live at 14,000 feet.
The Hadzas, the Himbas, the Hunzas, the Dani of Papua New Guinea, there are people that are living this way and we can get a glimpse into how they have survived, so emotion is a big part of it. We look at our whole life as opposed to … And we live vitalistically as opposed to mechanistically where we just look at diet or we just look at movement or we just look at sleep patterns so yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah
Guy Lawrence: What-
Stuart Cooke: You mentioned holistically as well, so we’ve spoken about diet and we’ve spoken about stress, [00:46:00] so movement. What do you do? What do you do for exercise?
Cyndi O’Meara: I’m not your go-out-and-run-100-miles. It just bores me to tears. I have a girlfriend who is the 24 hour marathon champion, and don’t’ get that at all, but then she doesn’t get what I do and I love to swim. I ocean swim so-
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, that’s us too.
Cyndi O’Meara: Yeah, I just get into the ocean every day. I come down to Sydney and I swim with the bold and the beautiful. I’ll go down and I’ll swim the crew in Tokeh if I’m down there. Up here, I swim at the Mooloolaba Beach Bums, so swimming is really important. I have a desk, I’m sitting at the moment, I have a desk that rises so I can stand and work. My belief is that we need to be on the move all the time.
We did that as hunter gatherers, agriculturalists and herders, so to get up and down on your desk, to stand up on your desk, get a treadmill. I was listening to Ben Greenfield recently, I don’t know if you follow Ben Greenfield?
Guy Lawrence: [crosstalk 00:47:08] Yeah, I’m aware of Ben.
Cyndi O’Meara: Yeah, so Ben was talking about the Spartan Race and how he trains for the Spartan Race. He’s whole thing is stay moving all day long and then he [inaudible 00:47:20] 30 min intensive. He says that’s how he trains for the Spartan Race which worse than the Iron Man Race and I went, “You know, I’m a person that does that.” I do intensive sometime and then I’ll just move most of the day.
I find that I’m probably fitter than most 30 year olds without having to try. I can run 5k without even training for a 5k race. I’ll just go run it and I think we believe that exercise is something that we should take our time out to do but we don’t think it’s okay to take time out for hunting for foods, gathering [00:48:00] our foods, cooking our foods. Michelle Bridges did it perfectly on that weekend that she did the worst for a part of her life.
She believes that exercise is something that we have to take time out to do, but we can just throw a plastic container full of yeast extract and other things in the microwave, press the button and we’re all cool. To me, that’s the biggest myth of … It’s just [biggest 00:48:33]
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: No, and it is about … There’s a disconnect between how we used to be as kids and how we’re conditioned now because I’ve got 3 young girls and I was watching them-
Cyndi O’Meara: Lucky you.
Stuart Cooke: We’ve got a busy household. These girls, they don’t stop, like they don’t stop. I was innately aware the other day. I was thinking, “You 3 really don’t stop,” and they’re wandering up and down doing hand stands, they’re playing on the floor, they’re lying down. Yesterday, we went to Bronte Park and they said, “Dad, come and take us to the park and come and play with us.”
I thought, “Well, I’m going to do everything that you do for an hour,” so before we hopped in the pool for a swim, I just said, “Right, what should we do.” We were on the monkey bars, we were climbing, we were on the roundabouts, we were racing up and down and today, I feel like I have been worked. It’s just one of those things. We didn’t lift any weights, it wasn’t … No treadmill, it wasn’t exercise, it was just play and it is that deconditioning where we used to just run and be free.
Now, we’re kind of … Like you said, we’re hunched and we’re sitting and we’re immobile but we have to make time for our treadmill session. It’s just let’s get back to where we were and just remember that we can move and we can … We don’t have to be sore if we lay on the ground [00:50:00] because we’re just deconditioned to it. It’s just a mindset I think, isn’t it? [crosstalk 00:50:06]
Cyndi O’Meara: Yeah, and I think it’s awareness because we were not doing this that long ago. It’s only probably in the last 4 decades that we have completely gone off our evolutionary path and most people don’t even realize it’s happened. They think it’s okay to sit in front of the television for 4 hours. They think that you get in your car and you drive to the local store or that you shouldn’t go barefoot because you get parasites.
I’m barefoot until I come to work. I’m barefoot to the beach, coming back from the beach, to the coffee shop. Like all the guys go, “We are all [inaudible 00:50:41] for [inaudible 00:50:42]. We are feeling so sorry for you.” I just think we’ve lost that … I think we have to become aware, become educated and start to play again. I bought a farm and I went up to the farm this weekend to work because I had to finish the 5 hour edit on my documentary.
I’m trying to get it down to an hour and a half. I said to everyone, “I’m going to the farm to work.” “Oh, we’re coming to,” got no work done, no work done whatsoever because it was storm and it was raining. We wanted to go down the bottom of the farm and see the waterfalls. We’re trekking around the farm and there’s leaches everywhere but I noticed my-
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, it’s just fun.
Cyndi O’Meara: It’s just fun. I noticed my son and his girlfriend just throwing each other around the place and I went, “Girls and boys don’t do that anymore.” I noticed that beautiful play that they were doing and tickling each other and I don’t know. I don’t see that anymore and it’s really cool to get them back into nature, into the mud and into the playground at Bronte Park, you know?
Stuart Cooke: Absolutely.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. I’m aware of the time but I will add-
Cyndi O’Meara: Sorry Guy.
Guy Lawrence: No, that’s cool [00:52:00]. It’s awesome because I was listening to your podcast and how you homeschooled your kids and you all went round Australia in a camper van, is that true?
Cyndi O’Meara: Yeah, we did.
Guy Lawrence: That’s just awesome. I got so much inspiration from that. I’m like, “That’s something I’d love to do,” yeah.
Cyndi O’Meara: It was the best years because we homeschooled the children. I didn’t have to get up pluck their hair, put their school uniform on, make sure they had their lunch. They would get up at 6 in the morning and work for 3 hours knowing at 9:00, we could play. They would get up and do it themselves. These were 6 year olds, 9 years olds and 11 year olds, that’s how old they were.
We’re about to leave, the 5 of us and the girlfriends now and the … Your old [inaudible 00:52:44], we’re about to leave for a 4 week skiing vacation just because we go, “Let’s go play. Let’s go and play.” We ice skate, we ski, we trek, we do snow angels, we do road trips. People just don’t do holidays like that. They go to the islands and they sit in the sun. I couldn’t think of anything … Although hiking in the sun … But just, yeah.
I know I could go on and on but I’m not happy that I have inspired some people to go, “Hey, maybe I’m not aware of my body and what’s happening and what foods I should be eating and that I should ground by going barefoot.” I’m not the hippy, I was … You think you’re the hippy but look at me. I dress well.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, exactly, straight from Nimbin.
Cyndi O’Meara: You think?
Stuart Cooke: Like you said, it’s holistic so in order to be able to do all these wonderful things in play, you have to have the energy for that and in order to get the energy for that, you really do have to eat the foods that provide you the energy and you have to get the sleep that, again, affords your body to rest and recuperate to give you the energy to do all these wonderful things. It’s holistic so yeah, absolutely. [00:54:00]
Guy Lawrence: Brilliant. It’s a brilliant message Cyndi, absolutely.
Cyndi O’Meara: Thank you.
Guy Lawrence: Now, we’ve got 2 wrap up questions we ask everyone on the podcast so I thought I’d get into them. The first one is could you tell us what you ate yesterday just to give people an idea or even this morning for breakfast if you’ve had breakfast?
Cyndi O’Meara: Okay. Let me do yesterday’s breakfast because everybody was at the farm. I cooked up, so I laid down lettuce, avocado, tomato, I had made up some pesto and I had just made a tomato chutney, so I laid that out on a plate. Then I fried up some sage, so I had some fresh sage so I fried that up in butter, put that on the plate then I had some leftover pumpkin from the night before so I put some pumpkin. I heated it up and put that on the plate and then I scrambled up some egg with some parsley and put that on the plate.
That was breakfast and then I went to a friend’s place who lives off the grid and is very alternate. I had a late breakfast and for dinner, I had … He made a paella. He’s a medical doctor, a GP, integrative medical doctor. He’s very Keto and Paleo but he made me a paella with rice. I’m like, “Huh, that’s amazing,” and that was with all sorts of sea foods. That was my meal yesterday and I’m not about how much I can eat.
I’m about how little I can eat and still feel amazing. I think to say I need to increase my metabolism so I can eat more, I just think we’re at the wrong end. I would rather eat less and live longer eating more than eating more in a day. I look at sometimes what I eat in a day and it might be just [tart eggs 00:55:48]. I might just feel like tart egg.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, you’re just tuned in and listen to your body and if you’re hungry, you eat and if you’re not, you don’t.
Cyndi O’Meara: Yeah.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic. The last question, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? [00:56:00]
Cyndi O’Meara: When I was 19, I was working for my dad in Bendigo, Victoria as a chiropractic assistant. This lady from Colorado came to me. She was a chiropractor’s wife, oh, and I think she was a chiropractor as well. They were coming and they were … She was … I don’t know where I was but I remember her saying this to me, “You’re a smart girl. What are you doing in a town like this doing nothing with your life?”
She went back to Colorado, showed me where I could ski and the university I needed to go to which was in Boulder and she changed my life. I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have her make that comment to me. That was a defining moment in my life, very … Yeah. I’m still in touch with her, Katie Felicia was her name and she works in Colorado Springs and I saw her a couple of years ago. Yeah, that was probably it.
Stuart Cooke: Fantastic.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic, yeah. Somebody give you a little budge and it all changes.
Cyndi O’Meara: Yeah.
Guy Lawrence: Awesome, and for anyone listening to this, where would be the best place to go to get more of you Cyndi?
Cyndi O’Meara: Just changing habits dot com dot au is my website and there’s everything in there, how you get on Instagram and how you get on Facebook, how you get on Twitter feeds, how to get to the education, what foods I have, my podcasts because we do podcasts. We’ve been going 2½ years now called Up For a Chat. Yeah, it’s all there so [crosstalk 00:57:40].
Guy Lawrence: Perfect. We’ll lead to it all anyway. You mentioned a documentary. When will that be out?
Cyndi O’Meara: That will be out late March next year, so we’ve done all the filming for it. We’re not just in the editing stages and the storytelling and the story, I think it will get a lot of people thinking really about what they’re doing. That’s my [00:58:00] aim, so it’s called What’s With Weight? We have all have a website called What’s With Weight but that’s not up and running yet. That will be the end of March. Get on my feeds and I will tell you what’s happening.
Guy Lawrence: Keep everyone posted, yeah.
Cyndi O’Meara: Yeah. I’ll keep everyone posted including you guys.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic. Yeah, let us know.
Stuart Cooke: Please do.
Cyndi O’Meara: Yeah.
Guy Lawrence: For sure. If we can help, we will absolutely.
Cyndi O’Meara: Thank you, appreciate it.
Guy Lawrence: Well, that’s it. Thank you very much for coming on the show Cyndi. That was awesome.
Cyndi O’Meara: Thank you.
Guy Lawrence: Really appreciate it.
Stuart Cooke: Yap. Take care and we hope to hook up with you in person outside of the cyber world very soon.
Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.
They say you learn something new everyday, well we certainly did with todays guest! If you or anyone you know are struggling with symptoms like IBS, food allergies and intolerances, acid reflux, migraines, hives, insomnia, chronic fatigue (the list goes on!)… then looking into and understanding histamine intolerance is well worth your time.
Ex-CNN/BBC journalist shares with us how she heals her chronic inflammatory condition.
We have another awesome guest for you in store today and her name is Yasmina Ykelenstam. She’s an ex-journalist with over 10 years research and international news production experience for people such as 60 Minutes, CNN and the BBC, so she knows how important it is to get her facts straight!
In 2008, after 20 years of being misdiagnosed with everything under the sun, she was forced to quit a career of a lifetime after seeing over 68 doctors. In 2010 she was finally diagnosed with histamine intolerance. Yasmina then embarks on a mission to get to the bottom of it all with the help of nutrition, lifestyle, meditation and a different approach to exercise… Prepare to be inspired!
Full Interview: Histamine, Food Allergies, Skin Care & Meditation
In This Episode:
From journalist to health advocate; her story
What is histamine & the role it plays
How to test for histamine intolerance [07:28]
Why fermented foods were not the best choice
The ‘Natures Cosmetics’ she uses for her skin
Why meditation has played a big part in her recovery
Guy:Hi this is Guy Lawrence of 180 Nutrition and welcome to today’s health session. We have another awesome guest for you in store today and her name is Yasmina Ykelenstam. She’s an ex-journalist with over 10 years research and international news production experience for people such as 60 Minutes, CNN and the BBC so she knows how important it is to get her facts straight which is a big one and she has an amazing story to share with us today.
In a nutshell, in 2008, after 20 years of being misdiagnosed with everything under the sun, she was forced to quit a career of a lifetime after seeing over 68 doctors she reckons. In 2010 she was finally diagnosed with histamine intolerance. If you’re unsure what histamine is don’t worry about it, I think it’s actually really relevant for everyone and we do explain there in the podcast today and Yasmina’s explanation is going to be much better than mine so hold for to that.
She goes into that, how she’s radically changed her nutrition and lifestyle, her exercise approach and started including meditation as well, which I will add and we do discuss all awesome topics and how she’s pulled her life around and is a great example of what a bit of determination can do and change and now she’s out there spreading the word as a low histamine chef and doing an awesome job of it and we were just very privileged and proud to have her on the podcast today and she was a lot of fun, she was great, superly down to earth. Superly, could I say that word? Anyway I’ll stay with it. Top girl, great to have her and you will get a lot out of it to enjoy. Of course any feedback please send us back to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can go into our Facebook page, 180 Nutrition write on the wall. We generally get round to them all as [00:02:00] quick as possible.
This is the part where I’m going to ask for a review, I do it every episode and I probably will just leave it at that. If you enjoy the podcast leave us a review on iTunes and they really are appreciated. Anyway, let’s go over to Yasmina and the low histamine chef, enjoy. Okay, let’s go for it.
Hi this is Guy Lawrence, I’m joined with Stewart Cook, hi Stu.
Guy:Our fantastic guest today is Yasmina Ykelenstam. Did I pronounce that correct?
Guy:Ykelestam and I even practiced it before the show as well oh God, hopeless. Thank you so much for coming on the show today Yasmina. We’ve got some amazing topics to cover, but more importantly could you share your absolutely fascinating story with us as well and our listeners because it think it’s just fantastic.
Yasmina:I’ve been sick most of my life, on and off, with strange symptoms, allergy-like flues that weren’t flues, IBS, hives those kind of things. Then it really intensified when I was a journalist working in war zones in Iraq and Lebanon and eventually it got so bad that I had to quit my job and I had to find a career, a business that I could run from my bed basically which was I did some marketing and I used to pull on a shirt pretend I was sitting up in an office but really I’d be lying in my bed because I was so sick and nobody could tell me what it was.
Then finally I came across some woman in a … Not some woman, she’s a very good friend of mine, she’s also a blogger too and she told me it might be a histamine issue. I was in Bangkok at this point and I flew straight from Bangkok via New York, all the way to London and I got a diagnosis of something called histamine intolerance which I will get into in a minute and then it was I was then re-diagnosed with something called mast cell [00:04:00] activation. It’s not really clear, I seem to have both or maybe they are kind of the same thing but in any case it all worked out in the end and I’m feeling much better.
Guy:How long ago was that Yasmina?
Yasmina:The first was in 2010 and then the second diagnosis was in 2013.
Stu:There you go.
Stu:For everybody out there so for our listeners who are unfamiliar with histamine, now in my very limited knowledge I’m thinking it’s the kind of reactions that I used to get when I had high fever as a child, with stuffy, itchy, watery eyes and I just want to … Could you just touch on the role of histamine, what it is, what it does to the body?
Yasmina:That’s basically it. Histamine, we are used to hearing about anti-histamines, most people have histamine reactions. Histamine is an inflammatory molecule that lives in mast cells which are part of our white blood cell system. But it’s also found in foods. Histamine’s job is if there is some healing that needs to be done, the mast cells break open and histamine and other inflammatory mediators go to the site of the infection and begin the healing process. But as I said, it’s also found in foods, but also, histamine’s role is diverse in the body. As I said, it’s an important player in the healing process, it’s a neurotransmitter which affects serotonin and dopamine, it plays a role in our metabolism in weight gain and weight loss, it’s part of the digestive process and it also helps set the circadian rhythm so our wakefulness cycle and it’s now been shown to be involved in narcolepsy.
Guy:Wow. What would the symptoms be of histamine intolerance? Everything? [00:06:00].
Yasmina:Pretty much everything which is why it takes an average, I’m going to use mast cell activation as an example here but it takes up to a decade or rather an average of a decade for the average woman to be diagnosed with mast cell activation which is related to histamine intolerance. A decade because the symptoms are so incredibly diverse and they rotate, and they migrate from different parts of the body as different clusters of mast cells become activated and depending on diet, which part of the world you live in.
In any case, here are some common symptoms, there are literally dozens of symptoms. I had 55 symptoms that were directly attributable to histamine intolerance or mast cell activation. Here are a couple of them otherwise we’ll be here all night. There’s IBS, acid reflux, food intolerance-like issues, migraines, hives, insomnia, blurry vision, palpitations, chronic fatigue, intolerances to extremes in temperature, and inability to fly in planes because of the vibration and changes in pressure, food allergy-like symptoms and in the extreme, idiopathic anti-epileptic shock, idiopathic meaning we don’t know why.
Stu:Okay, well, given that very varied and almost crazy list of symptoms, how can we test for it?
Yasmina:With difficulty, the first step is finding someone who believes you and on my website, there’s a post which you can print off medical studies and take them to a doctor with you but I’ll tell you how to get there later. I’ll start will histamine intolerance. Histamine intolerance is generally diagnosed by a high blood plasma which is the overall [00:08:00] amount of histamine in your blood. A result of a low di-amine oxidase enzyme in the body. Di-amine oxidase is one of 2 histamine lowering enzymes, it’s also known as DAO. The other is HNMT but that right now can only be tested for in your genetic profile and some people say that the only definite way to diagnose this is by having a decrease in symptoms when going on a 4 week histamine elimination diet.
Some people, a lot of people walk away with a false negative from the testing for this because there’s many causes for histamine issues, you don’t have to have low DAO and your plasma histamine can be low one day and very high the next depending on your stress levels, what you’ve been eating, all that kind of stuff. Generally I would say, look for allergy-like symptoms with negative allergy tests and by these I mean IGE testing rather than IGG which is the food sensitivity testing.
As I said, plasma histamine fluctuates so it’s a little difficult. Also there is the issue that you can have a relatively normal histamine level but if your other inflammatory mediators are elevated, such as prostaglandin, interleukins, leukotrienes, that kind of thing, the other inflammatory mediators that are also housed in the mast cells along with the histamine, they can potentiate whatever level there is of histamine. If there is already some kind of inflammation going on, let’s say the histamine is normal, prostaglandins can enhance the effects of any histamine that’s being released in the body. Plus if you have excess leukotrines, that then enhances the prostaglandins and the histamines.
Just testing for plasma histamine is not very [00:10:00] reliable. For mast cell activation syndrome, it’s urinary test of n-methyl histamine. It’s a 24-hour test so you get an idea of the level throughout the day. It’s the prostaglandins, the other inflammatory mediators I just mediators that I just mentioned, and then something that’s also very important in my view is I’m finding more and more people are having a problem with something called oxalic acid which is found in plants. It’s a plant defense mechanism and it can cause major inflammation in people who are already dealing with some kind of inflammation.
It’s found in kale, almond, celery, zucchini, for example. What happens is when we get sick, we try and get really, really healthy and so a lot of what we do is we eat high histamine foods, by accident the avocados, the tomatoes, the pineapples, because we’re told all these are great for us and lots of nuts and all of that, they’re also high histamine, then we are adding lots of oxalic acid into the mix with the kale, the almonds, all of these wonderful plant foods. If there is an existing inflammation issue, these can temporarily aggravate the issue. I’m not saying don’t eat these foods, these are all the foods that I eat, but it’s good to be aware of it.
Guy:Wow. There’s a couple of things that spring into mind, the first thing is I’m going to have to listen to that again once I get off this conversation to make sure I fully understand what you just said. But on top of that, where would you start? Because you’re naming foods that people assume are healthy so unless you get the diagnosis correct, you could be continually triggering this inflammational problem off from the get-go without even realizing it.
Stu:Another point is well, I’m thinking Yasmina from a bloke’s perspective, my blokey way to fix that would be to run down to the chemist, get some Claritin, take a swig of [00:12:00] Claritin and see what happens. Does that fix it? That kind of … Well, maybe it’s a histamine problem if Claritin works.
Yasmina:You know, funnily enough that was my ex-boyfriend’s logic which was just take a few fistfuls of antihistamines and if it works it works. By this point I was already on a few antihistamines a day. He said, “Well how come that’s not working for you? This obviously isn’t it.” Poor thing was just used to hearing me talking about different theories about what was wrong with me and he had just had enough. He’s just like, this girl is just a hypochondriac. Which is why most of us get sent to psychiatrists actually because we’re told it’s psychosomatic.
The antihistamine issue, that’s a very good point, but there are actually 4 histamine receptors in the body. Claritin, for example, and most antihistamines work on the H1 receptor which to really oversimplify things means the respiratory system. You have a fever, you get [sniffly 00:13:00], you can’t really breathe, they give you an H1 blocker and that dries up your nose and it blocks that histamine receptor. But there’s the other 3 histamine receptors.
The H2 receptor is, again, oversimplifying, is to do with the digestive system. If you have a person who’s suffering mostly from digestive issues, they don’t really know and if they go to a doctor who doesn’t specialize in mast cell issues, they might be told, well take an H1 blocker and your symptoms should dissipate but the fact is if it’s digestive issues, an H1 blocker isn’t going to do anything.
Then there’s the added problem that a number of the doctors I’ve spoken with including Dr. Janice Joneja who is a pioneering immunology researcher who was one of the first people to research histamine issues, a concern with antihistamines is that throwing the histamine receptors out of whack can cause more histamine release into [00:14:00] the body basically. First of all you have the rebound effect which is when the antihistamine wears off, the body produces more histamine to make up for the shortfall. There’s lots of different reasons that that might not necessarily work.
That is also an issue with the histamine elimination diet by the way. A lot of people feel better after 4 weeks, myself included, and then they think, well, I’m just going to stay on it because I feel better. Then what happens is, you just keep losing foods, and losing foods, and losing foods and you’re even reacting to the low histamine foods and you’re like, oh my god, I’m just so histamine sensitive that I literally, I cannot be in a room with any histamine. Well no, the fact is your body keeps producing more and more … This is one of the theories that your body produces more histamine because you need the histamine for so many essential functions in the body and I keep trying to share with people that histamine is a good thing, it’s our friend, we just don’t want too much of it so we need to be careful, we need to find ways to balance the histamine.
Stu:If I was completely distraught and in a very similar place to where you were and said to you, just tell me one thing. What do I do right now? What one thing can I do right now? What would you advise?
Stu:Right, because we do have another question about mental stress as a trigger so [crosstalk 00:15:28].
Guy:I’ve got a question for you off the back of that. Why do you think you got if from the first place? From what?
Yasmina:There’s many different theories as to why people develop histamine issues. One is genetics, they are finding people with mast cell activation … I keep referring back to mast cell activation because we have research on that. unfortunately histamine intolerance is being treated by nutritionists and holistic practitioners … I’m not [00:16:00] saying that this is not a valid way of dealing with it, I’m saying that these people don’t normally release medical studies so we don’t have anything concrete to go by. I’m a big believer in holistic methods of treatment, just I would like the research to be able to talk to it about people. Oh no, I’ve just lost my train of thought. I did say I woke up very early today.
Guy:It’s very late over there in Paris too. That’s cool. Because I’m jumping around [crosstalk 00:16:33].
Stu:We’re on the topic of meditation and how you first thought that you came to … Where the histamine came from in the first place for you.
Yasmina:Right. We have the genetic aspect which is that in mast cell activation studies they are finding that people who have high inflammatory mediators, it runs in the families. This would apply to histamine intolerance as well, one would assume. Then there’s exposure to pesticides, to chemicals, there is viral infections. For example there’s a theory that you could have some sort of childhood virus and your immune system, once it’s dealt with, remains hyper activated. The immune system just stays in overdrive believing that there’s something to continually be dealing with but in some cases that could be true, some people have childhood viruses that remain in adult years but it remains dormant in the body unless there’s some sort of major health event in which case it can reactive.
Food poisoning has been said to potentially trigger it. Serve cases of food poisoning and serve illness of some kind, operations, that kind of thing, again the immune system remaining in overdrive [00:18:00] and trauma. I was listening to a very interesting talk by a doctor, I believe it was Milner and he was saying that the majority of his patients, they came to him and they say, I don’t know, I was so healthy, everything was going totally right, and then suddenly this traumatic event happened in my life, a car accident, a husband dying, a child dying, some sort of personal incident, and that is what triggers the mast cell or the histamine activation, which is not an uncommon thing.
There’s a great book called The Last Best cure in which the author who is a science journalist herself, she shares a questionnaire developed by a medical company in the States that can actually predict how likely you are to develop an immune system dysfunction based on the level of trauma you have had in your life. When I read the book, I just thought, okay, I grew up during a war and I went to war as an adult 3 wars. I haven’t really had really traumatic events like some people have. Some people have had really terrible, terrible things happening to them. But then I read the questionnaire, it was like, did you move once, more than once every 5 years before the age of 11? Did you ever hear your parents fighting in the next room? Did one of your pets die before you were the age of 8? I just thought, wow, I’m in trouble and I scored off the charts, off the charts.
Stu:To me when I heard what you did as a journalist, I thought, my god that’s stressful. For me personally, from an outsider looking in, I don’t know how stressful it was.
Yasmina:It was highly stressful and …
Guy:Just thinking about the sources of [00:20:00] histamine triggers as well. Outside of food, personal body care products, sun screens, all that kind of thing, would that fall into that category as well?
Yasmina:Yeah, absolutely. Bath products, even so called natural products like cocamidol betaine which I can never pronounce and the SLS which we now know are not so great for us, and various other products can cause immune system disruption that can affect the mast cells. When you consider that what we put on to our skin, I heard 60% of what we put onto our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream. That figure is contentious but it’s interesting to think. I had not really considered it before although it made complete sense.
But the good news is that when you consider that beauty products have lead in them which we thought was an urban myth but was then proven to be the case and there was a big expose on it in the New York Times, people had always told me, “No, no, no, it’s a myth, it’s a myth, it’s a myth.” It’s not a myth. When women are eating, I think it was 5 pounds of lipstick a year, it all adds up. The good news is that although there are things that can trigger us, there are other things that we can put on our skin that make us better such as moringa oil which is a natural anti anaphylactic and an antihistamine. There’s pomegranate seed oil which increases collagen production but is also an antihistamine. You have brands like Dr. Alkaitis, their product is so pure you can eat it. You can eat it. I have eaten their almond face cleanser just out of curiosity to say that I did.
There’s RMS beauty created by a woman who had multiple chemical sensitivity, she actually does the makeup for the Victoria Secret Angels, and she created this amazing range of beauty products with just the most incredible raw beauty products that treat the skin in an anti-inflammatory way and there is 100% pure which is … I don’t get anything for mentioning these things. I hope it’s okay, I just want to …
Guy:Go for it. Help people yeah.
Yasmina:Yes. 100% pure, it’s an American brand but you can buy it all over the world and their products are the cleanest I have found anywhere. Even though people write to me and they’re like, Oh so you use 100% pure but it has tomato in it. Well, when you compare a little bit of tomato or a little bit of strawberry in a face cream to phenol-exo-hetra-tetra-cyclne-adol, you know I’m just pulling from air. I know which my body triggers to more and it’s not a little bit of tomato or strawberry.
Guy:Yeah, right. To pull it back, with everything that can trigger histamine, which is incredible really when you think about it you’d be afraid to go out the door sometimes.
Yasmina:I used to be. I used to wear a mask. I was one of those weirdoes.
Guy:That’s amazing. With Steward then asking, what’s the one thing you can do right now and your answer was mediation, my question would be why probably because I sidetracked this conversation 10 minutes [crosstalk 00:23:28].
Yasmina:No worries. My life fell apart and interestingly I had my genetic profile read by somebody and I carefully chose someone because I didn’t want somebody who was sell me thousands of dollars of supplements. But I told him, look, I just want to know about the mast cell stuff, I don’t want to know about any other health issues and he says to me, “That’s very unusual, nobody’s ever told me that. You know, just ignore everything else, I just want to know about this.”
I said, “Well, you know, I, I am a high stress person, you know, [00:24:00] especially when it comes to my health and I really don’t want to know anything else because the likelihood is I’m, I’m just not going to be able to deal with it right now.” When we spoke, he started first of all by laughing at me, and I said, “What’s up?” He said, :I can now understand why you made that request. In your genetic profile, every possible gene relating to stress is in your genetic profile.” He said, “It’s my belief that you should be able to control your symptoms through stress release.”
Funnily enough about 2 years before that I had started meditation after reading this book The Last Best Cure. I was told that … I’ll come back to this later but I started meditating and I started noticing some positive changes, lots of positive changes. Then I reached the point where I thought I’m eating 5 foods, this is not working because I’m terrified of eating anything else. I came up with this really, really, crazy idea, I had been on a meditation retreat for a week and after years of restriction and misery, I ate everything I wanted on that mediation retreat. It was all vegan, it was all made from scratch there was no tofu, it was super, super healthy whole foods. I ate it all and I was fine and I just though, this is the key, this is the key. At the time, I just thought, right, this is how I’m going to get my life back. I’m done with sitting at home, I am done with not being social, I am done with thinking that my life is over…
I had made so much progress and happiness and feeling better about things but really was still stuck in this mindset of I’m never going to get better. There is only so much better I’m going to get and maybe I’ve already reached there. I read The Last Best Cure and she talked about [00:26:00] how meditation fights inflammation. I just thought, that’s when I went on the mediation retreat and after that, I came up with this idea that I could re-introduce foods as long as I stayed calm while I was reintroducing them.
I’m not suggesting anyone else try this, I don’t have any message to sell people on how to do this, talk to your doctor, your shaman, your whatever, your witch doctor but get a medical person on board. What I did was I did a risky thing, I took a bowl of strawberries and I had gone into anaphylactic shock from having 1 strawberry a few years earlier. My health was a lot better at this point. I was no longer fearful of going into regular anaphylactic shock. I have to say that I was much, much, better than I used to be.
I did a mediation, mindfulness mediation at the dinner table 15 minutes and then I started eating the strawberries one after the other, mindfully, really being in the moment, being in the experience. Just not allowing the fear and the dizziness and the anguish that accompanied every single meal in the last few years, I just let that all out. I experienced it and I saw it there in front of me and I made my peace with it. I actually said to myself, you know what? At this moment, I’m okay with letting go. Whatever happens, happens because I’m at peace. I haven’t experienced many moments like that since but it was an incredible moment and I just let go of the fear and I ate the bowl of strawberries and [inaudible 00:27:46]. That was [inaudible 00:27:48] for me.
Maybe I would have survived anyway, but the point is, I had set something in motion whereby I had told my brain and my body [00:28:00] that this was the key and my unwavering, unshatterable belief that this was going to heal me, was possibly a placebo effect but the fact is, if anyone can find that one belief, even if it’s the eating McDonald’s every day is going to heal you, it might work for a time anyway but there are more sensible ways to do it. Mine seems to have a lasting effect so far, nobody can predict the future but the point is the meditation has brought me peace and acceptance. It doesn’t mean that I’m not going to continue fighting for my life but for my recovering but I have made my peace with however it is that I wake up on any given day.
Stu:Well that is fantastic. Do you continue to eat strawberries today?
Yasmina:I do, I eat a lot worse that strawberries.
Stewart:No it sound like you certainly got a strategy that works for you. In terms of knowing where to start, there’s so much to do to try and get your head around what might be happening, what you could do. If I wanted to gravitate to perhaps some natural antihistamine foods, where would I start? What would be the best ingredients to choose?
Yasmina:That’s my personal choice is starting with those foods, so plentiful in nature. Really, I think if I had grown up in Lebanon where my mother is from where the food is just natural, you just literally just pluck it from the tree and put it on the table. My mother always commented, “When we used to go to Beirut, you never had any food issues.” She was right. That’s also because the diet was rich in these following foods.
What I have found to be my most powerful ally and that for many of my readers are bioflavonoids, quercetin, rutin [00:30:00] and luteolin. They are found in plants. They are what’s called mast cell stabilisers. There has been some amazing research by a doctor in the States, Dr. Theoharidis at Tufts. He’s funded by the National Institute of Health, he has over 300 studies on mast cells, mast cell activation and he found that these bioflavonoids, in particular, quercetin and luteolin, quercetin, the study was done on, is as powerful as the most commonly prescribed medication for stabilizing mast cells to prevent histamine release. But this is also applicable to people with histamine intolerance because quercetin acts as an antihistamine, so it works in preventing the mast cells from releasing histamine that’s in the body already and it acts as an antihistamine so when we eat dietary histamine, it doesn’t bind to the receptor in the body. It doesn’t appear to have the same side effects as antihistamines.
In any case, you can find these bioflavonoids in fresh green herbs. I eat so many green herbs. People watch me cooking and they’re like, when do you stop putting, I don’t see you measuring anything? How do you measure the herbs? I say, when it tests like one more handful is going to make things taste funky then I stop. Fresh green herbs, things like sweet potato, butter nut, squash, broccoli, most brightly colored vegetables and greens. The thing is, it gets a little confusing because you’ll have a lot of articles that say things like pineapple is an antihistamine, tomatoes are antihistamines, well those foods are found on the high histamine food list. That’s’ because partially because different parts of the fruit or the food can have different properties. The leaf can have one property, but the fruit itself can have others. Is it the combination of other nutrients or the lack of nutrients or the sugar? Things like that.
Raspberries for example are on [00:32:00] list as high histamine but they’re also a good source of quercetin. People say, well, they have quercetin but there’s an … I look for foods that have these qualities. My first choice would be rather than eating tomato ketchup, which is a processed food and is also high histamine, I will have a bowlful of raspberries because they do have some quercetin, they are anti-inflammatory but they are slightly higher histamine than blue berries for example. As I said, severe histamine restriction is not a great idea. What I do is I try and balance things by including as much of these antihistamine foods as possible, to balance out the higher histamine foods that I eat.
Stewart:Would non-organic plants and vegetable be an issue? I’m thinking along the lines of pesticides because not all of us, me included, can afford to feed a family fully organic. It gets crazy. I really increase the amount of fruit, many veggies really, I eat lots of veggies but I’m thinking, I’m washing and scrubbing but I still think they’re loaded with pesticides and nasties.
Yasmina:Yeah, scrubbing them only does so much because it’s inside the food but yes. Pesticides would be an immune system trigger which would exacerbate the histamine or mast cell issues, but at the same time, yes, it is expensive. I try and eat as much as I can organic, there have been some studies that have show that quercetin levels may be higher in organic vegetable and in organic farming. I can’t remember the reason why and that was contentious also. That was just one study.
What [00:34:00] I do is take the list of the most heavily contaminated foods and try and eat those organic and then eat the rest conventional farming. There’s money saving strategies like I eat an incredible amount of herbs and they are not always in season so what I do is I buy in bulk and I freeze. I chop them up and I freeze them. Then that gives me a year’s supply. You can go to farms and make some kind of deal with then … If you have anybody local, you can get vegetable boxes, you can … It’s tough, I would say that I spend most of the money I earn on food.
Guy:But you feel a lot better for it though right, so it’s?
Yasmina:I do but it’s a delicate balance eating a little bit left overs [inaudible 00:34:52].
Guy:What about fermented foods? Because I hear they can be a catalyst for histamine triggering as well.
Yasmina:Fermented foods a double-edged sword absolutely. We’re told they are the best way to heal the gut and yet they cause histamine release because of the bacteria. A lot of people arrive finally at histamine tolerance diagnosis or the suspicion that being what they have because they were on a highly fermented diet such as the guts for example. The interesting thing is a lot of people are eating the fermented foods to heal the gut but new research tells us that there is a mast cell involved to leaky gut, therefore quercetin and other approaches to mediating histamine and mast cell issues could be applicable to leaky gut and I had horrific, horrific, horrific leaky gut symptoms and I have to use the real name here, intestinal permeability because if we want people to take us seriously we need to use names that doctors will pay attention to.
[00:36:00] I managed to heal mine in my opinion, it might have been other factors as well but I didn’t do any L-glutamine, I didn’t do any fermented foods, I didn’t do any bone broths. Just generally I think that anyone who says that they have a healing protocol that will definitely work for you, is a little delusional or lying or has the best intentions but just we’re all different.
Guy:100%. We hear that all the time with diet too. This is the diet, this is … It’s like come on guys, really? Yeah.
Yasmina:Exactly. The first thing I tell people is the histamine lists are terrifying. Forget sticking to any one dietary dogma, forget about sticking to list. Make your own lists of foods. Trial and error, make a list of symptoms, IBS, blurred vision, blah, blah, blah. Don’t do a food diary because that’s just setting yourself up for failure. It’s like eating something and then sitting there with a notepad, what’s going on in my body? What’s going on in my body right now? Oh, I twitched, I twitched, okay.
It’s like the research on how concert violinists for example, they put them in MRI machines and the parts of the brain that get denser with neurons, the more they practice, that kind of thing. You become better at playing the violin the denser that these neurons become because you’re spending more time, more time, more time. We have become virtuosos if of our sickness. We’ve spent so much time focusing inwards, looking at what is going on in our bodies, looking for what’s going wrong. We’re intensifying our perception of these things. That is my experience, my own experience and I’ve seen it in others. That’s one of the amazing things about mediation. At times, when my symptoms were at their worst, I would go into [00:38:00] the discomfort and just accept it and release it. It’s absolutely mind-blowing.
Guy:The mindset’s massive, it’s massive. I think of Tom Gabriel when he spoke on our podcast and he was talking about chemotherapy, once somebody was diagnosed with cancer they did a study, about 30% of the people were starting to lose their hair before they even started the chemo because they were just going in and just absolutely terrifying themselves, and the body takes over, which is fascinating.
Yasmina:There was an article I was just quoted in yesterday that was on US world news, the website and world news and reporters, I can’t remember right now, sorry. But it was on the nocebo effect. The evil twin of the placebo effect. Yeah, absolutely, expect to react and you probably will.
Guy:While we’re on the topic, for any of the listeners recommend listening to our podcast with Dr. Joe Dispenza because he actually wrote a book recently called You are the Placebo. I’ve read it. He was an awesome guy but he explains that really well in the podcast so if anyone wants to check that out they can too. Yeah, let’s do it.
Stewart:I have a question. Do you support your diet with any off-the-shelf supplements?
Yasmina:I do. Again, these might not work for everybody and I’m certainly not a doctor so please don’t run off and buy these but to discuss them with a medical professional. I started out taking quercetin by a brand called Twin Lab T-W-I-N L-A-B and quercetin with vitamin C. initially I was told that vitamin C was great for histamine and mast cell issues but I reacted to all vitamin C and I thought, wow, wow, that’s another thing I [00:40:00] can’t take. But then I realized that ascorbic acid is often made from fermented corn. Fermented number 1 and corn, which is highly allergenic and is a trigger for many people.
I found the Twin Lab, coincidentally which has the vitamin C that’s made from ascorbyl palmitate, which is made from palm trees and to my knowledge is not actually fermented. That was just great. I stated taking that and then I became aware of a stronger quercetin and luteolin supplement developed by Dr. Theoharides who I talked about earlier and the mast cell researcher. He created this supplement and it changed my life.
People say that you can’t work your way up to a therapeutic dose of quercetin and luteolin through your diet. My argument to that is, well if you eat nothing but quercetin and luteolin rich foods you’re hedging your bets anyway. Even if the quercetin isn’t doing anything you have all these amazing plants foods and you’re not ingesting any garbage so you’re giving your body a fighting chance. This neuroprotek perhaps in combination with the diet, really, really changed my life. The one symptom I forget to mention earlier that is such a huge problem for many of us and was my absolute nightmare as a journalist, imagine this, brain fog and memory loss. A journalist with brain fog and memory loss in war zones.
Stewart:Not the ideal situation.
Guy:No. Eventually that played a huge part in why I left journalism because I worried that I was endangering myself and others by being out in the field. Yes the neuroprotek cleared my brain fog up entirely. Again, in combination with diet I’m sure, and it doesn’t work overnight. Dr. Theoharides told me it will take about 6 months for it to kick in, [00:42:00] and it did take 6 months for it to properly start working. All kinds of people are using it now. People with autistic kids are using it for them because … I’m not entirely sure the length of it.
Stewart:That was neuroprotek was that?
Stewart:For anybody wanting to access that, is that readily available on the internet?
Yasmina:It is. They sell through Amazon and also through their website. You can just google it or google Dr. Theoharidis, it should come up. Oh god, I’ll have to spell that name.
Stewart:Yeah, it doesn’t sound easy.
Yasmina:Vitamin C also [mangosteen 00:42:39] I started taking when all my hair fell out and I lost most of my hair, it was quite traumatic but that turned out to be combination of shampoo and inflammation generally and [mangosteen 00:42:50] and a little bit of vitamin B12. The [mangosteen 00:42:54] is an antihistamine, it’s a mast cell stabilizer and it also inhibits the synthesis of prostaglandins from mast cells. Histamine when it’s released, prostaglandin is synthesized as the histamine is released and they augment each other. I theorized that dealing with the prostaglandin would help with the histamine reactions and it also apparently helped my hair grow back. Prostaglandin D2, excess prostaglandin D2 is often to blame for male baldness or plays a role in it, just to remind you.
Guy:It sounds like you’ve been through so much. How do you feel now after everything listed-?
Yasmina:I feel like it was my scariest war and I felt very much like a soldier having been, well, perhaps on a crusade for many, many, many decades and I just turned 40 this year, and I’m now finally [00:44:00] experiencing health, good health for the first time since I was maybe 8 years old and it’s pretty amazing. I used to feel quite buttered and angry. I was very, very angry. I was so angry, I had the shortest fuse on the planet, I would just scream at the drop of a hat. Journalism didn’t help that very much working in war zones and being in horrible situations where you have to evacuate a team or deal with incoming fire, but there’s no room for politeness in most situations. It’s just all changed and I’m happy and peaceful and I let go of my anger. I was very angry with doctors, who didn’t spot the sickness and I was angry with … I was just angry with life and now, I don’t know. It’s so much-
Guy:That’s amazing. I know you’re inspiring so many other people with your own message which is fantastic.
Stewart:Just thinking that we’ve spoken lots about food and the catalysts for histamine reactions. Given the impact that mediation has had on your body as well, what about exercise? Because exercise can be a stresser on the body as well, so what do you do?
Yasmina:Absolutely and I wish somebody had told me this. It was very frustrating to exercise, exercise, exercise and eat really well and gain weight for most of your life. I now know it was inflammation and stress on the body and I was doing the wrong kinds of exercise. There are a lot of people with histamine … Histamine can make you collapse if you exercise too intensely. Running, lots of cardio, maybe football, things like that. Lots of cardio can upset your histamine levels [00:46:00] and cause it to spike. Now generally inflammation spikes for up to 72 hours after intense exercise as the muscles break down and the repair themselves. That causes inflammation.
In the long-term, it’s anti-inflammatory. Now for somebody who has a histamine issue, that temporary spike and inflammation can be very detrimental or even a little bit scary. I used to pass out on the treadmill, I would lose feeling in my hands and my feet. Just really horrible things. Then I read the research … That stopped me exercising for many years. I didn’t know what was going on but I became frightened of exercise and it turned out to be a great excuse because I can be quite lazy by nature. Couch potato, it was a pastime.
Eventually, I found the research on how to exercise without causing a histamine spike and it turned out that exercises in which you use your own weight, such as yoga, Pilates, things like that, or lifting weights calmly, without cardio will not cause that histamine spike. I went back to yoga. I used to practice yoga in 2000 and when I’d just started out working for CNN and although I loved it and I was doing Ashtanga which is fast paced, is the power yoga. I told my aunt one day, I just need to beat the crap out of something. I love yoga but I feel like I’m in class and I just want to beat somebody up. I think I just need something a bit more dynamic so I went to kickboxing.
I went back to kickboxing last year mostly just to prove to myself that I could. [00:48:00]I started running again, I started kick boxing. I was doing an hour and a half a day of kickboxing. I felt great. I could do it. But then the strangest thing happened, I started feeling like I wanted to beat people up again.
Yasmina:I realized the stress hormones were just causing, because stress hormones cause mast cells to break open and dump inflammation into the body. If the mast cells are in the brain when that happens, than can affect your other neurotransmitters. It can make you aggressive, it can make you depressed, it can do so many things to the brain and it’s a topic that’s starting to be researched more now. If you go on the internet and you type in, inflammation and depression, you’ll have tons of results. I was misdiagnosed as bipolar. I believe it was a miss diagnosis because as soon as I changed my diet, I had no more episodes. Over the course of 6 months, the episodes stopped. I was a rapid cycler. I would be laughing, I would be a great mood and then suddenly bang, I’d be screaming, I’d be angry, yeah, I’m going … The beast would come out and then I’d start crying.
Stewart:Wanting to beat people is okay when you got the skills to do that so you’re on the right track.
Yasmina:Eventually I realized that the key was yoga. It combines the mediation, you’re using your own weight and even if it is cardio, the immediate inflammatory benefits counteract or seem to, at least for me and the many, many others of my readers who do yoga, it’s very, very popular, instinctively, some people just know that yoga was a big part of it for them and that they [00:50:00] needed to go do it.
Guy:It almost seems like inflammation is at the root cause of everything. It all traces back to inflammation, essentially.
Yasmina:Yeah, but I worry that it’s becoming, oh it’s inflammation.
Guy:Oh, it’s paleo, oh you eat this, oh, you’re going to do that.
Yasmina:Exactly, what’s causing that release and I’m finding for so many people, it’s trauma, unhappiness and stress.
Guy:Yeah. Hence why mediation has been such a big part. They’re some great tips. We are just aware of the time. We have a couple of wrap up questions that we do on every podcast. Very simple. The first one is, what did you eat today?
Yasmina:Okay, I had a green smoothie which was mango, broccoli, cucumber, arugula, watercress, karela, spirulina, vegan DHA which is like an omega 3 fatty acid thing and that was it. Then I had a massive, and I mean massive, my salads are these epic bowls of greens with thyme, coriander, basil, chickpeas, grilled veggies, and then I was naughty. Then I was naught. I had a homemade blueberry, wait, blueberry coconut sugar, raw vanilla, ginger coconut oil cake that I baked and it’s based on a muffin recipe that people can get for free on my website and I’ll tell them how they can get there at the end.
Guy:Perfect. That would make me be naughty too, it sounded-
Stewart:Doesn’t sound that naught. I thought you were going to talk about a milk burger or something along those lines.
Yasmina:No. I do make my own ketchup though, but I didn’t make it yesterday. If you’re a histamine person you’ll be like, oh my god you made ketchup? Yeah, yeah, I do.
Guy:[00:52:00] Do you eat meat?
Yasmina:I eat a little bit of it. I was vegan for a while but when you’re down to so few safe foods that don’t cause any kind of reaction, you have to eat whatever doesn’t bother you and meat was one of the things that didn’t bother me. I tell people that what I do is I’ll just chop up a little bit of meat and then I’ll toss it with lots of veggies or stick it in a salad or something.
Guy:Cool. The last question is … Were you going to say something Steward?
Stewart:No. Did I look like I was?
Guy:You did. You had that look there and I thought-
Stewart:I always have that look.
Guy:What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Yasmina:Oh wow, well, there’s 2. One was when I was falling apart and tried to check myself into a mental institution because I thought I was having a nervous breakdown, stress invaded. A friend of my mothers who picked me up from there said to me … She took my hand and she just said, “Yasmina, sometimes all you have to do is chose to walk on the sunny side of the street.”
Stewart:That’s good advice, that is good advice. I like that [crosstalk 00:53:15].
Yasmina:So true. That’s number 1 and number 2 was, and this was life changing. My doctor in Spain told me this when I was finally diagnosed with mast cell activation. She said, “If you go into anaphylactic shock, the best thing you can do is lie down on the floor and relax.” When she said that to me, I said, “What do you mean?” Because they don’t like giving EpiPens in Spain. She said, “Call the ambulance but lie down on the floor and relax. It’s the most important thing.” I just said, “What do you mean?” Then she explained to me the stress hormone thing and whatever and then that kicked off my research.
That actually saved my life. When I was in Kenya, I didn’t have any medication on me, I was too far from hospitals, couldn’t get anywhere, I was in a house, nobody could hear me, there was a [00:54:00] party going on downstairs. I lay down, well I actually fell down on the floor and I began a mediation involving a visualization before I lost my vision and I mediated and eventually I was found and I continued meditating, meditating, meditating, and it was just life changing. Just suddenly my vision started opening up again and my heart started regulating.
There’s different levels of anaphylactic shock, not every anaphylaxis leads to death. I can’t tell you, oh I had a level 5 anaphylactic and I thought I was going to die and I had never thought that before. I was convinced I was going to die this time and I got through it and that was the changing point in my life and I thought, I can control this, I can heal. This has shown me that this plays a big part.
Stewart:That’s right. There’s some truth to what you’ve been practicing. I think I like the sound of that.
Guy:Have you written a book in all these experiences that you’ve been through?
Yasmina:I’ve actually written 11 e-books. I’m working on getting a book published. I’ve written the outline and I’ve spoken with a few people that worry there aren’t enough people who are interested in this so we’ll see, I’m still working on it but in the meantime, there are eBooks for download on my website. It covers everything from beauty to diet to a little bit on mediation. I have a yoga course that’s going to launch in January. I teamed up with my teacher to do this yoga course to take people who aren’t exercising right now and it just steadily gets progressively harder more intense, to try and help the healing process. More cooking videos, there’s a bunch on YouTube and stuff like that.
Guy:Fantastic. Where would the website be?
Yasmina:It is the low L-O-W histamine [00:56:00] H-I-S-T-A-M-I-N-E chef, C-H-E-F .com thelowhistaminechef.com
Guy:We’ll be [crosstalk 00:56:07].
Yasmina:I won’t give you my full name because you’ll never be able to [crosstalk 00:56:10].
Guy:I had 2 cracks at it and got it wrong [inaudible 00:56:13], so yeah.
Stewart:That’s awkward. I can testify that here’s heaps of stuff on there. I’ve got a number of your eBooks. Men Food was great, love the paleo granola recipe, I thought that worked for me. Yeah, get on there, dig around, loads of stuff and some of the videos are entertaining too.
Guy:Yeah. Thank you so much for your time Yasmina. That was just absolutely beautiful and I have no doubt, heaps of people get a great deal from that and so I really appreciate you coming on today and sharing your journey with us. That was awesome.
Yasmina:Yeah, it’s been wonderful talking to you guys talking to you guys. Thank you very much. It’s been a great interview.
Guy:No. Thank you.
Guy:Cheers. Bye bye.
Stu: I used to sleep well, really well. I remember the days of shutting and opening my eyes in a split second only to realise that 8 hours had melted away. So it really bugged me that my sleep quality had gone well and truly ‘pear-shaped’ over the last couple of years. Raising a busy family and a thriving business could be partly to blame but I’m a stubborn bugger and won’t accept that this is simply part of getting older. If overall health were defined as pillars supporting a house (i.e. nutrition, exercise, mindset etc.), good quality sleep would be the most critical pillar, it’s that important.
So, trying to nail the elusive 8 hours of blissful slumber has been my mission for the past couple of years. I’ve probed all manner of health and wellness experts through our podcasts and tried all the usual sleep aids and more, including: melatonin, sleepy teas, adaptogen herbs, nasal sprays, meditation, yoga, acupuncture, every other supplement under the sun and even an overnight sleep study.
Anyway, I can proudly announce that those days are behind me now as I’ve nailed it. I’ve arrived at a combination of tools that consistently take my sleep quality from sub 50% to 85% and above. Goodbye daily jet-lag :)
Note: Couple of points to highlight so you get the full picture. My diet is really good, I run a nutrition company and practice what I preach. This means I eat very little crap and don’t really drink alcohol (it just doesn’t work for me). I exercise each day for no longer than 30 minutes and try to get a little sunshine too. It goes without saying that my bedroom is dark (really dark), and that all electrical devices are switched off and unplugged. Yes that does include my iPhone with the exception of flight mode for the alarm when necessary.
So here’s what works for me:
Orange (Blue-Blocking) Glasses
I’m sure you’ve heard much talk about these in the sleep circuit but do they actually work? In a word, yes, at least for me. The theory is that they block out the blue light from things like TV’s, smart-phones tablets and computers that inhibit the production of melatonin (our sleep hormone). After putting them on you feel like you’ve entered a new world, things seem slower, less hectic and you feel noticeably calmer. I put these on at around 7:30pm.
Yes I know that magnesium is one of the go-to supplements for sleep and I’ve tried them all (literally). It’s the exact type that made the difference in my case. I’ve tested Magnesium Citrate, Malate, Oxide, Stearate and many more but it was Magnesium Bisglycinate that really helped. It seems to calm the muscles and relax the racing mind, which never seems to slow down. I stir 1/2 teaspoon of Magnesium Bisglycinate powder into a glass of water after lunch and then again after dinner at around 7:30pm.
I have an unusually fast metabolism and always seem to be thinking about my next meal so a snack before bed is right up there for me. I listened to a great podcast outlining how some folk simply ‘run out of fuel’ during the middle of the night causing interrupted sleep, which I can relate to. I’ve dabbled with pre-bed snacks, eating fat, protein, carbohydrate, and then a mix of the lot and found a recipe that works for me. I combine 1/2 cup of cooked and cooled quinoa, mixed with a few solid teaspoons of coconut cream and stir in cinnamon (lots of) and natural vanilla powder. I eat this 20 minutes before bed usually around 10pm.
I like to wind down before bed and use a couple of tactics to slow the internal chatter. I will point out that email, Facebook, Instagram etc. are all switched off after 7pm, any later and they seem to really impact getting to sleep. Listening to 30 minutes of music or a podcast (even more effective) works a treat. It goes without saying that I’ll be wearing the orange glasses when fiddling with the iPhone during this time.
That’s it, my toolkit for better sleep. Removing any one of these strategies genuinely results in a decrease in sleep quality, which in my case is waking up during the night. Have you found tools or techniques that work for you? Drop us a line below and let us know.