Massage therapist Erika Zettervall has embarked upon an experiment: can running help with depression? In this inspiring blog she shares her journey so far and some helpful resources for anyone interested in exploring whether running might be a good option for yourself in improving mental wellbeing.
I have taken up running again, this time conducted as a little experiment to see how - or if - it affects my state of mind. Bluntly put, I’d like to see if it works to combat depression.
My state of mind has been a bit low and dull, feeling uninspired and finding it hard to make decisions as well as difficulty concentrating. Perhaps that’s normal sign of ageing or symptomatic of my lifestyle with increased screen time and social media indulgence.
According to psychiatrist Anders Hanson, running 30-45 minutes 3 times a week at 70% effort for at least 6 weeks would create changes in the brain that help with depression. My understanding is that there is a substance produced in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex in the brain called BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) that protects, repairs and stimulates new brain cells. Having low levels of this substance is associated with depression. Medication increases these levels as does exercise.
I have taken antidepressants in the past and found them helpful to some extent but not really making much difference long term and at this point it doesn’t feel necessary to seek them out.
So, after finding a book on my bookshelf in the great unread section by Dr Anders Hansen writing about the benefits exercise in general, and running in particular, has on the brain as well as hearing him speak on Rangan Chatterjee’s podcast, Feel Better Live More, episode 38, I decided to give it a go. A simple explanation for these benefits is that our biology is still more in line with being a hunter gatherer and not suited for the abundant, convenient world we now live in. Shorter sessions of 20-30 minutes would also make improvements in the functions of the brain such as memory and creativity.
The plan is to work up to the 45min sessions and keep it up for 6 weeks and see how I feel and then keep going with three times a week 30-45min sessions. It sounds a realistic and doable plan to have and curious to see how this will take me through the winter. No doubt shorter days and harsher weather will be a bit of challenge.
Luckily, I have always liked running when I’m fit enough and I enjoy the striding movement. It’s a nice way to explore an area be it park, wood or neighbourhood. It is also a very accessible and simple way to exercise. No need for fancy memberships, class schedules or expensive equipment. Just put shoes on and go. I like the freedom of that.
I am now 4 weeks in and it is a joy. Perhaps it’s the lovely, mild autumnal weather that brings a pep to my step. Starting out being in general good health and having a comfortable walking gait has been helpful (don’t run before you can walk as the saying goes) in having making it very pain free so far. Not focusing on speed or distance makes it very carefree.
The first two weeks I went for 20-30 min sessions and this last week increased it to 45 min a couple of times.
As to how my mind is: Feeling a lot more inspired than I did a couple of weeks ago, but if that is down to the actual running or to setting and following a plan it’s hard to say. Having an intention with what you do, whatever it is, is also one of these things in life that can shift the mood.
Acupuncturist Philippa Summers suggests some local classes suitable from pregnancy to preschool and highlights which of the WNT team can support you around this busy, nurturing stage of life.
As the nights begin to draw in and we withdraw inside a little more it can be more challenging to plan your days with a baby or toddler, and to look after your own well-being and fitness. Well, the good news is there are a wealth of opportunities out there, activities you can do with your baby or children and classes for yourself with your baby or at those precious moments you have to yourself. Just getting out and meeting up with other mums and dads can make a whole world of difference as you adjust to parenthood. Maybe you are looking for something specific or just want to browse and see what’s out there.
I came across a website, Happity, that makes searching for classes and events in your area a doddle. It covers everything from pregnancy through the baby and toddler years to age 5. Prices vary, some are free and some low cost from as little as £2.
Among them are:
I know from my own experience and that of probably every parent I know just how important these groups are through this phase of life. If you are struggling with post-natal depression Happity also have a dedicated area of their website which includes links to useful resources. Check out their blog, too.
I’d like to make a special mention for Gather-ed as they offer something a little different and I think much needed. They offer 1:1 support, workshops and group gatherings with experienced facilitators including midwives - ‘gently facilitated discussions on themes and topics relevant to parenthood…and are a space for honest, authentic conversations’. Wednesday mornings at Knowles in West Norwood, other classes in East Dulwich.
Pregnancy Treatments at West Norwood Therapies
Finally, we can help to support you throughout your pregnancy with our treatments at West Norwood Therapies:
Acupuncture: Some women choose to have regular acupuncture to support them throughout their pregnancy, but commonly it will be to help with a particular issue. In the early stages of pregnancy women often seek help for morning sickness and at the latter stages for breech presentation and birth preparation. For birth preparation there are advantages to starting treatment at 36 weeks but with the all-clear from your midwives we can also offer treatments when you are overdue and facing an induction.
If you are trying to conceive Laura and Philippa also offer fertility focussed treatments, too.
Please just get in touch if you’d like to find out more.
Reflexologist and reiki practitioner Laura Devonshire looks at hydration - why it is so important, what it can affect and how much and what we should be drinking to keep hydrated.
It’s summer (hurrah!) and this season’s theme at West Norwood Therapies is water. I have been exploring water and the human body and why hydration is so critical.
Water is essential for life and for our bodies to function optimally. On average water makes up around 60% of body weight in men and 50-55% in women (this can vary depending on age and body composition).
Drinking enough water each day is essential for the function of all the cells in the body, it helps us to: regulate body temperature, keep eyes and joints lubricated, helping to rid waste and transport nutrients, helps convert food into energy, protects the nervous system, prevents infection, and keeps organs functioning properly.
Some organs contain much more water than others and I found it staggering to learn that the brain and kidneys possess the highest percentage of water: a whopping 80-85%, followed by the heart and lungs 75-80%, muscles, the liver and skin are 70-75%, blood is 50%, bones are 20-25% and lastly teeth at 8-10%. This helps to put into context how dehydration can have so many symptoms and consequences.
The current UK recommendation is to drink 6-8 glasses of fluid per day, more specific recommendations about the quantity needed at different ages are shown below:
(provided by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA):
The EFSA assume that 20% of fluid intake comes from food and 80% comes from drinks.
It is also important to note that doing strenuous activity or living in hotter or more humid climates may need more than the above.
The body works hard to find balance and drinking too little or too much water can have severe consequences. The warning signs of dehydration include:
As mentioned above the brain contains 85% water, dehydration can also impact on cognitive function with difficulty in concentrating, impacting mood making us prone to feeling angry, anxious, and irritated.
It’s important to note that on the flip side at the extreme end of consuming too much water, can lead to hyponatraemia, a very serious condition that causes extremely low sodium levels in the blood.
It is more common for people to suffer with the symptoms of dehydration.
The best way to avoid dehydration is to keep track of how much fluid you drink and drink water throughout the day. It’s ideal to avoid excessive caffeine drinks as they have a diuretic effect on the body, as does alcohol. Of course, I am not staying to cut them out but to just be mindful of intake and ensure you’re having an adequate water intake too.
If you have been unwell with a fever or diarrhoea, playing sports or have been sweating a lot in high temperatures: drinking coconut water or a sports drink or rehydration drink can help to replenish your electrolytes and essential salts and minerals.
Swap sugary drinks for sugar-free or no added sugar and dilute squash drinks to reduce the sugar content.
If you don’t like the taste of water you can try sparkling water or try adding a slice of lemon or lime, some berries or cucumber.
WNT founder Jennie Duck shares her love of river swimming and how she overcame her hesitations to get in the water this year.
I live in Scotland right by the river. It has always been a fantasy of mine to live right by a river – a swimmable river – and sometimes I have to pinch myself to know that this is in fact my life.
Normally I am itching to get in for my first swim of the year and this has been as early as April in our 5 years here. I have fantasies of going for a dip every day of the year at some point, but with young children and various life demands I am not aiming to achieve this anytime soon. But over the summer months I love to go in for mini-dips, mega-dips, paddles and full submersive swims.
But this year I haven’t wanted to! With this theme of swimming for our summer news I volunteered to write about my first swim of the year and promptly regretted it when I realised that it would involve, well, going for a swim.
I have a 9-month-old baby now as well as a 7yr old home-educated child and time has become so hazy and precisely precious all at once. We still live like in lockdown, we are both self-employed working from home and being alone is a hard thing to find at present. Having a shower now constitutes self-care time and I find myself having to choose between things that I used to value as daily activities. I can do some yoga OR tend to my veg patch. I can wash my hair OR go for a run. Swimming in the river involves a change of clothes, a short walk and a shower – that’s like 4 days personal activities all in one.. 😉
I kept thinking of the benefits I get from swimming outdoors – the freshness, the absolute presence in nature, the warm glow afterwards, the sense of achievement – and wondering when I would find these more urgent than a bit of time on my yoga mat or rescuing the beetroot from the weeds.
It didn’t come – but my family did! I come from a family who grew up swimming in rivers and the sea. My mum used to say, “I’m always happy by water” and perhaps as a family of Ducks it is no surprise that we are all energised and nourished by water and being in it.
This was a different experience than the solo experience which boosts my emotional, mental and physical health by the combination of headspace, nature, exercise and freedom. This was fun, community, connection, joy, sharing AND nature, exercise and freedom!
As I read the interviews Tessa has done with her swimming clients and Philippa’s input on swimming around perimenopause, I can see the place for doing these things in community, for the joy that can only come from sharing and doing things together. The poet Ross Gay writes about his experience focusing on delight and joy “Which is to say, I felt my life to be more full of delight. Not without sorrow or fear or pain or loss. But more full of delight. I also learned this year that my delight grows—much like love and joy—when I share it.”
Then I read Erika’s words on our senses and understand that I still want to go for my solo swims, to nurture my interior landscape as well. Maybe the weeds can defeat the beetroot this year and I can get in an extra few dips…
Acupuncturist Philippa Summers looks at what women can experience from perimenopause onwards and how exercise and swimming can be of great benefit around these years.
At a recent party on a chilly evening in the garden I asked a friend in a strappy dress if she was warm enough, she lightly replied “Oh, yes, I have my own personal weather system”. Made me chuckle but menopause is no laughing matter. Some women sail through but for others the symptoms can be unbearable and debilitating and can take a huge toll on just about every aspect of life. It can be a time when women feel at a loss with the changes that are happening to them, bewildered by them. Getting the balance between seeing them as a medical issue and a transformative time of adjustment can be helpful in easing women through this phase of life with greater serenity and joy, with a combined approach offering great benefits.
Among the most common symptoms are hot flushes, night sweats, mood changes, tiredness, vaginal discomfort, loss of libido and brain fog, but it affects women very differently and you may experience a range of other physical, mental and emotional symptoms. They can start as women enter the perimenopausal phase, often in their mid 40s, sometimes earlier, usually but not always accompanied by changes in their menstrual cycle.
From a medical perspective getting diagnosed is the first step to understanding the changes you are going through and finding solutions that suit you, including HRT. The options can be simple with far reaching benefits. Finding the right choices for you will not only help you to feel better but importantly also help to protect your future health, particularly cardiovascular and bone health.
From a lifestyle perspective nutrition, exercise, sleep, relaxation and strong social and emotional connections provide the foundations for your wellbeing, regardless of whether or not you take HRT. Acupuncture can also play a supportive role in helping women ease through the transition, connecting mind with body, with proven benefits for some of the associated symptoms including hot flushes, low mood and anxiety, poor sleep, aches and pain.
I have included a link to a resource with a wealth of info at the end, including medical, lifestyle, social and political info. Now, for an overview of exercise and then a brief focus on swimming, our topic for this summer newsletter, in relation to menopause.
From perimenopause onwards physical activity can help to prevent muscle loss which occurs naturally as we age, support a healthy weight reducing the risk of chronic disease and improve cardiovascular, respiratory and bone health. Exercise will build strength, support the joints and alleviate the aches and pain, and the mood enhancing benefits of exercise can help in the way we perceive pain. Additionally, it can help with sleep and generally help you to feel better. If you have specific health issues that limit your activity then seek appropriate advice and support.
As a guide try to get about 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times a week but if you are new to exercise then start light with 10 mins a day and build up gradually.
Aim for a combination of exercise each week:
Cold water swimming is anecdotally very helpful to relieve hot flushes and some of the other symptoms of menopause. It has proven stress relieving and anxiety reducing benefits which can last for several days, and also helps immunity. We are fortunate to have Tooting and Brockwell Park lidos on our doorstep. During the winter especially, they are places with a strong sense of community and camaraderie. If you intend to swim into the winter months then start swimming during the warmer summer and autumn months so that you can gradually acclimatise. As the temperatures cool check out the cold water swimming guides so that you adjust safely and do not overdo your exposure to the cold.
If you are seeking more information the Balance-Menopause website, set up by menopause specialist Dr Louise Newson, is a good place to start for understanding more about the perimenopause and menopause and finding support, with an app to track symptoms if you wish. Their mission is to make menopause support inclusive and accessible to everyone globally, with some extremely useful free resources. If you have symptoms then seek out a menopause trained specialist to confirm diagnosis and guide you through treatment choices - HRT, alternative options and lifestyle advice all have a role to play.
How long have you been a swimmer and when did you discover the joy of open water swimming?
Although I learned to swim as a child I only took up Open Water swimming aged 51. As my youngest son finished his A levels, I found myself with more time at weekends.
I know you consider yourself to be a slow swimmer compared to others but you are a strong endurance swimmer. When did you discover that you can swim long distances? And what’s the key to endurance swimming?
After a few 1 mile (1.6km) lake swim events I decided I wanted to take on bigger challenges, so next up was a 1.9km then a 3km swim. I couldn't find anyone to join me for the Jubilee river 10km relay and ended up signing up to swim solo instead. It was at this point I decided I needed some swim coaching so joined Windrush Triathlon club, a multi-sports club in south London. After the Jubilee marathon I did several other long distance swims and also went on some open water swimming holidays.
My tips for endurance swimming are to keep working on your swimming technique over winter, then gradually build up to longer distances in lakes, rivers and the sea as the weather warms up. Experience of being able to handle currents, cooler water and all weather conditions helps a lot.
Breathing, technique and cardio fitness combined? Anything else?
Relaxed breathing comes with practice and I would also recommend some strength and conditioning sessions and of course regular sports massages.
What do you consider to be the main benefits of open water swimming?
I experience a huge sense of wellbeing swimming outside. I love the sensation of moving through the water, hearing birds, seeing fish (sometimes) and feeling part of nature. The open water swimming community is extremely friendly and I love the challenge of different water conditions. A sea swim between the same two points will be different every single time so you never get bored. I like to think there are health benefits and I definitely feel more mentally resilient.
What advice would you give to people who would like to try lake or sea swimming for the first time?
Many venues have introductory sessions so I would try these. Don't wait until you can persuade a friend, as you will meet like-minded people there. For sea swimming I would rely on local knowledge and join online communities.
For a first time open water swimmer, what are essential items they should buy/borrow?
Essential items are a comfortable swimming costume, a brightly coloured swim cap and goggles. If you want to try a longer swim and/or cooler water, a wetsuit is recommended. You can hire these at many venues if you want to try one out. I bought my first wetsuit second-hand. Make sure it is a swimming wetsuit though, a surfing one will restrict your shoulders. I would also recommend a tow-float unless it is very windy and the first time you swim against the current (outside an organised event), fins can be useful.
Margi is Swim Captain at Windrush Triathlon Club
Massage therapist Erika Zettervall explores our senses - the big 5 and some lesser recognised ones that shape our experiences - and suggests some ways of using this to cultivate calm and a richer experience.
We have five main senses that we all are likely to be very familiar with and three or four lesser known senses. These are connected to sensory organs.
Our main senses:
Vision - eyes
Touch - skin
Hearing - ears
Smell - nose
The lesser known senses are perhaps just ones that have not been incorporated into everyday thinking about senses. There are several and it varies depending on how much you break them down into finer systems and functions.
Balance – the vestibular system – tells us whether we’re in equilibrium or not, and whether we’re in motion or not. We have the inner ear to thank for that one.
The sense of pain – nociception – is nerve or tissue damage felt in the skin, joints, bones, and internal organs.
Proprioception or position
There is also interoception related to how things feel on the inside for example blood pressure, sense of stretch in the bladder
Through external sensory input our brains interpret nerve signals and conjure up a picture that gives us all a unique view of the world.
Colour adds a dimension to seeing and we all experience colour differently. The artist Cezanne described it as where the brain and the universe meet. Practicing a wider sensory awareness will create a richness in life and is useful to bring calm and presence.
A simple way to bring to ground yourself and reduce anxiety is tuning into the five main senses:
What can I see: looking around, pick large or small items to focus on, try to notice the colour, texture, and patterns.
What can I touch: notice skin whilst taking palm to palm, fabric of clothes, any object you can pick up and touch, putting hand (or body) into water.
What do I hear: near, far, from different directions and volume.
What can I smell: you can bring things to your nose but also notice if and what you can pick up from the air.
What do I taste: if you don’t have anything at hand think about distinct flavours as you remember them like lemon, coffee, something sweet,
Noticing and observing the sensations from the surroundings brings you into the space and present to the moment. It also orientates you into the now, geographically and in time. In addition it will also subtly enrich and broaden any experience.
With anxiety we are away worrying about what may or may not happen, sometimes completely fictional but the fear appears real. Becoming present in the moment this way aids the distinction between factual and fictional fears. For example; good to hear a car approaching whilst out walking rather than being away in the mind somewhere else, worrying about things that might or might not happen.
Since we have a focus on water and swimming with our blogs from West Norwood Therapies this summer, a suggestion from me is to bring your senses into interactions with water. Apart from taste for obvious reasons. When immersing into water notice the sensations on the skin, sense the texture, temperature and scent. The sea water is very different to a lake or pool in texture, scent and colour.
Listen for the sounds both being in, under and around water.
If you are by the coast, gaze out at the offing, where the sky meets the ocean. Pay attention to the sounds sounds and smells and you can have an awe-inducing full body/mind experience.
Observe water move - be it waves of the sea, swirling brook, big water fall or rain is mesmerising and meditative, adding the sound and smell of it the experience swells.
Stepping out just after rain, scenting the petrichor brings calm and joy.
Bring your senses to your summer water adventures and see if it will increase experience of awe and joy.
Acupuncturist Philippa Summers delves into the world of healthy bacteria - microbiome - and gives some helpful insights and tips as to how this can benefit us along with a delicious saurkraut recipe to help us along.
Did you know that your body contains roughly as many bacterial cells as human cells? Along
with viruses and fungi, and their collective DNA, they make up our microbiome. The
microbiome varies hugely from person to person and plays a crucial role in determining our
health. There is a whole eco system living on your skin and within you, in your respiratory
tract, your reproductive tract, in breast and other tissue, but primarily in the intestines – the
gut microbiome. Among them are vitally important beneficial microbes that help to keep
the disease-causing pathogens at bay, while also enhancing and interacting with many of
the vital internal processes that work to keep us well.
The Benefits of a Healthy Gut Microbiome
A healthy gut microbiome has benefits that extend throughout the body and is considered
by some to be equivalent to an additional organ, such is its importance. It plays a crucial role
in helping to maintain and support metabolic function, immunity, plus cardiovascular,
respiratory, reproductive and menopausal health, as well as helping with sleep, mental well-
being and brain function. It is an area of intense research, with more being discovered all
The scope of its influence cannot be overstated. A healthy gut microbiome is anti-
inflammatory and helps to combat the development and progression of a whole range of
chronic health issues and to reduce infections throughout the body, helping in the fight
against antibiotic resistance. Type 2 diabetes, obesity, kidney disease, Parkinson’s,
atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, hypertension, dementia, urinary tract infections,
respiratory infections, vaginal infections, asthma, allergies, autoimmune diseases, IBS, IBD,
some cancers...the list goes on... have all been shown to have an association with an
unhealthy balance in the gut microbiome. It is the subject of ongoing research to determine
the processes and balance of cause and effect between disease and the microbiome.
A High Fibre Diet supports the Microbiome
Our environment, where we live, who we live with, how we interact with our environment
but particularly our diet has a huge influence on the microbiome, and for each of us our
microbial fingerprint will be unique and changing dynamically all the time.
A poor low fibre diet of refined carbohydrates like white flour, white rice and particularly
simple sugars will encourage inflammation and take the balance of good bacteria to bad inan unhealthy direction. A healthy high fibre diet on the other hand will help to support the
community of beneficial bacteria, which ferment more complex carbohydrates that we
cannot otherwise digest, into nutrients with anti-inflammatory and metabolic health
The beneficial bacteria lie mainly in the colon at the far reaches of our intestines and to feed
and support them we need a diet where the carbohydrate portion of what we eat can pass
through the upper reaches of the intestines to the colon without previously being
completely broken down. Simple and refined carbs get broken down too high up in our guts
but high fibre complex carbohydrates (wholegrains, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruit) make
it all the way to where they are needed. Aim for a wide variety of colourful plant foods
including herbs and spices to aid digestion, and of course include proteins and healthy fats
for a balanced diet.
We feed these bacteria and they in turn feed us with the beneficial by-products of their
meal. Think good housemates - you provide the healthy ingredients, and they cook up a
feast! The healthy foods we provide them with are the prebiotics, the healthy ‘bugs’ are the
Choosing Probiotic Foods and Supplements
Some species of these healthy bacteria will have established themselves as long term
residents of our gut, beginning at birth and supported early on by breastfeeding. We can
augment this existing population by eating fermented foods containing other beneficial live
bacteria, or for convenience and maybe for specific health issues by taking them as
supplements. To reap the benefits, we need to choose those that are alive and can survive
through the upper reaches of the gut all the way to the colon as many cannot survive the
acid of the stomach.
How our individual microbiome interacts with our own metabolism and diet is complex and
more in-depth studies that take a personalised approach are the subject of ongoing
research, one of the largest being the Zoe PREDICT studies. A peek at these studies will
show you how complicated a field it is. People with a histamine sensitivity may not tolerate
probiotics and care should be taken by people with bowel conditions like IBS and IBD.
Deciding which strains are most beneficial is a complex subject which varies from person to
person and according to the health issues being addressed, and I suspect is obscured by the
commercial nature of supplements and the influence on research. Lactobacillus and
Bifidobacterium are the most widely recommended in supplements, with many species and
strains of each offering different benefits. A little more of that below in relation to women’s
health and gut health but to go into more detail is beyond the scope of my experience or
If you prefer to take supplements in my opinion Optibac are a reliable good value brand and
provide a simple useful guide with formulas for a variety of situations: every day, after
taking antibiotics, for women’s health including during pregnancy and for gut health.
Symprove receives wide recommendation but is much more expensive and is limited to a
single multi-strain formula. I am not suitably knowledgable to offer any wholeheartedrecommendations but those are a couple of reliable options. You can eat fermented foods
as well or instead.
For Women’s Health including fertility and menopause
Lactobacillus species support a healthy vaginal microbiome where they help to keep disease
causing yeasts and bacteria at bay, by maintaining a favourable protective acidic
environment. From the research so far, implantation and reduced incidence of early
pregnancy loss are also supported when the predominant species in the uterus are
Lactobacilli. They are of benefit when taken orally, even for colonising the reproductive
Lactobacillus species can also be helpful at alleviating some of the symptoms of menopause
via the two-way interaction between oestrogen levels and the gut microbiome.
Yoghurt, kefir and Sauerkraut are all high in Lactobacillus species and other lactic acid
For Gut Health
For people with gut issues like IBS and IBD I would recommend seeking guidance from a
dietary or nutritional specialist. Some of the otherwise healthy prebiotic foods can
contribute to symptoms, and some probiotic strains can be helpful while others may
Probiotic Fermented Foods
For general health benefits why not try a range of different live unpasteurised probiotic
foods such as kefir, yoghurt, kombucha, kimchi, miso or sauerkraut to see which you like
and which suit you? Or try making your own. They can be more potent than probiotics
supplements and much cheaper, too, and all have different microbial profiles and benefits.
Some ferments like kefir and kamboucha contain a range of yeast and bacteria while others
like yoghurt, sauerkraut and kimchi are predominantly bacterial. Additionally, as they have
fermented over a period of time the fermented product will contain high amounts of more
easily digestible nutrients that are a by-product of the fermentation process.
Making your own fermented foods
If you fancy making a home-made ferment you can try the simple sauerkraut recipe below.
Incidentally, I was surprised to learn that sauerkraut, despite its German name, originated
around 2000 years ago in China and came to Europe in the 1600s. Making Kimchi, a spicy
Korean ferment, is similar and there are plenty of recipes online. If you really want to get
into ferments then I recommend Fermentation by Asa Simonsson which covers a whole
range of fermented foods and drinks including vegan dairy, or check out the many websites
and blogs on fermenting.
You will need a container in which to ferment the veg before transferring it to smaller jars
for storage, and you will also need weights to hold the veg below the surface of the liquid
while it ferments. You could use a large wide necked jar with a lid but you will need to keep
an eye on it and keep releasing the gas that will build up inside. Or you may wish to buy a
fermenting jar or a crock pot which allow the gas to release automatically. Some come with
weights, others don’t.
1kg finely chopped white or red cabbage (you can substitute some of the cabbage with
grated carrot, beetroot and apple to make a total of 1kg veg)
15g sea salt
1 tbsp chopped garlic/ginger
1 tsp caraway seeds, chili flakes, peppercorns, seaweed etc
• Place the veg, salt and spices in a large clean bowl mix well and massage with your
hands for 5 mins. Leave for 5 mins.
• Massage and squeeze again for about 20-25 mins until you have plenty of juice and
the veg has softened.
• Pack into the fermenting jar or crock, add the weight so that all the veg is completely
submerged in the briny liquid. This is very important as the fermentation will spoil if
the veg is exposed to the air.
• Put on the lid and leave at room temperature to ferment. The fermenting jars have a
valve, the crock has a sunken rim that you fill with water so the gases release
automatically. Keep checking that the water level around the rim is above the notch
in the lid.
• Leave for anything from 5 days to 4 weeks depending on the room temperature and
how sour you like it. I leave mine for about 10 days.
As the sauerkraut ferments is becomes more acidic which most bugs can’t tolerate and
you’ll end up with a tasty ferment rich in acid tolerant Lactobacillus. The result should be a
crisp, slightly sour, flavoursome kraut. If it becomes mouldy, slimy or smells rotten then
something has gone wrong, so discard.
Pack into clean jars, pressing the veg below the surface of the liquid and store in the fridge.
Keeps for weeks, months according to the experts but I’ve never left it that long. Great in a
sandwich, salad or as a meal accompaniment.A word of warning - as your body adjusts to fibre and probiotics you may find you are a bit more flatulent, but it should settle down after a few days, start with a little and build up. In any case, a little every day is better than larger quantities less frequently.
Acupuncturist Philippa Summers shares the nourishing effects of our recent team picnic and the ingredients that helped make it.
The plan was a midsummer 3 day social / retreat in Scotland, meeting up for the first time in her homeland with WNT founder, Jennie Duck, who manages WNT remotely from rural Ayrshire. After all the social cancellations, postponements and thwarted arrangements that Covid wrought on us all we had thought that this one was in the bag. We meet regularly on Zoom and Jennie makes the occasional trip South, but this was to have been our first trip to see her there since she moved several years ago and our first residential social together.
Planned in March, excitement seeded, accommodation reserved, trains booked and therein lay the rub. It wasn’t covid that scuppered our plans it was the train strike. Driving that distance was out of the question with all train traffic moving to the roads so we cancelled. We were all gutted.
So, plan B a picnic in Brockwell Park! Sadly no Jennie, of course. And, just to be clear this was a ‘keep it simple’ kind of picnic – not a wicker basket or gingham tablecloth in sight. Bring a sandwich, with the emphasis on getting together and making the most of the sunshine. Lauren, bless her, did however make the most gorgeous lemon and poppyseed cake with gooey tangy lumps of lemon flesh, elevating it up a notch or two! It was a glorious lunchtime together, a modest affair, a chance to catch up face to face. Alas, not quite what we had planned but when life cancels the trains and gives you lemons, make the delicious lemon and poppy seed cake below and have a picnic.
If you are not a regular to Brockwell Park do checkout it’s many surprises. The walled garden, the Community Greenhouses, the views of the city from between the café and the tennis courts, the lido, children’s paddling pool and playground. Our beloved park has so much to offer everyone.
Enjoy your summer!
Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake
This cake is huge with deliciously tangy pieces of lemon pulp to tantalise the tastebuds, so great for sharing at large summer picnic. Says it serves 10-12 but goes further than that. Not healthy (don’t even look at how much sugar it contains) but hey, once in a while!
7-10 unwaxed lemons (1kg)
210g unsalted butter, melted
95g grapeseed or other neutral oil
6 large eggs
1 egg yolk
530g plain flour
25g black poppy seeds
5g baking powder
5g bicarb of soda
For the glaze:
250g icing sugar
2 lemons juiced
Grease and flour a 2.8 litre Bundt Pan.
Heat oven to 190C, fan 175, Gas 5.
Zest the lemons (outer yellow only), reserving the zest.
On a plate to catch the juice, cut ends of each lemon and cut away peel. Remove the pulp from the membranes. Keep all the juice and the pulp cut into 1 inch chunks. Squeeze extra juice from the membranes and discard. This should give about 15g zest, 170g pulp, 70g juice. Top up with extra lemons. That is the fiddly bit done.
Whisk together dry ingredients. In a separate large bowl whisk together wet ingredients. Mix wet and dry and stir well to combine. Add lemon zest, pulp and juice and mix well.
Pour batter into bundt pan and bake 60-70 mins, checking after 60 mins – press top of cake and it should bounce back.
Cool cake in the pan for 45 minutes, loosen with a spatula and carefully turn onto a wire rack, with a wide pan underneath to catch any excess glaze.
To make the Glaze simply whisk the ingredients together and then pour over the cake in a steady stream. Leave to set for 15mins.
Acupuncturist and massage therapist Mihaly Rosta shares some interesting thoughts around the 'how' of our eating habits being as, if not more, important than the 'what'.
ow important is it to have the right food on your plate?
I usually see a divide amongst my friends and clients when it comes to diet and food.
Some people just eat for the joy of it, not caring much about if they eat a lot of carbs or meat. Whilst other people can be “almost” obsessive about what they eat. May that be superfoods, very specific vegetables and meat, etc.
So what is the correct attitude to diet?
Well, I of course could not give a simple answer to such an important question. Especially as I am not a dietician.
However when it comes to Chinese medicine, we always strife for balance. Walking the middle path.
Sure, it is important to have a varied diet -according to both food energetics, colours, food groups- but I find it much more important to look at how people eat and digest.
In my experience, our mental health and eating habits combined has a much stronger effect on our digestion and general health than the types of food we eat. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying that we should all eat white bread, milk and sugar 3 times a day. I am referring to the fact that if you have a varied intake of vegetables, fruits and meats/nuts, you should not worry too much about whether it is organic or not, or how many superfoods and brown rice you include in your diet.
What is important then?
1. Structure and rythmn
It is generally important to follow a rythmn in our daily life. Structuring our days around our meals and sleep can provide with a healthy l. So we priorities ourselves, our nourishment amongst other responsibilities.
Taking breaks between meals (3-4 hours) gives our digestive system a rest, as opposed to continuous snacking which will overwork our Spleen and Stomach.
3. Focus /mindfulness
Eating should be about the food and our nourishment. The taste, texture, colour, smell of our food should be in the focus of our mind when we eat. Not TV, Netflix, news, daily tasks or plans for the week.
Let’s do ourselves a favour and eat mindfully. Just when we decide on the food we eat, we should apply the same mindfulness during our time of nourishment.
There is a Chinese saying that you should only fill your belly 2/3 of the way, so there is space for Qi to do the digestion.
Overeating is overtaxing on our digestive system. Finding the correct amount of food that does not leave us hungry, but also doesn’t makes us sleepy is essential.
It is important to drink plenty of fluids during the day, however it is best to avoid drinking with our meal. If you have a weak digestion, you may find it beneficial to drink digestives 20 minutes prior to your meals. Or if your meal seems to settle in heavy (lots of fats/oils) you may find drinking a (half) shot of clear spirit (I recommend Bison vodka for flavour 😛) also very beneficial.
On a different note. There seem to be a misconception about the amount of fluid we all need to drink. Generally speaking of we want to hydrate ourselves we have to include fluid-ful vegetables in our diet. Soups, curries, tomatoes, courgettes, etc.
6. 100 steps
Digestion does not stop when we finish eating. On the contrary. It’s fairly important that we rest after a meal for about half an hour. The Chinese has been recommending 100 slow steps after eating. As (slow) walking aids the intestinal movements (peristalsis) and thus digestion.
7. Avoid going to bed on a full stomach
Simple as that, we should not be wasting our energy on digestion whilst we are sleeping. More over, it is most beneficial to have a bigger gap (intermittent fasting) in our day when our digestive system is to rest.
8. Anxiety = IBS
Last but not least, looking after our mental health is perhaps the most important of tasks that we need in order to have a healthy digestion. I’ll talk about this more in detail another time.
So these are only a few points that are in my opinion are just as (if not more) important than the quality of the food we eat.
Thus if you are suffering with any digestive issues, you may find it beneficial to go through this list before you start cutting out your favourite foods.
Of course Acupuncture is an amazing tool to help/reset the digestive system. So if you feel you need some additional support in that regard. Do not hesitate to get in touch.
Blogs from the WNT team. For our blogs from before June 2020 please see individual profile pages - it's a good way to get to know practitioners too.