June 2017: painkillers: risks and alternatives


Painkillers may often be a blessing, but we should never use them indiscriminately, and it’s well worth checking whether there are other ways to face your pain.

There are basically three kinds of painkillers: paracetamol, opioids, and NSAIDs. They all have their downsides. Here are the reasons why we should try to avoid them as much as we can.

Paracetamol or acetaminophen is an effective painkiller but taxes the liver. It is extremely dangerous if combined with alcohol. For children, there is very poor evidence of fever relief . Giving kids calpol or similar, is not a good idea anyway [1].

Opioid painkillers, like codeine, are addictive, and hard to get off. Only one week of continual use can leave you enslaved.

Anti-inflammatories or NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) like aspirin and ibuprofen, damage the gut. Taking too many for too long, can lead to internal bleeding. If you have an ulcer, or any signs of digestive discomfort, the consequences could be serious [2].
Only recently, in March 2017, a Danish study led to calls for restrictions on the sale of ibuprofen, after they found it heightened the risk of cardiac arrest by 31%, with other NSAIDs presenting an even higher risk [3].
And did you know that aspirin and other fever-reducing medications actually suppress the production of antibodies, thus resulting in the infection lasting for up to 50% longer than it should? They inhibit the release of pyrogen, a substance that causes fever. And fever actually helps the body fight infections [4].

So we have to be very careful with painkillers. For 6 reasons, see [5].
For more detail about PARACETAMOL see [6].
More detail about OPIOIDS, and CODEINE more specifically, see [7].
For more detail about NSAIDs, see [8].

There is a marvellous general site about pain, well worth looking at for a start: [9].
You’ll find plenty of non-drug therapies such as heat or cold, acupuncture, (breathing) exercise, yoga, massage etc: see [10]. For a herbal pain approach, see [11].
And did you know that 20 minutes of aerobic exercise is enough to stimulate the body to produce more endorphins – natural painkillers? And that our spit contains a painkiller more powerful than morphine: opiorphin? We have it only in minute quantities, so that we’re not off our heads all the time. Eating, though, releases more of the chemical and this may be a factor in comfort eating.

LAST but not LEAST: when it hurts, there is a reason. If all we can think of is to dull the hurt, we’ll never find the cause and it will persist and get worse. To deal with the cause, preferably in an early stage, we have to feel the pain. We have to respond to the feedback our bodies give us: when does it get better, when does it get worse? Does my food, my posture, stress or things I do, affect it?


“People who view pain as the enemy instinctively respond with vengeance or bitterness–Why me? I don’t deserve this! It’s not fair! – which has the vicious-circle effect of making their pain even worse. “Think of the pain as a speech your body is delivering about a subject of vital importance to you,” I tell my patients. “From the very first twinge, pause and listen to the pain and, yes, try to be grateful. The body is using the language of pain because that’s the most effective way to get your attention.” I call this approach “befriending” pain: to take what is ordinarily seen as an enemy, and to disarm it, and then welcome it.” Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants’ Dr. Paul Brand

veg: broad beans, beet, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, new potatoes, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, mangetout, peas, cauliflower, radish, spinach, spring onions, spring greens, watercress, kohlrabi, turnips, rhubarb, redcurrants, strawberries, gooseberries.
meat: lamb, wood pigeon [9].
fish: grey mullet, black bream, gurnard, pollock, whiting, mackerel, lobster, whelks, clams, cockles, coley, crabs, crayfish, flounder, grouper, gurnards, herring, megrim, scallops.

beetroot, calabrese, lettuce, french beans, kale, carrots, cauliflower (mini only), salad onions, (sugar) peas, radish, kohlrabi, mooli, turnip, chicory, Florence fennel, courgettes and pumpkins.
Sow swede and sweetcorn in early June. If the soil is above 25°C, sow crisphead, cos or little Gem only.
plant out: courgettes, cabbage, sprouting broccoli, sprouts, celery, celeriac, ridge cucumbers, runner/french beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, sweet corn.

Radishes bolted? Nothing else in the garden? Don’t despair – this soup is one of the best I’ve made.
Bolted radish green with their (bolted) radishes, onion, 1-2 garlic clove(s), 1 tblsp sour cream, 1 tblsp peanut butter, water/stock, (cayenne) pepper, salt.
Slice onion and garlic, sauté in butter for a min., add plenty of chopped radishes with their leaves, even when bolted. Saute for a few more minutes, add water/stock. Cook till everything is soft. Loosen the peanut butter with the hot liquid, add to the soup along with the sour cream, blitz if you like, season. You can leave out the peanutbutter, or add tomato puree instead.

200g shredded spring greens, 3 sliced garlic cloves, 200 grams diced bacon, 100g peas, 200g cream cheese, handful of basil, black pepper, 480g pasta.
Cook greens in water for 5 mins until slightly wilted and tender. Saute garlic for 1-2 mins, then add drained spring greens. Fry for 5 mins, add peas and cream cheese and stir until melted. Add a teensie bit of water, cover and cook for 7-10 min until peas are done. Add torn basil and pepper. In another pan prepare pasta in the usual way. Drain and mix in the cheesey sauce.

450g spinach or chard, some leaves of sorrel, garlic clove, 900g thin fish fillets, salt, pepper, nice bread (onion, thyme, ginger).
Split the leaves from the stalks if using perennial spinach, and cut them. Season the fish. Boil a little bit of water, add the cut stalks if any, cook for 3-5 minutes. Then add the rest of the greens and chopped garlic, put the fish on top, cover. Cook for about 15 minutes, no longer.
Place bread on a plate and add fish, greens and liquid, which shouldn’t be too much by now.
This is surprisingly nice, but to improve on it even  more, fry plenty of onions with some ginger and thyme, and add that to the mass.

2 small, young kohlrabi, 6 radishes, 4 tblsp extra-virgin olive oil, 4 tsp cider vinegar, a pinch of English mustard powder, blue cheese, flaky sea salt, pepper.
Strip leaves off the kohlrabi and cut off tops and bottoms. Using a mandolin, cut into paper-thin slices. Do the same with the radishes. Arrange kohlrabi and radish on a platter. Whisk oil, cider vinegar and mustard powder together, drizzle over the slices. Season and sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese. Serve immediately.

A lovely cheap and easy dish, as long as you do some preparation beforehand.
Every lamb has a heart, so if you ask your butcher he may well come up with one, if only from the freezer.
450g lamb or beef hearts. For the marinade: 2 tblsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper and 1tsp thyme.
Trim the heart(s) and cut in 1.5 – 2cm cubes. Marinate for at for least 8 hrs. Grill, spreading out into a single layer, and let brown for a minute or two. Toss and brown on the other sides for another minute; remove. Delicious!

BRAISED LETTUCE and PEAS for 1 or 2.
2 tblsp butter, shallot thinly sliced, half a head of (cos) lettuce, ab. 150ml stock, 100g (frozen) peas.
Chop lettuce into small pieces. Saute shallot for a minute, add lettuce, saute for another minute. Add stock, bring to a simmer.  Add peas, cook covered for a short while.. Season if necessary. Garnish with for instance heavy cream, mint, grated carrots or lemon juice.

BROAD BEANS with ONIONS and BACON, serves 2 as a side dish.
250g shelled broad beans, 1 butter, 1/2 chopped onion, 175ml water, 75g smoked bacon, plenty of lemon juice, salt, pepper.
Chop bacon. Sauté onion in butter for a few mins. Add beans and bacon and sauté for a further 5 mins. Add water, bring to a boil. Simmer slowly for 15 mins, or until beans are tender. Add lemon juice and season. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Mackerel and broccoli for 2; 3 anchovy fillets, 2 garlic cloves, 1 chilli (or powder), olive oil, (rosemary).
Chop three anchovy fillets, two cloves of garlic and one red chilli. Mash to a near-paste. Melt the paste in a small frying pan with 2 tblsp of butter. Meanwhile, grill or sauté the mackerel in oil. Top with rosemary if you have it. Don’t add salt, because the sauce will supply that. Steam the broccoli, drain, then stir it into the anchovy sauce. Serve next to the mackerel.
Best with plain cooked potatoes, methinks.


The old days were not necessarily better ……

[1] http://www.theecologist.org/green_green_living/behind_the_label/346400/behind_the_label_calpol.html
[2] (From https://www.patrickholford.com/blog/the-dangers-of-painkillers)
[3] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/mar/15/ibuprofen-sale-restrictions-study-increased-cardiac-arrest-risk
[5] http://www.thehealthsite.com/diseases-conditions/6-reasons-you-should-stop-taking-too-many-painkillers/. See also http://www.theguardian.com/society/2008/feb/10/health.drugsandalcohol and https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2016/04/6-myths-about-painkillers/
[6] http://www.evidentlycochrane.net/paracetamol-widely-used-ineffective/
OPIOIDS in general:
One of which is CODEINE :
[8] https://tv.greenmedinfo.com/dangers-painkillers-infographic/
[9] https://www.painscience.com. See also http://www.paintoolkit.org.
[10] http://www.health.harvard.edu/special-health-reports/pain-relief-without-drugs-and-surgery?utm_source=HHPBlog&utm_medium=link&utm_content=related-text&utm_campaign=referral (click on contents and excerpt)
Though just because it’s herbal, that doesn’t mean it’s safe: see https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jul/11/heart-failure-patients-warned-off-over-the-counter-medications.

October 2015

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Natural salt is an essential element in the diet of humans, animals, even of many plants. Its use is as old as history. It contains vast amounts of minerals which are essential to our functioning.
Our bodies crave salt. Our blood contains 0.9% salt, which maintains the delicate balance of sodium throughout our bodies. Just about every system needs salt to make it work, and it is especially important for our nervous systems.

On the labels in supermarkets and health food shops, the word ‘sea salt’ appears often. However, this  ‘sea salt’, has been totally refined. Originally it may have come from the sea, but has been artifially degraded and heated to crack its molecular structure. It has been robbed of its essential minerals, which are, after all, much more valuable if sold to be used on their own. It has been adulterated by chemical additives to make it free-flowing, bleached, and iodised.

When salt is being harvested, the water is naturally evaporated by the sun: dirty brown salt is left on the bottom and pretty white salt at the top. As most people are used to the pretty white version, the top salt is skimmed off and called ‘sea salt’. Unfortunately, the trace minerals are mostly in the brown stuff at the bottom …

The best natural salt is not white and it is not dry. It is grayish and feels a bit damp.  It must be labelled ‘unrefined, no additives added’. It usually comes in a bag or jar.
However, the ‘fine sea salt without additives’ which you see in wholefood shops, is a whole lot better than table salt. This refined salt is 99.9% sodium-chloride. It contains additives like potassium iodide, sugar – to stabilize the iodine and as an anti-caking chemical – and aluminum silicate. The result of consuming table salt is the formation of overly acidic edema, or excess fluid in the body tissue. That’s why doctors tell us to avoid salt.
Natural salt, on the other hand: helps stabilize heartbeats, clear lungs of mucus and phlegm, balance sugar levels, absorb food, and maintain libido. It prevents muscle cramps, osteoporosis and gout, and clears catarrh and sinus congestion. See also [1].

People who suffer from high blood pressure tend to have an improper balance of salt/potassium. If you are trying to bring down your blood pressure, you want to stop or limit consumption of table salt, and replace this by proper natural salt. It also helps if you consume more potassium-rich foods such as leafy greens, prunes, apricots, bananas, broccoli  and beetroot. [2]

Listen to your body. Let your salt craving dictate how much salt to consume. But let it be good salt.


The New Scientist of 14/8/15 tells us that eating more trans fats is linked to coronary heart disease. However, eating saturated fats is absolutely fine.
Most advice recommends limiting consumption of saturated fats, which are found in butter, milk, meat and egg, due to the risk of developing heart disease. But Russell de Souza of McMaster University in Ontario was unable to find a clear association between these fats and the chances of heart/cardiovascular disease.
This wasn’t the case with industrial trans fats, made by hydrogenating plant oils and found in refined/packaged or ‘partially hydrogenated’ food [3]. Eating more trans fat is associated with a 28% rise in the risk of dying of heart disease.
Who knew? Well …… see Thought for Food (on ‘blogspot’) March ’10, June ’10, Oct ’13 …..


Veg: celeriac, turnip, beet, broccoli, cabbage, calabrese, carrots, cauliflower, chard, fennel, kohlrabi, runner beans, salsify/scorzonera, spinach, tomatoes, Jerusalem/globe artichokes, brussels’, chicory, endive, swede, celery, corn salad, leek, peas/mange tout, courgettes, marrow, pumpkin/squash, (white) radish, rocket, spring onions, watercress, sweetcorn.
Meat: rabbit, goose, grouse, guinea fowl, partridge, pheasant, wood pigeon, duck, venison, squirrel.
Fish: crab, clam, cuttlefish, lobster, mackerel, mussels, scallop, sprats, cockles, black bream, gurnard, winkle, pollack, grey mullet, American signal crayfish.

broad beans, land cress, round seeded peas, chinese leaves, corn salad, winter purslane, winter lettuce.
Plant rhubarb sets; spring cabbage; garlic; autumn onion sets if the weather is good. The garlic should be suited for autumn planting. Don’t use old cloves! Plant out spring cabbage and, in the South, cabbages and winter/spring lettuce.

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PUMPKIN SOUP – what do do with the pumpkin contents at Halloween?
200g peeled and deseeded pumpkin, 1 onion, 1-2 garlic cloves, celery leaves, coriander leaves or seeds, ½ l water/stock, butter, seasoning.
Cube pumpkin, saute with crushed coriander seeds, chopped onion and garlic in butter for a few mins. Add liquid and chopped celery leaves (or -seeds), cook till the pumpkin is soft. Squash or puree, maybe add some water if it’s got too thick, season.

Cut 2 fennel bulbs in quarters lengthwise, discard outer layer if tough. Slice quarters very thinly; slice three celery ribs equally thin. Put it all in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Season and combine. If liked, top with lots of grated mature cheese and chopped fennel fronds.

Broccoli for 4, chopped into florets and small stems; 2-3 chopped garlic cloves, olive oil.
Sauce: 240ml coconut milk, 2½ tbsp peanut butter, ½ tsp sea salt, ½ tsp nice vinegar, ½ tsp turmeric, 1 pinch cayenne pepper.
Carefully sauté garlic in oil for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add broccoli and turn up the heat a bit. Sauté for 3-5 mins until the broccoli is bright green and browning in spots. If you like your greens soft, add some water, put a lid on and cook for longer. For the sauce, put the ingredients in a small pan. Whisk together until thick and bubbly. Spoon over the broccoli – and rice if desired. Or stir in, if serving with noodles.

Ab. 300g cleaned squash meat, 4 tblsp butter, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp coriander, ¼ tsp garam masala or curry powder, ¼ tsp ginger, ¼ tsp cinnamon or cardamom, 1 tsp sea salt, 2 tblsp olive oil, (cayenne); ab. 250g cleaned greens: kale, collards, chard, etc.; 2 tblsp water.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Grease large baking sheet. Mix spices and salt, set aside. Peel squash, discard seeds. Chop into 1-2cm cubes. Melt 2 tbsp butter, add spices and sauté for 2-3 mins until the flavours release. Don’t let it smoke!
Turn off the heat, add squash, mix well. Spread this evenly onto a greased baking sheet – keep the spicy pan for reuse. Bake squash for ab. 10 mins at 200°C. Take out, stir, and put back for 10-15 mins until soft and starting to brown.
Meanwhile, wash and chop greens. Melt 2 tblsp butter in spicy pan, add 2 tblsp of water. and sauté until done. If they start to stick, add a a bit more. When the greens are done, add squash, stir in lightly. Serve.

1 tblsp butter, 1 chopped onion, 60ml butter and 60ml flour, 1l stock/water, 200g chopped broccoli, 100g carrots, salt and pepper, ¼ tsp nutmeg, grated sharp cheddar.
Saute onion in butter: set aside. Make a roux with the 60ml butter and 60ml flour as follows: melt butter, add flour using a whisk. Add liquid bit by bit, slowly, adding more only when it boils. After a while you can add the rest more quickly, whisking all the time*. Add broccoli, carrots and onions. Cook over low heat until the veggies are tender for 20-25 minutes. Season. Blend or puree if you like. Stir in some cheese and the nutmeg, serve with more cheese.
* If you use brown flour, it’s easier!
See also online: http://www.finecooking.com/articles/how-to-make-roux.aspx?pg=0

Chop 2 pounds kohlrabi. Cook in boiling salted water until soft, about 20 mins; drain. Puree with 1 tblsp each heavy cream and butter; season. Drizzle with olive oil and top with chopped parsley.

(Mike liked this, I wasn’t sure. Try for yourself! A lot must depend on the quality of the fish)
½ cabbage, 1 large tin spicy sardines in tomato sauce (or add spices yourself), 2 tblsp butter, 1 onion, 120ml water, salt, seasonings.
Chop cabbage and onion. Sauté onion until soft. Add sardines, cabbage and water, let simmer for 5 mins. Season.

This one’s so lovely, wholesome and easy. I can’t resist mentioning this, although it’s not often people spot an endive/escarole in their shop/back garden. If you want to grow some yourself, make sure it’s an escarole type. Here it is:
DUTCH ENDIVE MASH (Andijviestamppot)
1k starchy potatoes, ab. 250g endive, large onion, 150gr cubed bacon or cheese, vinegar, milk, butter, salt, pepper.
Cook potatoes as usual. Chop endive finely, drain well. Fry bacon and onion gently in butter. Mash potatoes. Put endive on mash, pour bacon with fat over it, mix. If dry, add milk or butter. Let everything heat through, but the endive must stay more or less raw.
In Holland they use ‘rookworst’ instead of bacon, but that is not easy to get here. Cheese instead is fine.

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[1] http://www.curezone.org/foods/saltcure.asp
[2] Plus mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, peas/beans, yoghurt, molasses, (shell)fish, beef, poultry and raw fennel! See also http://wakeup-world.com/2012/05/21/good-salt-bad-salt/.
[3] Trans fats are found in margarine, vegetable shortening, ice-cream, puddings & pudding mixes, ready-made pies, cakes & cake mixes, biscuits, pizza, potato chips, fritters, doughnuts, gravy & sauce mixes, artificial creamers, confectionery and other processed foods, including many foods marketed at children, including some sugary breakfast cereals. They are also commonly found in restaurant food, especially – but not only – in fast food. So inspect the ingredients before you buy, looking for hydrogenated vegetable oil, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, vegetable shortening, and margarine. (http://www.tfx.org.uk/page13.html)

For many more subjects in the health-and-food category, see http://thoughtforfood-aw.blogspot.co.uk, in the archive on the right hand side.