Tips for Good Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene is different practices and habits that are necessary to have good night-time sleep quality and full daytime alertness.  Healthy sleep is important for both physical and mental health, improving quality of life and productivity.

 

  • Establish a routine. Get up and go to bed around the same time every day.
  • Try to only sleep when you are tired, rather than spending too much time awake in bed. If you haven’t managed to fall asleep in twenty minutes, get up and go do something relaxing or boring.  Sit quietly on the couch with the lights off or read something dull.
  • Ensure adequate exposure to natural light during the day to maintain a good circadian rhythm. Sunlight hitting the retina elevates serotonin during the day and melatonin during the night, as it should be.  If there is not enough natural light exposure melatonin rises during the day and serotonin rises during the night.
  • Exercise regularly to promote good quality sleep. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise can improve sleep quality.  Avoid strenuous work outs before bedtime.
  • Make sure the sleep environment is pleasant. The bed should be comfortable, the room should be cool.  Bright light from overhead lights, lamps, tv screens and mobile phones will make it difficult to sleep so limit exposure to these before sleep where possible.  Consider blackout curtains if necessary.  White noise machines, ear plugs, eye shades, humidifiers or fans may also help improve your quality of sleep.
  • If you must take a nap, make it before 3pm and for less than an hour. Set an alarm if you need to.  Short naps of 20-30 minutes can be great or increasing mental alertness and reducing stress.
  • Develop sleep rituals, things that remind your body that it is time to sleep. It can be gentle stretches, meditation or breathing exercises for fifteen minutes, or having a cup of caffeine-free tea.  It could even be getting things ready for the next day so you can go to bed knowing that you are organised and do not have to rush as much in the morning.  This is also useful to help you not look at screens if this is a problem for you.
  • Having a hot bath or shower before trying to sleep as it raises your body temperature, causing you to feel sleepy as your body temperature drops again afterwards.
  • Don’t watch the clock. Many people who struggle to sleep keep checking the time, re-enforcing negative thinking and causing stress.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet will help you sleep well, but timing is important. A heavy meal shortly before bed can cause sleep disturbance due to digestion, but some find a completely empty stomach also disturbs sleep.  If this is you, plan a light snack, such as some fruit or a warm glass of milk.
  • Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime and if you drink, only consume a moderate amount of alcohol 4-6 hours before trying to go to sleep. Alcohol can make you drowsy but too much will cause a disturbed sleep in the second half of the night as the body processes it.
  • Avoid foods that can cause heart burn right before sleep. These include heavy or rich foods, fatty or fried foods, spicy foods, carbonated drinks and citrus fruits.
  • And lastly, keep to your normal daytime routine even if you did have a bad night’s sleep. Don’t avoid activities because you are tired as this can re-enforce insomnia.

coolum

All Alcohol Consumption is Bad For You

I will start with some notes because I think this is going to be a controversial topic:

1 – When reading (and citing) scientific research articles it is very important to consider its size, structure and length before giving the results weight and credence.  The results from a study with lots of subjects has more validity than one with fewer subjects.  The results from a study on humans have more validity for humans than those performed on animals.  Likewise, those performed on a living animal are more valuable than those performed in a test tube on an isolated thing because that takes into account the variables that go with life, such as a substance’s ability to cross into the blood stream from the digestive system.  I personally am against animal testing and most of the time I won’t cite articles featuring animal testing in anything I write, but that is the reason why it’s done.  Research that is conducted over a long period of time has more validity than research conducted for a short period of time.  The list goes on.  Essentially, look for the biggest, longest, most encompassing research available.  Given that I spend my time looking at natural medicine research and the investigations into natural medicine are steered by pharmaceutical companies looking for the next big drug that will earn them lots of money rather than the entire possibility of what’s out there, sometimes this gets a bit hard.  This time, happily, it was not.

2 – Similarly, when reading scientific articles, look for the most reputable source.  A well-renowned journal.  A meta-analysis, which is a study of the results of lots of studies is more worthy of consideration than the results of just one study done at one particular time on one group of subjects.  So when you come across a meta-analysis in one of the BIG scientific research journals that have been around forever, such as the British Medical Journal or The Lancet, you pin your ears back and take notes.

 

So when on August 29th nutritional biochemist and author Henry Osiecki  cited findings from a META-ANALYSIS from THE LANCET, this was definitely worth looking into.

 

Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has been doing philanthropic work to improve health outcomes globally for years the study Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016” reviewed 694 data sources of individual and population-level alcohol consumption, along with 592 prospective and retrospective studies on the risk of alcohol use, totalling 649 000 individual cases and test subjects located in 190 different countries.  (So, you know, as big as studies get.)

 

It found that:

  • Globally, alcohol use was the seventh leading risk factor for both deaths and disability, accounting for 2.2% of female deaths and 6.8% of male deaths worldwide in 2016, which is 2.8 million people
  • For people aged 15-49, alcohol use was the leading risk factor for death globally in 2016, accounting for 3.8% of female deaths and 12.2% of male deaths
  • For the same age group, disability leading to eventual death due to alcohol consumption was 2.3% for females and 8.9% for males, and the leading causes of death for this group were tuberculosis, road injuries and self-harm
  • For people over 50, the majority of alcohol-attributable deaths were due to cancer. In 2016 alcohol consumption led to 27.1% of female deaths and 18.9% of male deaths
  • The study also found that there was no “safe” amount of alcohol per week. The level of alcohol consumption that minimised harm across all health outcomes was 0 standard drinks a week, even though previously some research has suggested that low levels of alcohol consumption can have a protective effect on ischaemic heart disease.  This new research states that while this might be the case, those benefits are negated by the risks elsewhere.  Professor Bu Yeap, a co-author from the School of Medicine at the University of Western Australia explains it clearly “Higher alcohol consumption is associated with lower risk of heart attack, but higher risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart events.”
  • The more alcohol that people consumed, the higher the risk of negative health outcomes and the shorter their life expectancy – in some cases up to six years

 

The Lancet has called for a revision of the widely accepted health benefits of mild to moderate consumption of alcohol after this review which found that all consumption of alcohol leads to a loss of health across all populations, which has inspired many health organisations and governments around the world to do the same.  Australia having previously stated that not more than two standard drinks a day for healthy women and men and not more than four standard drinks in a single sitting being safe since 2009.  A standard drink being defined as being 10g of pure alcohol.  These recommendations have been removed since the publication of The Lancet’s research, which means they’re probably up for revision (I could only find this when I hunted around).  Which is not a bad thing, and I don’t judge them for it.  I think all health recommendations at a federal government level should be reviewed as new information comes in.

 

Bupa, the private health insurance fund, doesn’t seem to have caught up yet, which is fair enough as I assume they take the federal government health recommendations as their guide not The Lancet.  On their website they do state that the risks associated with alcohol consumption increase for women with the consumption of more than one standard drink a day and for men with the consumption of more than two standard drinks a day.  I do like that they’ve defined different levels of risk in regard to alcohol consumption, because I have found that this is very hard to find definitive information of.  (Back when I was at college, which I graduated from in 2007, more than 21 standard drinks a week was considered a problem, but even when we were taught that we were also taught that this was just an arbitrary number).  According to Bupa:

  • For women, the consumption of up to 14 standard drinks per week – with no more than two standard drinks a day – is considered ‘low risk’, 15 to 28 drinks per week is considered ‘risky’, and 29 or more per week ‘high risk’.
  • For men, the consumption of up to 28 standard drinks per week – with no more than six drinks on a single occasion – is considered ‘low risk’, 29 to 42 per week ‘risky’, and 43 or more per week ‘high risk’.
  • The consumption of seven or more standard drinks for men, or five or more standard drinks for women, on any one drinking occasion is considered risky.

You can see how different this information is to the newest large study on the topic in the Lancet outlined above.

 

The good news is that Australians are drinking less and more responsibly than they were ten years ago.  We are drinking less than we have in the past fifty years, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics as of the 3rd of September 2018.  I think this is because people don’t go out to drink at pubs like they used to, millennials and families don’t have the money to splash around, not drinking and driving has become very firmly entrenched in our expectations of social conduct and generally, I think people are more aware of their health.

 

So let’s summarise on a few points:

  • What you do with your body is no-one else’s damn business.
  • Naturopaths and natural therapists have a reputation of being alarmist when it comes to health and environmental concerns. Some of this alarm is unfounded, and sometimes the muggles not having caught up yet.  It is the duty of the natural therapist communicating to you to be as balanced in their opinions as possible, by finding good quality research and by sharing with you all of the information available
  • I think I’ve done that here. It’s up to you what you choose to do.  I think culturally Australians have been encouraged to be very passive with regards to alcohol consumption and our exposure to alcohol advertising.  I didn’t have my first drink until I was twenty-three and it was just the weirdest experience navigating through other people’s assumptions as to why I didn’t.  Even at my hippy college in a nutrition class every single other person in the room was just aghast and assumed that I was religious when I said I didn’t drink, and that I was the kind of religious that didn’t want to talk about it because *that* was the only possible explanation.  What on earth.
  • I think we all need to consider our relationship to alcohol – why we drink it, how much, whether our socialising is based around alcohol consumption and what we can do to change that.
  • I do strongly suggest those of us with cancer in our families minimise if not stop drinking alcohol.
  • I do occasionally drink alcohol. Very, very occasionally I want to get drunk.  I think I still must be under fifteen standard drinks for this year.  I am still going to drink alcohol and I am not going to throw out what I have.
  • If there are reasons for you to drink or if you think your drinking is getting out of hand (or has been out of hand for quite some time), my heart goes out to you. If you would like help addressing this please see your GP, contact Alchoholics Anonymous, DrugArm, or any of these great organisations.  You don’t have to live this way if you don’t want to.

age-standardised prevalence of current drinking for females (a) and males (b) in 2016

 

 

average standard drinks a day, age-standardised for females (a) and males (b) in 2016

Both figures are from “Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016”  Lancet 2018; 392: 1015–35

***************

Hello, this is Avicenna from the future, in 2020.  I just went and checked what had changed since this research was released in 2017.

Two important things:

Finding Fresh, Local Produce in Ipswich Queensland

If you’re like me you’ve been absolutely infuriated by the dangerous nonsense of the Queensland plastic bag ban.   Like, frothing mad.   Full on Leslie Knope mad.

And as much as I do flip out when I’m in the grocery store and see two thirds of the people leaving having their groceries in a shiny new “reusable” plastic bag, like we haven’t all had green bags everywhere for the past ten years, scowling at them all (and you too, if I catch you) is not the answer.  Nor is telling them to run back downstairs to get the bags they forgot, or suggesting that they put their paid for groceries unbagged back into their trolleys just like we do at Aldi to then sort out once we get back to the car.  So I decided to reduce my dependency on supermarkets.

I also hate the environmental impact of having my fruit and veg shipped from all over the country and all over the world.  The Ceres Report on Food Miles in Victoria in 2008 found that the food in the average Victorian shopping trolley travelled 70 000 kilometers, roughly two times around the globe.   Here is a food miles calculator if you’re curious.  There is a lot said about supporting the local farmers, especially in this time of drought, especially when the big grocery stores don’t pay them a fair price for their produce

 

Most of my groceries are fresh fuit and veg.  So I signed up for a Hillfields Organic Farm box, grown by a lovely family at their farm at Borallon.  Delivery is free to the Ipswich area, or you can go to the farm and pick up your own on Sunday mornings.  If you’ve been on Avicenna’s Instagram you would have seen photos of what I get delivered, but if you haven’t seen here they are now –

 

Ipswich Good Food Group, Inc (from their website)  is a volunteer-run bulk buyers group with a strong focus on local, sustainable foods.  We bulk buy fruit, vegetables, fresh herbs, bread, dairy, eggs, dry goods, juices, laundry products, and more. We aim for foods produced in SE Qld and northern NSW. Dry goods are Australian-grown or Fair Trade.

We aim for foods free of manufactured/artificial chemicals. However not all our foods are organic/chemical free. All organic/chemical free foods are marked so that members can make informed choices.  See the list on Our Suppliers page for more detail.

We meet  at 21 Park Street, Ipswich.

  • Tuesdays 4:30pm -7:00pm
  • Wednesdays 8:00am -11.00am
  •  Thursdays 2:00pm – 6:00pm
  •  Fridays 9:00am – 12:00pm

 

Each week we update members on what’s available.  Our newsletter, The Scoop, is distributed via email and on Facebook.

You must be a member to participate in our bulk buys. See our Membership page for more details.

IGFG is a volunteer organisation and all members are encouraged to participate in the running and development of the group.  We have a roster for those able to assist in setting up or packing down our meetings.  Members are also  encouraged to help with at-home tasks.

 

Local Harvest is a great resource website that shows you on a  map where your local primary producers are, dividing your possible choices into Eat Out, for restaurants, cafes and catering; Buy Direct for boxes, bulk buying, organic or free range produce; Grow and Share, for DIY, community gardens and food swaps; Learn and Participate, for workshops and local groups and Meet the Farmer, which is buying directly from the farmer or picking your own.  It also has local markets listed in the Ipswich and Lockyer Valley region, which is fantastic.  Definitely check it out.

 

https://www.foodconnect.com.au/ – there is a drop off delivery point in Flinders’ View that I saw on Local Harvest if you’re interested.

From their website –

Food Connect Brisbane is a social enterprise founded in 2005 by ex-dairy farmer Robert Pekin, who was forced off his dairy farm in the late 1990’s and since then has been on a mission to create a fairer food system.

We ethically and transparently engage local farmers to supply ecological food that is in season and super fresh and we pay them about four times the amount of the big food chains, so more of your dollars go directly to the growers. Their beautiful produce is then delivered all over Brisbane for everyone to enjoy.

At Food Connect, local actually means local: our fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products and other highly perishable items travel no more than 400 kilometres before getting to your door, that’s why we can guarantee superior quality, freshness and a reduced impact on the environment.

We also work with our food makers to source locally as much as possible. Our sourcing policy ensures growers and food makers are providing jobs with fair pay and training in poverty stricken areas via direct supplier connections (eg PNG coffee).

 

https://www.freshorganics.com.au/

We grow, research, recommend, eat and sell organic food because we believe organic food and farming are better for your health and the environment. Like all businesses, profitability and return on investment are important goals, but at Farm Fresh Organics, we know that none of it adds up to a hill of beans if we don’t use and support sustainable, environmentally responsible methods that will leave the world better than we found it. In short, we’re about selling healthy and delicious foods that will benefit the planet, ourselves, our community, and you, our valued customer.

 

I hope this gives you some new things to think about with regards to how and where we get our food from.  If you’ve heard of anyone I haven’t listed, please let me know!

Ethical Indie Australian Fashion, continued

Hi!  This is just a continuance of my promotion of ethical fashion, giving you more links for Aussie indie shops and designers than what I posted down below.  Knowledge is power, blah blah.  Currently I’m sitting in a facebook thread of Clem Ford’s, checking out what her community has to recommend.  Putting the good ones up for you here now, before the thread gets eaten by the vast volume of other things in my newsfeed.  I hope this gives you some inspiration.  Support an indie designer and small business.  You know you want to.

 

WOMENS

http://www.theraisindidit.com.au/

https://www.facebook.com/Gosyma-329436390482639/

https://www.facebook.com/borisandstasha

https://www.facebook.com/dragstarclothing/

https://www.facebook.com/belfinclothes

http://brydiealicedesigns.bigcartel.com/

http://www.jaspercreek.bigcartel.com/

https://phoebeparadise.com/

https://kobomo.com.au/

http://mimiandwill.tictail.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Zilpahtart/

https://www.jubly-umph.com/

http://www.retrospecd.com/ – vintage reproductions, mens and womens

 

 

PLUS SIZED LADIES

https://www.17sundays.com/

https://www.facebook.com/made590

https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/JoolzFashion?ref=l2-shopheader-name

(plus-sized and otherwise) https://gwyllem.com.au/

 

CHILDREN

https://stargardendesigns.com/collections/all

https://scarlettreddesigns.com/ “The home of cool threads for little rockers”

https://www.etsy.com/shop/EclecticBambino

 

BACKPACKS

https://www.facebook.com/BeeKeeperParade

 

Living healthily is empty if you don’t also try and live ethically. And buy ethically.

There.  Let’s just heave that big old rock into the pond straight away.  It’s all very well and good to fill you life with wellness and antioxidants and perfect Instagram filtered, tanned abs in activewear but if you’re achieving that through getting your superfoods shipped over from some remote location on the other side of the world, the superfood is so expensive due to our newer consumption of it that the locals who have eaten it for thousands of years can no longer afford to, the antioxidant rich certified organic whatever-it-is came in single-use plastic packaging that you didn’t recycle, your activewear was made in a sweatshop in Bangladesh and your perfectly white gym shoes were made by children… well… it’s all just rather empty, isn’t it?

(The disclaimer I will add to that statement is that value judgements about shopping and consumption habits only apply if you are in a position to choose where your money goes.  The health and wellness industry and all of the advertising and media around it is inherently a middle-to-upper class construct.  It is up to those of us who are in a position of choice to change the way capitalism works.  We are the ones with the buying power and every time we spend money we cast a vote for the kind of world we want to support.  We need to get better at using that power, rather than just vacantly consuming everything that’s in front of us.

I am also going to point out that I am not so far up on my soapbox that I expect everything you own to be ethical.  My clothing and stuff sure isn’t.  It’s a process.  I am not going to throw away perfectly good items and create more landfill just because they don’t fit within the below criteria.  I am just going to make better choices in the future, and I hope you might as well.

Anyway.  Ahem.)

The latest Australian Fashion Report was just released.  Have you seen it?

The Ethical Fashion Report is a measure of the efforts taken by clothing companies and brands to mitigate the effects of forced labour, child labour and worker exploitation in the garment industry.

In the Ethical Fashion Fast Finder you can find companies by brand or by grade.  It is eye-opening stuff.

If you aren’t prepared to read through it in detail here’s an article from the ABC – http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/fashion-rankings/8451314

The cool thing is that the article shows that the Australian Fashion Report is working.  When it started in 2013, only 17% of companies could trace their entire supply chain.  Now 43% can.  In 2013, less than half of the ranked companies wanted to participate in the report.  Now 83% do.  And they are changing their practices to better their grade.  There is still a very long way to go with regard to paying a fair living wage.  Only one on the entire list, out of 330 brands, did this.  Disgusting.

In addition to the 70 companies on the Australian Fashion Report who got an A this year, a couple of years ago I compiled a list of ethically produced Australian fashion brands that (this is important) sell their garments for a price that is the same as what you’d find in any shopping mall in the country.  I need to update it but here is what I had then:

(This list is by no means exhaustive.  Also, annoyingly, I wasn’t able to find much by way of plus sizes.)

THE BASICS

Master lists of ethically produced Australian clothing:

https://australianmade.com.au

http://www.ethicalclothingaustralia.org.au

A master list of Australian companies

Ethical Consumer Guide

ACCESSORIES

http://www.treehugga.com.au – clothing, accessories, jewellery and shoes. I am particularly taken with the wooden watches, sunglasses and iphone cases

DENIM

Very tricky. Here is a cheat sheet to what all the brands are doing in Australia

WOOL

https://www.woolerina.com.au/ – Made from merino wool sourced from the Glenwood merino sheep farm in Victoria, certified Australian made and fair trade

www.superlovemerino.com.au
“The welfare of the gentle creatures that provide us with our wonderful wool is at the heart of our brand. That is why we only use wool that carries ZQ™ certification.
The ZQ™ accreditation programme is a world first, guaranteeing the highest standards of animal welfare for sheep and working dogs, as well as 100% traceability back to source. The ZQ™ programme is a world first in best practise farming standards and in our opinion is the absolute best guarantee of animal welfare that exists globally.
We source all of our Merino from farms where sheep live a natural and free ranging lifestyle where they can thrive, and are given extra feed at times of pasture shortage. The growers who raise them are required to meet the strict welfare code defined by the ZQ™ accreditation programme.”

SLEEPWEAR

http://alasthelabel.com/
men’s and women’s sleepwear and underwear

“Our sleepwear is made in India where the cotton is also grown, spun, woven and dyed. All of our garments are constructed with GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified organic cotton, in fair labour, sweatshop-free factories. We visit our producers regularly to maintain strong relationships and trust between all parties. We believe this personal approach is the best way to ensure the integrity of each factory.”

SHOES

http://www.veganstyle.com.au/shop/ – formal shoes, office shoes, heels
http://www.honestclothing.com.au – Specialising in shoes.

“Honest Clothing we don’t believe being ethical has to mean being expensive. We don’t just want to be selling to the niche of people who are passionate about ethical clothing but we want ethical clothing to be mainstream. That’s why we make our clothing range as affordable as possible to people on any budget.”

KIDS

http://www.masterandmiss.com.au/ – 100% organic, Australian Made baby and kids clothing

http://ittybittygreenie.com.au – kids toys, clothing, crockery, bathing and skin care
“IttyBittyGreenie is proud to offer the latest toxin-free children’s products made by manufacturers that are committed to earth-friendly practises. Clothing made from organic materials, skincare that is chemical and preservative free, toys made from natural, sustainable sources, bottles and dishware that do not contain hormone-disrupting toxins such as BPA.”

MENSWEAR

http://aussieessence.com/ – Australian made men’s wear

http://www.etherealclothing.com.au – 100% organic, pesticide free and environmentally friendly. Designed in Perth by a couple of brothers who wanted something between casual and business wear to wear out.
WOMENS

http://www.daksha.com.au/
“Daksha is an Australian based company founded in 2004 in the Noosa Hinterland town of Eumundi. Our focus has always been on providing funky clothing made from completely natural, fair trade and sustainable fibres for all of Australia. We believe in equality, sustainability, ethical trade and since our unique clothing is made with love, we guarantee you’ll love wearing it as much as we love creating it. read more about us”

http://www.blessedearth.com.au/
“Blessed Earth is a trading partner of some of the world’s other leading organic suppliers and has traded with Sekem of Egypt from the beginning. Sekem specialises in turning desert into fertile land with the help of Bio-Dynamic preparations. Bio-Dynamics and the Demeter label lie in the heart of Blessed Earth. So does our Fairtrade certification.We also trade extensively with similarly ethical firms in India and Turkey. Our business is as much about the people as the products”

Including women’s underwear

http://www.bonsaikitten.com.au/ – for pin-up lovers
“Bonsai Kitten is designed and conceived in Melbourne, Australia. All Bonsai Kitten pieces are proudly and ethically produced in Bali, Indonesia in collaboration with Adopta Co-op, Widows from the Bali bombing.”

http://shifttonature.com.au – printed leggings, activewear, men’s, women’s, kids, bed linen

“Shift to Nature sources products from Designers and Labels who strive to produce Ethical, Eco, Sustainable products. Brands featured on Shift to Nature create beautiful items from Global Organic Textile Standard Certified Organic Cotton (GOTS) and Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified Bamboo. Featured also are designers committed to using sustainable natural fabrics such as Hemp and Merino Wool and new eco-fibres such as Lenzig TENCEL. Some labels go beyond these to include certification by Fair Trade, IVN Best as well as their own high environmental and social production standards. In the production process our designers and manufacturers strive for chemical free and non-toxic textile growth and production.”

http://bamboovillage.com.au/

http://www.myheartbeatsgreen.com.au/

Specialising in organic clothing for babies, children, men and women. Our clothing range is Made in Australia using certified organic cotton, and the highest environmental standards are applied at every stage of the process.

T-SHIRTS

http://www.unitee.com.au/

Unitee has 100% certified organic cotton tees and clothing

https://www.planetboab.com.au/
“All of our shirts are made from 100% certified organic cotton which is grown in India without pesticides using around 50% less water in its production.
The t-shirts are made here in Australia in a sweatshop free factory in Sydney. We handprint each tee with a colourful range of eco friendly water based inks and then heat-cure the print to ensure a good colour-fast finish.”

https://fairtees.com.au – plain, unprinted tees. Good range of styles and colours. Also do a selection of jumpers and hoodies.

“Our ethical clothing range is skillfully stitched together in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Portugal and Romania. The raw materials, which include organic cotton and Tencel (eucalyptus fibre & organic cotton blend), come from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Austria. You can read more about the organic and sustainable as well as ethical clothing production methods and factory conditions on our site.”

WORKWEAR

http://www.organictees.com.au – custom printed organic t-shirts to show off your brand

Annnnnd… pretty picture to finish….

15027405_10209076947855783_4660403362987758803_n

Yes, we can do better.

Vitamin C, Blood Sugar and Immunity

I went to a seminar by a naturopathic practitioner-only brand called Eagle the other day, and the speaker was Dr Elizabeth Steele, a clinical biochemist, researcher, nutritionist and one of my former lecturers.  One of the things that really stuck in my head and made me think is what she had to say about Vitamin C and our immune response, which is just one role of many for this nutrient.

White blood cells fight infection, consume foreign organisms, produce or distribute antibodies.  Neutrophils are a mature granular white blood cell that have the properties of chemotaxis, meaning they stick to immune complexes and then engulf and destroy them and themselves at the same time (Zilio and Serafini 2016).  They are the most plentiful type of white blood cell, react within minutes and increase in the blood when there are acute infections, intoxication, haemorrhages and rapidly growing malignancies.  Our white blood cell count can vary as much as 2000 a day due to physical stress, smoking, digestion, exercise and minor infection (Steels and North 2016).  So if you get a high white blood cell count, don’t ask doctor google and panic.

According to Dr Elizabeth Steels, if you are getting your blood tested and you want to make sure you get an accurate as possible reading:

  • Always get your blood drawn between 8 and 9am
  • Have a good, healthy meal the night before
  • Do not over-exercise the day before
  • Get enough sleep
  • If you’re female make sure you always get your blood drawn when you’re at the same stage of your menstrual cycle
  • Do not take your vitamins and other nutritional supplements for a few days beforehand so we can see what your body’s actually doing

A big sugar hit can reduce your white blood cell’s ability to kill bacteria for up to five hours, as it competes with vitamin C for the same receptor sites.  Your neutrophils can’t tell the difference between vitamin C and sugar, and if they’ve taken in sugar instead of vitamin C, they just won’t be activated when there’s something going on.  By drinking 1 Liter bottle of soda or by eating 100 gram sugar, the reactivity of white blood cells reduces by 40%.  This can make our immune system disabled for 4 or 5 hours. (Ullah, et al 2016)

This is just short term stuff.  Imagine the risks that someone who spends years over-eating junk food, doesn’t eat fresh food, drinks alcohol or smokes exposes themselves to, and the kind of disease states that require chronic inflammation or immune under-reaction to take hold, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

If you’re more the visual type this might make more sense to you:

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C is vitamin C, S is sugar.  Cool, huh?

So.  If you want to stay well, eat your fruit and vegies.  Make sure that you consume something that contains vitamin C several times a day.  Supplementation is good, if you want to do that kind of thing.  Orange juice is okay, but bear in mind that most of the commercially available orange juice, even the fancy stuff, has been reconstituted and possibly imported.  (We’ll talk about food importation, irradiation and ethics some other time.)  Juice is also a more concentrated source of sugar than the actual fruit itself is.  If you’re watching your blood sugar (and if you’re trying to apply what I explained above), eat the fresh fruit and veg.  Bear in mind that vitamin C is water-soluble and sensitive to heat.  It will be readily available in raw fruit and veges, especially leafy greens.  Loss is minimised when vegetables such as broccoli or Brussels sprouts are cooked over water in a double boiler.

Ascorbic acid is readily absorbed from the intestines, ideally about 80-90 percent of what is ingested, and then used by the body about two hours after consumption and out of the body within about three or four hours.  This is why it is recommended to take vitamin C supplementation at four hour intervals rather than just once a day, or take a time-released supplement.  Vitamin C is used up even more rapidly when you are stressed, with alcohol use and with smoking.  Fevers, viral illnesses, antibiotics, cortisone, aspirin, other pain meds, environmental toxins and heavy metals reduce the absorption of vitamin C, and sulfa antibiotics increase its elimination (Haas, 1992).

The best sources are citrus fruits, paw paw, rockmelon and berries.  Good vegie sources include red and green capsicum, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, asparagus, parsley, dark leafy green vegies, cabbage and sauerkraut.  It is only found in grains, seeds and beans when they are sprouted.

So how much sugar do you eat in a day?  How much vitamin C?  I know naturopaths talking about vitamin C uptake is pretty old school in this day of superfoods, fodmaps and gut microbiomes.  That doesn’t mean the simple things are less valid.

 

 

References

Anderson, D. M. (2003) Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary, 30th Edition.  W B Saunders Company, Philadelphia USA.

Haas, E. M. (1992) Staying Healthy with Nutrition.  Celestial Arts Publishing, California

Sharma, RK and Sharma B (2012) “In-vitro carbofuran induced genotoxicity in human lymphocytes and its mitigation by vitamins C and E”.  Disease Markers, volume 32, issue 3; p153-163

Steels, E and North, P (2016) “The Clinic Detective – Assessing Immunity in Practice, Pathology and Nutritional Indicators” Eagle Professional Natural Medicine

Ullah, H. Akhtar, M. Hussein, F and Imran, M (2016) “Effects of Sugar, Salt and Distilled Water on White Blood Cells and Platelet Cells”.  Journal of Tumor, Volume 4, Number 1; p354-358

Zilio, S, Serafini, P (2016) “Neutrophils and Granulocytic MDSC: The Janus God of Cancer Immunotherapy” Vaccines, volume 4, issue 3; p31-37

Yes, Cupping does suck. Obviously.

Hello!

I bet you saw the photos of Michael Phelps at the Olympics recently with the cupping marks on his shoulders.  You people have been linking me to photos and telling me all about it for weeks.  It is glorious.  And very cool to see cupping on a wider, more public stage.  I especially doted on the cupping mark over his right serratus anterior, which is over his ribs and below his armpit.  Tightness in this muscle prevents you from reaching up above your head.  I see what they did there.

I was also linked to this article called “Cupping Sucks” by Dr Brad McKay, who is one of the doctors on Embarrassing Bodies Australia – http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/why-team-usas-use-of-cupping-therapy-really-sucks/news-story/39e6da472eba56e564139cc17e38ee5b

I was actually thinking seriously about emailing him and explaining why that article was so odd and poorly informed, but you know what?  It’s not him that I am interested in impressing.  What I do care about is the spread of misinformation.  I care about my clients and anyone else who might stumble across this thing having enough valid information to make their own informed decisions.  So here goes.  You might want to go and get yourself a cup of tea and a bickie.  This is long.

I’m going to make a point of only linking to articles and research from databases that are publicly accessible to anyone with the internet.  I want you to be able to check out what I’m saying for yourselves.  I want to be held accountable for what I’m saying and I want to prove that Dr McKay could have done a lot better had he performed just a simple google search.

 

“These mysterious marks are the result of placing hot glass cups on bare skin. The heat creates a vacuum which sucks up the underlying tissue, supposedly mobilising your blood and helping it to pump throughout your body.

Cupping advocates will tell you that the practice draws toxins out of your skin and helps you to heal and relax after exercise.”

 

  1. It isn’t heat that causes cups to stick to the skin. It is the displacement of oxygen that causes a vacuum. This is Grade 8 science.  I do warm the glass cups, but that isn’t why.
  2. To my understanding of cupping therapy (I have an Advanced Certificate in Cupping Therapy, which is currently the highest qualification for cupping in this country, and it is fully endorsed by my professional associations and the private health funds. I am only just starting to dip my toe in the water as far as Eastern medicine goes, so I cannot claim what I say is completely accurate and all-encompassing as far as Traditional Chinese Medicine goes) we don’t claim the benefits come from mobilising the blood. We’re not witch doctors and we’re not that goth.  One of the main benefits from modern cupping practice, as I was taught by Bruce Bentley at Health Traditions (www.healthtraditions.com.au) is to relieve tightness in the muscles by stretching out the fascia.  Fascia is the silvery connective tissue that lines around muscles and connects all the bones, ligaments, muscles, tendons and organs together.  You’ve seen it before when you’ve cut up meat.  The book “Anatomy Trains” Thomas W. Myers explains how the different layers of fascia string certain areas of the body together, allowing for set movement patterns like walking, which is an amazingly complicated process.  Disordered, tight fascia or weakened, fraying fascia can cause altered posture, infirmity, hernias, muscle wasting and can exacerbate the symptoms of physical diseases such as IBS.  Bruce explains beautifully how cupping can help heal physical infirmity caused by old injuries in his article “Modern Cupping and Fascia” http://www.healthtraditions.com.au/uploads/AAMT%20Summer%202014%20p22-24.pdf .
  3. On drawing out toxins: Yes? From my perspective as a Western medicine practitioner, it can, on a primarily local level.  I wouldn’t recommend cupping as the only treatment for an overburdened, fatty liver.  I do find that cupping can aid in mobilising circulation and therefore drawing out toxins on a local level.  Meaning: directly below the cup.  If I’m treating musculoskeletal problems, I’ll find the “knots” (areas of very tightly fused muscle, usually about the size of half an apricot), apply the cups directly over the top of them and leave them there for around ten minutes.  After ten minutes there is usually a darker circle where the cup was.  This is fine.  There are still studies and debates being carried out as to what is actually this substance that gets drawn to the surface of the skin.  “Toxins” is too simplistic, and so is “blood”.  It is definitely not a bruise, as explained by Bruce again in his article “A Cupping Mark is Not a Bruise” http://www.healthtraditions.com.au/uploads/212-cupping-proof.pdf .

Elite athletes, and in particular sprinters like Michael Phelps, who go through bursts of very intense activity and don’t have a chance to aerate their cells by breathing as much as they would need to in order to fuel this level of activity switch to anaerobic respiration, which involves burning glucose to provide energy and leaves lactic acid as its waste product.  Lactic acid is the substance that causes delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).  You’ve felt it before the day after you’ve done some unaccustomed activity.  Well.  I know athletes are used to pain, but I don’t think world records are going to be broken when they have DOMS, especially if, like Phelps they’re competing in multiple events.

Or rather, if they CAN prevent it in a way that won’t get them disqualified, why not?  It seems rational enough that cupping can draw out lactic acid from deep within the muscle and allowing it to be picked up by the capillaries and then moved into the bloodstream, where it will be cleaned up by the liver.  Not that cupping will physically draw lactic acid directly to the surface of the skin.  Bruce talks about the redness produced during cupping as being “heat toxin”.  He is a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner and has been one for around thirty years.  I’ll bow to his superior knowledge on that one.  I do tend to see it more when there’s inflammation and injury to the area.

 

“If you’re really adventurous you can explore “wet” cupping, which involves puncturing your skin before applying the cups, and sucking out your “bad blood”.

This traditional therapy is believed to date back to 3000BC and is used in Islamic and Chinese traditional medicines.”

 

Wet cupping in the Islamic tradition is called Hijama, and it is a very sacred thing.  To my knowledge it isn’t widely practiced in Australia.  I get asked for it around twice a year by people who have absolutely raved about it.  I’m not interested at this stage in offering it in my practice.  There’s a whole lot of different certifications you need if you do anything that involves puncturing the skin, and even if I was interested in doing this as yet there isn’t any government accredited course that my associations also recognise, which means that I wouldn’t be able to get insured for performing it.

As far as I know, wet cupping isn’t routinely practiced in TCM either.  At least not in this country.  There’s some pretty wild things to be seen on youtube, but any registered practitioner over here who is able to provide health fund rebates for their services has to abide by a lot of rules and regulations that are put there to ensure public safety.

 

“There is no scientific evidence that cupping works for any of these things. Sucking your skin into a glass cup doesn’t get rid of toxins or help you to heal more quickly. It only sucks the sweat out of the pores in your skin and gives you a nasty round bruise. Same goes for wet cupping, which just causes an impressive looking scar.”

 

Would you like to come have a cruise over to PubMed and Google Scholar with me?  Both of these are available to everyone to go and have a look.  Quite often you can’t get access to the full text of the research article, which is a bit of a pest, but you will see the abstract.

Pubmed.gov is the US National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.  If you want to go and look up what I’ve found you can go and type in the PMID at the end of the citations that I’ve provided.  (Bear in mind that the way I am presenting this information is not the correct way of providing citations in research papers, I am just collating data here.)  On the first page of results after I typed “cupping therapy” into the search bar I found:

“Evaluation of Wet Cupping Therapy: Systematic Review of Randomised Clinical Trials” 2016, Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine – PMID 27557333

“Yang’s Pricking Cupping Therapy for Knee Osteorarthritis: A Multi-Centre Randomised Controlled Trial” –  Feb 2016, PMID 27348903

“Moving Cupping at Hechelu Combined with Rubbing Method for Depression of Diabetes Mellitus” Mar 2016 PMID 27344826

“Clinical efficacy of Trigonella foenum graecum (fenugreek) and dry cupping therapy on intensity of pain in patients with primary dysmenorrhea”, May 2016 Chinese Journal of Integrated Medicine PMID 27225291

“Repeated cupping manipulation temporary decreases natural killer lymphocyte frequency, activity and cytoxicity” Journal of Integrated Medicine May 2016 PMID 27181126

“The effect of traditional wet cupping on shoulder pain and neck pain: A Pilot Study” May 2016 Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice PMID 27157955

“Hijama therapy (wet cupping) – its potential use to complement British healthcare in practice, understanding, evidence and regulation” May 2016 Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, PMID 2715951

“The effectiveness of Cupping Therapy on Relieving Chronic Neck and Shoulder Pain: A Randomised Controlled Trial” March 2016, Evidence-Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine PMID 27073404

“Comparison of the Effect of Dry Cupping Therapy and Acupressure at BL23 on Intensity of Postpartum Perineal Pain Based on the Short Form of McGill Pain Questionnaire” January 2016, Journal of Reproductive Infertility PMID 26962482

 

Notice how these were all published just this year?

And

Just for fun

“New is the well-forgotten old: The use of dry cupping in musculoskeletal medicine” Jan 2015, Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies PMID 26891653

 

At google scholar we can see, as well as a lot of the above:

“The use of cupping as a myofascial release tool to increase iliotibial band flexibility in collegiate football athletes” by Doozan, Ashley, M.S., LAMAR UNIVERSITY – BEAUMONT, 2015, 34 pages; 1598426  http://gradworks.umi.com/15/98/1598426.html

“Observation on clinical effects of acupuncture plus cupping therapy for cervical radiculopathy” Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science July 2016, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 290–294

“Cupping therapy for acute and chronic pain management: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials” Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences Volume 1, Issue 1, 1 July 2014, Pages 49–61 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095754814000040

“An overview of systematic reviews of clinical evidence for cupping therapy” Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical SciencesVolume 2, Issue 1, January 2015, Pages 3–10

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095754815000277

“A Pilot Study Analyzing the Effects of Chinese Cupping as an Adjunct Treatment for Patients with Subacute Low Back Pain on Relieving Pain, Improving Range of Motion, and Improving Function” Markowski Alycia, Sanford Susan, Pikowski Jenna, Fauvell Daniel, Cimino David, and Caplan Scott. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. February 2014, 20(2): 113-117. doi:10.1089/acm.2012.0769. http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2012.0769

“The Effectiveness of Instrument-assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization Technique (Ergon© Technique), Cupping and Ischaemic Pressure Techniques in the Treatment of Amateur Athletes΄ Myofascial Trigger Points” Fousekis K, Kounavi E, Doriadis S, Mylonas K, Kallistratos E, et al. (2016) J Nov Physiother S3:009. doi:10.4172/2165-7025.S3-009

http://www.omicsgroup.org/journals/the-effectiveness-of-instrumentassisted-soft-tissue-mobilization-techniqueergon-technique-cupping-and-ischaemic-pressure-technique-2165-7025-S3-009.php?aid=76473

“Effectiveness of Home-Based Cupping Massage Compared to Progressive Muscle Relaxation in Patients with Chronic Neck Pain—A Randomized Controlled Trial” Romy Lauche , Svitlana Materdey, Holger Cramer, Heidemarie Haller, Rainer Stange, Gustav Dobos, Thomas Rampp  Published: June 7, 2013 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0065378

“Cupping for Treating Neck Pain in Video Display Terminal (VDT) Users: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial” Journal of Occupational Health Vol. 54 (2012) No. 6 p. 416-426 https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/joh/54/6/54_12-0133-OA/_article

“Effect of moving cupping therapy on β-Endorphin in the nonspecific low back pain” The Journal of Cervicodynia and Lumbodynia 2012-05 UANG Jun,WU Jian-xian.(Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the 105th Hospital of PLA,He Fei 230031,China)

“Tissue Distraction Release with Movement (TDR-WM): A Novel Method of Soft-tissue Release” Dr. Bahram Jam, PT Advanced Physical Therapy Education Institute (APTEI), Thornhill, ON, Canada

May 27, 2016

http://www.aptei.ca/wp-content/uploads/Tissue-Distraction-Release-with-Movement-TDR-WM-2016.pdf

“Clinical Effect Observation of Cupping Therapy for Different Syndrome Types of Periarthritis of Shoulder” Practical Clinical Journal of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine 2013-04

 Feng Xiao-lin,Ren Xiao-xiao,Liu Jian-wu  

http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTOTAL-SZXL201304006.htm

 

I think there’s evidence, don’t you?

 

“The suction from cupping causes capillaries in your skin to break and bleed. At best, this causes a superficial bruise, but at worst it can cause deep bruises (haematomas), abrasions, skin infections, blisters, and the heat can even cause third degree burns.”

 

Uhh…  Any practitioner causing these problems is negligent.  Just saying.  Haematomas are incredibly unlikely when cupping is performed by a qualified, registered practitioner.  The plastic cups that were used on Michael Phelps (see the photo in the article) are applied using a pump, and it is physically impossible to apply them harder after you’ve squeezed the pump five times.  The valve in the top of the cup won’t let it happen.  I’ve tried.  On myself.  Similarly, it is physically impossible to apply a glass cup hard enough to cause that amount of damage.  The atmospheric pressure within the cup once it is sealed on skin is only so strong.  Silicone cups (which I love) are only able to be applied as hard as they can be squeezed before application.  Their size limits their pressure.

Where I can see there being problems is if the client has fragile skin or is on blood thinning medication.  It is up to the practitioner to investigate this, and it is the client’s prerogative to disclose it.  The very first time I ever saw cupping therapy performed was on a tiny eighty-four year old woman with bronchiectasis, which is pretty much bronchitis that lasts for twenty years.  It blew my mind.  She came in with a cough that sounded like it came from her toes.  By the end of the treatment it was a normal sounding cough that came from her chest.  She’d been having that treatment weekly for four years.

These days I’ve done a lot of training since and have developed my own treatment for lung conditions incorporating cupping, aromatherapy and herbal medicine that I get pretty good results from.  Would I do it on the elderly and infirm?  Yes.  With adaptations based on their condition.  This is what I have been trained to do.

 

CONTENT WARNING FOR THE NEXT BIT

“Only this year a man in China was left with burnt holes in his back after ongoing treatment”

 

Well.  Doesn’t that look like it crawled out of the bowels of Reddit.  If ever there was a case of criminal negligence this is it.  I highly, highly doubt this treatment was carried out by a properly qualified practitioner.  If you’ve ever talked to a TCM practitioner or read anything on the subject you’ll know that they’re all about restoring balance.  This is not balance.  A legit practitioner would not apply cups that hard to the same place every day.  They would not keep applying them over blisters.  They would not apply them after the blisters were burst.  They would not keep applying them once the wounds went septic and certainly not once the tissue started dying.  You with me?  Any therapist in their right mind would be mortified at even seeing this on their computer screen.

 

“It won’t improve the healing time for athletes, and cupping actually has the potential of slowing them down from pain or tissue damage.”

 

If their therapists are both negligent and extremely silly  Remember that this is Michael Phelps they put the cups on.  The man has spent the past twenty years being more cossetted than Makybe Diva ever was and has always benefited from the best that sports medicine has to offer.  Do you think the USA Swimming Team would be taking risks on his treatment?  Really?

 

“By showing off their useless bruises with pride, Team USA could be conducting an incredible psychological campaign to intimidate their fellow Olympians, but they appear to be fiercely uneducated about the pseudoscientific nature of this ancient (but useless) traditional therapy.”

 

Somebody is.

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Rice Cooker Pumpkin Risotto

While we’re at it, lets talk about some more really basic cooking skills.  You can do more with your rice cooker than cook rice.  I make risottos in mine.  I’ve made kedgeree before.  My mother makes pilafs.  I love using my rice cooker to make risottos because you can throw it all in there and walk away.  It won’t be as magical as if you’ve stood there the whole time stirring until the rice cooks on the top of the stove, but not every single risotto is magic.  Sometimes you just want your dinner to cook while you throw a load of washing on, feed the pets and call your mother.

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Ingredients.  Here’s the onion and the garlic from the last post.  Around half a pumpkin that I’d pre-chopped a couple of days earlier while I was making a vege curry and stored in containers instead of introducing more single-use plastic into the world.  Arborio rice.  Chicken stock powder (yes, I know.  I said basic.).  Pepper.  Cumin powder.  Bay leaves.

Chop onion and two (three.  Cough) cloves of garlic.

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Saute in olive oil in the rice cooker that I really should have wiped down before taking photos of.  If yours is a dodgy old one like mine, you might need to hold the button down so that it cooks instead of warms because the onion is not going to be as heavy as rice and water.

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Add a heaped teaspoon of cumin.  Pumpkin and cumin are BFFs and it will give the risotto warmth and depth.

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Stir through until fragrant

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Stir through a cup and a half of arborio rice.  You may need to add more oil.  You want every grain of rice covered.  This takes a minute or so.

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Add your pumpkin, bay leaves, pepper, chicken stock and three cups of hot water (hot water will cut down on the cooking time – otherwise your rice cooker is going to have to heat the water up and that will take ages).  You could mix the stock powder into the hot water before adding it all to the rice cooker, but I don’t bother.  Enough stock for three cups of water.  WP_20160615_033

Stir it all through, make sure all the rice is poked under the surface of the water (the pumpkin will steam so don’t worry too much about this), put the lid on and WALK AWAY.

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In twenty minutes to half an hour (whenever your rice cooker clicks over from “cook” to “warm”, you will have this.

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Which you will give a really good stir so it looks like this.  I forgot to take a photo of it dished up, but risotto is risotto.  I generally only add the parmesan cheese once its on the plate.  Cheese goes weird and coats your teeth when re-heated and I ended up freezing most of this in portions.  Add your cheese and salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Chopping Onions and Garlic

Yes, I know.  Pretty basic.  Its amazing how often I come across people who can’t do this.  I’ve come across proper foodies who spend ages faffing around peeling garlic.  I see chefs on TV risking their silly hands by making unnecessary cuts.  I have a few clients who don’t cook very much at all and don’t feel confident in the kitchen, so I hope they read this.

Here’s what I was taught in grade 8 home ec.  We’re going to be pretty pic heavy this time.

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Sharp knife, onion.

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Cut off the top

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Stand it flat on that cut you just made and it won’t slip away on you.

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Cut it in half lengthways.

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Peel it.

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Slice lengthways starting from a centimetre above the root to the top, leave the root intact because you’re going to be hanging on to this bit shortly.  Hold the knife at an angle.  You’re going to be cutting the onion into “segments”.  Think of oranges and lemons.  My home ec teacher told us to avoid tears you cut along the lines of the onion.  I personally think you could have the whole thing in the pot before you get done with that, so you do whatever works best for you.

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It will look like this at the end of the step.  Often I see on cooking TV shows this is when the chef will cut lengthways towards your fingers across the middle of the onion.  This is dumb.  Don’t do this.  It’s a waste of time and you’re cutting towards your fingers.  Do not ever cut towards your fingers.

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Top view so you can see that the root is still attached.

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Start dicing by cutting crossways and holding the onion together and stable with your fingers.  Keep your fingers away from the blade.  Keep dicing until you get close to the root.  Throw the root away/into your compost/into the bag in the freezer that holds all your vege scraps for when you make stock.

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Ta da!  Diced onions in the rice cooker.

 

Now.  Garlic.  If anything, this is easier.

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Start with an unpeeled garlic clove.  Chop off the root.

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Lay the blade of your knife horizontally across the top of the garlic clove and give it a good hard smack with your hand.

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Like that.  Pick off the skin.  It will quite often come away in one piece.

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See?

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Start dicing.

Feel better about cooking now?  What other knife skills do you want to know about?